Saturday 25 January 2020

Joris Iven: 'In the archives: wills & letters'


We imagine ourselves gods when we read what the dead wrote,
but we are powerless. The letter betrays more than the soul
and the dead do not need to feel ashamed of their failings.
They admit their infidelity without remorse. But we stay
mum and our deeds have been irrevocable.
We recognise the outstretched hand that was rejected.
The imploring look that left us indifferent. We pore
over photocopies of wills and hear the rustling
of money. We think, oh, how small-minded we have
been. From diaries we learn how easily promises
are broken; often despite ourselves. For each time
we thought to have our destiny in our hands, chance
has taken it over from us. Time has been stronger
than the will. In so many memoirs we recognise
trust precisely before the false move. The over-confident
decision that we will always regret. And yet, nothing
is for nothing. When we read what the dead wrote,
we recognise ourselves. All life long we have been blind.

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