In a rambling sort of way I sort through cabinets in which manila file folders rest until, crisp bottom fold lost and rounded, they open like wilted and faded petals over-revealing their aged content. After 16 years in this pro bono business, I have filed away many word collections and cultivated thoughts and half-brained ideas. The cabinets open and disgorge the stories. I am simply the curator now, after my power to narrate has been diminished by the would-haves and should-haves.
One musters the courage to linger over a file folder that offers up razor blades for the self-mutilator. Slipping through the paper-clipped pages I see where I could have helped but did not. How was my vision then? I think of John Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale, “was it a vision or a waking dream? Fled is that music–do I wake or sleep?” How do I see and not see?
The poetry of pro bono falls within many camps: romantic, mystic, modern, classic. But all poetry is code, expression under oppression. In the forming of the work lies the frustration of too little, too few, too much, too important.
The discernment of success and failure is at best a short-lived contentedness. All things wrapped in evolution offer up hope.
My aged paper files lie wilted, no fragrance except that of uneasiness. Sweet, the same.