Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, DOMESDAY BOOK: DR. TRACE TO THE CORONER, by EDGAR LEE MASTERS



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DOMESDAY BOOK: DR. TRACE TO THE CORONER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I cannot tell you, coroner, the cause / of death of elenor murray, not until
Last Line: The mother of this man in tokio.
Subject(s): Autopsies; Death; Hearts; Dead, The


I cannot tell you, Coroner, the cause
Of death of Elenor Murray, not until
My chemical analysis is finished.
Here is the woman's heart sealed in this jar,
I weighed it, weight nine ounces, if she had
A hemolysis, cannot tell you now
What caused the hemolysis. Since you say
She took no castor oil, that you can learn
From Irma Leese, or any witness, still
A chemical analysis may show
The presence of ricin, -- and that she took
A dose of oil not pure. Her throat betrayed
Slight inflammation; but in brief, I wait
My chemical analysis.

Let's exclude
The things we know and narrow down the facts.
She lay there by the river, death had come
Some twenty hours before. No stick or stone,
No weapon near her, bottle, poison box,
No bruise upon her, in her mouth no dust,
No foreign bodies in her nostrils, neck
Without a mark, no punctures, cuts or scars
Upon her anywhere, no water in lungs,
No mud, sand, straws or weeds in hands, the nails
Clean, as if freshly manicured.

Again
No evidence of rape. I first examined
The genitals in situ, found them sound.
The girl had lived, was not a virgin, still
Had temperately indulged, and not at all
In recent months, no evidence at all
Of conjugation willingly or not,
The day of death. But still I lifted out
The ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus,
The vagina and vulvae. Opened up
The mammals, found no milk. No pregnancy
Existed, sealed these organs up to test
For poison later, as we doctors know
Sometimes a poison's introduced per vaginam.

I sealed the brain up too, shall make a test
Of blood and serum for urea; death
Comes suddenly from that, you find no lesion,
Must take a piece of brain and cut it up,
Pour boiling water on it, break the brain
To finer pieces, pour the water off,
Digest the piece of brain in other water,
Repeat four times, the solutions mix together,
Dry in an oven, treat with ether, at last
The residue put on a slide of glass
With nitric acid, let it stand awhile,
Then take your microscope -- if there's urea
You'll see the crystals -- very beautiful!
A cobra's beautiful, but scarce can kill
As quick as these.

Likewise I have sealed up
The stomach, liver, kidneys, spleen, intestines,
So many poisons have no microscopic
Appearance that convinces, opium,
Hyoscyamus, belladonna fool us;
But as the stomach had no inflammation,
It was not chloral, ether took her off,
Which we can smell, to boot. But I can find
Strychnia, if it killed her; though you know
That case in England sixty years ago,
Where the analysis did not disclose
Strychnia, though they hung a man for giving
That poison to a fellow.

To recur
I'm down to this: Perhaps a hemolysis --
But what produced it? If I find no ricin
I turn to streptococcus, deadly snake,
Or shall I call him tiger? For I think
The microscopic world of living things
Is just a little jungle, filled with tigers,
Snakes, lions, what you will, with teeth and claws,
The perfect miniatures of these monstrous foes.
Sweet words come from the lips and tender hands
Like Elenor Murray's, minister, nor know
The jungle has been roused in throat or lungs;
And shapes venene begin to crawl and eat
The ruddy apples of the blood, eject
Their triple venomous excreta in
The channels of the body.

There's the heart,
Which may be weakened by a streptococcus.
But if she had a syncope and fell
She must have bruised her body or her head.
And if she had a syncope, was held up,
Who held her up? That might have cost her life:
To be held up in syncope. You know
You lay a person down in syncope,
And oftentimes the heart resumes its beat.
Perhaps she was held up until she died,
Then laid there by the river, so no bruise.
So many theories come to me. But again,
I say to you, look for a man. Run down
All clues of Gregory Wenner. He is dead --
Loss of a building drives to suicide --
The papers say, but still it may be true
He was with Elenor Murray when she died,
Pushed her, we'll say, or struck her in a way
To leave no mark, a tap upon the heart
That shocked the muscles more or less obscure
That bind the auricles and ventricles,
And killed her. Then he flies away in fear,
Aghast at what he does, and kills himself.
Look for a man, I say. It must be true,
She went so secretly to walk that morning
To meet a man -- why would she walk alone?

So while you hunt the man, I'll look for ricin,
And with my chemicals end up the search.
I never saw a heart more beautiful,
Just look at it. We doctors all agreed
This Elenor Murray might have lived to ninety
Except for jungles, poison, sudden shock.
I take my bottle with the heart of Elenor
And go about my way. It beat in France,
It beat for France and for America,
But what is truer, somewhere was a man
For whom it beat!

When Irma Leese, the Aunt of Elenor Murray,
Appeared before the coroner she told
Of Elenor Murray's visit, of the morning
She left to walk, was never seen again.
And brought the coroner some letters sent
By Elenor from France. What follows now
Is what the coroner, or the jury heard
From Irma Leese, from letters drawn -- beside
The riffle that the death of Elenor Murray
Sent round the life of Irma Leese, which spread
To Tokio and touched a man, the son
Of Irma Leese's sister, dead Corinne,
The mother of this man in Tokio.





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