Steve Orlen, unpublished manuscript

…taken from a box of his papers I rescued from the trash pile in the Modern Languages building, where the poet's office was housed at the University of Arizona, two months after he died. What gets kept. What gets left. Not a library exactly, but a product of his library, or archives anyhow, even if these particular archives had been designated as trash. I wasn't comfortable with that, all these drafts of manuscripts, not perhaps his life's work entirely (unlike his poems, they were never published), but they must contain some aspect of him, I thought, so I took them home. Here's a mark, his son's, a punctuation mark in the work of days spent in front of pages, trying to make this manuscript into something beautiful and worthy. He never quite got it there. I don't feel sad in saying it. Perhaps the act of work is what's important, not the finished work, the product. (Odd, the verb made noun like this, the literary work, the thing that critics might discuss, as if to include contain the effort spent in making art in the art itself: what we want is for it, when read, to feel effortless, not to feel like work, but still we call it such. And anyone who's worked this wayunderstands what underpins every finished sentence, and every unfinished one besides.)