Innocence must be its own reward
since other wise it so rarely finds support.
A man washed out to sea by a tsunami
waves to us from his improvised raft of ripped out trees
and debris of houses that floats on the back pages of newspaper.
Next to it a Sentinelese tribesman shoots an arrow at our eye
in an Indian Coast Guard helicopter
from his island home that apparently
does not need our technological interventions.
They say that somehow (no one knows how) these indigenes,
these “primitives” and many coastal animals sensed
what our more sophisticated awareness missed:
the arrival of a tidal wave of seismic proportions.

We look at our own coastal home and shudder.
Would we know enough to move inland in time?
The tectonic plates under the South End and the Back Bay
shift and quiver beneath the foundations
that wallow deep in ancient fluid tidal flats.
The real estate deals of whole generations
teeter far, far above all of us lost citizens.
We clutch our deeds and credit cards.
How many pieces and parcels can we take
out and stack on top of the swaying structure
before the game finally ends in a crash, Jenga!
like a wave, a tsunami wave that breaks against
the hills of our ever growing sophistication.

 

James Van Looy has been a fixture in Boston’s poetry venues since the 1970s. He is a member of Cosmic Spelunker Theater and has run poetry workshops for Boston area homeless people at Pine Street Inn and St. Francis House since 1992. Van Looy leads the Labyrinth Creative Movement Workshop, which his Labyrinth titled poems are based on. His work appears weekly in Oddball Magazine.