This is a tragic tale of the revenge exacted by the photocopier in the office where I work, whenever I actually need to copy something in a hurry . . .


Brave folk stare in dread, as the winking light

Tells awful tale, paper’s perilous plight.

I heft the mighty paper-clip of yore

To wrest hard-won prize from copier’s core.

Cold steel, brute force and vast amounts of luck

Are willed to get this machine unstuck.

Hypnotic cyclops, red LED blink

Haunts me. Resolve to explore every chink:

Drums, rollers, cogs and wheels – but all in vain,

Retreat back to my desk, with thumb in pain.

Midst mountain range of paperwork, I sup

Restorative tea from polystyrene cup.

This weary worker has all-too-little hope

Of taming Behemoth’s infinite scope.

Sisyphus, had he worked in an office,

Would empathise, pause and cut his losses.

Bewildering diagrams of despair

Offer no succour. I shout and swear

Theseus himself could not navigate

Labyrinthine cogs and melted acetate.

Fellow toilers look on as if aghast

I’ve finally lost my marbles. At last

I summon courage, with head bowed, return

To fabled field where battle must be won.

Meagre crumbs, 80 gsm, are strewn,

Error messages read like magic rune,

But nothing here to aid my noble quest.

Metal hands of clock sweep from east to west,

Fatefully tick away my precious time.

Sod’s law dictates I need this done by nine.

Then I spy – elusive sheet of white A4

Wedged at the back, behind a hidden door.

Again my steely weapon is employed

To free this obstruction which cruelly cloyed

Innards of this maddening contraption.

I pull and finally get some traction.

Out comes mangled mess to rival Gordian

Knot. Twisted, this tortuous accordion.

Triumphant, infernal doors slam home.

But due to internal, mischievous gnome,

Yet another blinking LED foretells

More jams, torn sheets and angry tortured yells.

Technology that never bloody works.

Just when needed, it invariably shirks.


This is an example of mock-heroic verse, where the poetic conventions of epic poetry (reference to mythological heroes, rhyming couplets, etc.) are made fun of. Feminine rhymes are employed for comic effect, where two syllables are rhymed at the end of a line, “machine”, “a skein” / “Gordian”, “accordion”. The subject matter is mundane, a jammed photocopier, but this is transposed into a poetic form traditionally associated with great battles or heroic deeds.

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