It’s odd how photographs of those who’ve died

differ from snaps of folk still drawing breath.

They fade more quickly, as the distance grows

between them and us, while we cautiously decide


how to deal with them, until one resonates

as the print which fixes some essential self,

the effigy we’ve chosen to explain

the shrouded life we couldn’t – back then – rate


but which now provides a prologue for the story

we’ve settled on to make sense of ourselves,

the household, or the tribal, god we need

to help us to invent our history.


Maybe the task was easier when smartphones

couldn’t capture every fleeting pose: what if

there’ll soon be far too many images

scattered like indecipherable headstones


to know where we should rummage for the lone

memory we can manipulate? – a face

framed as a relic and licensed thus to bless

our fertile sagas, if only by its long


indulgent silence. But that at least some day

will be ours too, when I doubt we’d think it wrong

to leave the unfinished souls we’ve bid goodbye


an icon for their necessary lie.

Published in uncommon, anthology by Clapham Original Poets, 2018