The Catalogue of Errors by Helen Mort

not that you fall headlong through 
the spoilt floorboards of your house 
drop through layers of darkness
ground floor, basement, lower ground
slowing, opening steady as a lift 
not that                           not that 
& not that you land on your feet 
like a thankless cat in the large room 
that is nobody’s cellar and find 
a chair already drawn for you 
the lamp already switched on 
not that                           not that 
not that the book is open at its 
centre, pale, pinned butterfly 
on the antique desk so you 
read the entries before you 
see the title, fingers shaking 
unaccountably                 not that 
& not that there is a magnifying 
glass, not that you see no door 
no window, not that your lips 
move as you start to read 
5001. Colgate Lasagne, Crystal Pepsi 
5002. The first failed wingsuit 
not that your glance drags down 
the page        the voyage of the Titanic, 
a hundred lost winning lottery tickets, 
controlled burning in the Cerro Grande
not that                  not that                   not
the invasion of Libya, 
the B2 stealth-bomber crash, a hunter 
lighting a signal flare near 
San Diego County Estates 
not that                           not that
not that you begin to see it 
with the harsh precision of a film 
the affairs of Rupert Murdoch, 
Chernobyl, a valve in the Piper Bravo 
oil rig, the drunk captain of the 
Exxon Valdez and the slick,
oil-stained birds      not 
that the afterword is a list 
of failed marriages, the imagined 
name of your lost child 
but how at last you turn 
the pages backwards 
right through to the first 
and find yourself in capitals 
know that you are the editor, 
celebrated scholar of damage, 
author of your own fate.