The e-mail’s brief: you write to let me know
your papers are now at Stanford. You link to
a press release with pictures—several score
of charcoal boxes lined up on a floor,

like headstones. In them, waiting to be read,
are missives to and from the honored dead—
John Cheever, William Maxwell, Donald Hall,
and dozens more, these artifacts of all

their mirthful and/or miserable lives
inurned now in your orderly archives.
Letters exchanged with “living correspondents,”
you tersely pledge, “will go at a later date”—

so strangers wishing to peruse some note
that, years ago, one sunny day, you wrote
to me, or I to you, in confidence,
in the flower of youth, will simply have to wait.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 39 Number 9, on page 29
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