When I first moved to Beantown I lived on South Russell St .
at the base of the poor side of Beacon Hill
so it was right down Cambridge Street
where I took my son to the Yellow Submarine sandwich shop.
It reminded me of Midwestern garage sales except the junk was art.
The diverse paintings on the walls,
the burgeoning, small press publications,
the stacks and shelves of used books
bespoke not a business but life on its own.
I didn’t quite know what to make of it,
but it made me remember the late 1950’s
when I was a kid frozen time with everyone
waiting to live out a pre-ordained life
no one much less me wanted to live
until my big brother left Catcher in the Rye
lying around leftover from freshman Lit. class
and he and his friends sat in bedrooms
quoting Holden Caulfield at each other
as a lengthy form of a conversation
they didn’t know how to hold on their own
with Charlie Parker and Thelonius Monk
screaming agony and colon the hi-fi.
Maybe anything could happen.
And everything did happen at Stone Soup
at workshops and open readings,
at Stone Soup Moving company
with pianos and refrigerators,
microphones, voices and bodies
and ever present, urbane notebooks
and scratchy, itchy, bleeding pens
and even when the storefront was lost
to become a travel agency finally
forever haunted by Bill Barnum’s and brother Blue’s
prancing ministrations and romping incantations.
It was like jack just pulled up oars
and weighed anchor to float through a picaresque novel
adrift across the oceanic city
finding port at arcane watering spots
like the Maverick Bar, the Sword and the Stone,
Peter Piper’s Restaurant, Charlie’s Tap,
and now T.T. the Bears.
I came and went living around
the rim of the flesh eating ghetto
in Dorchester , Mission Hill and Jamaica Plain
and going through a poetical love affair with mime
but Jack was always there early in the morning
glorious Summer dawn in Faneuil Hall Flower Market
when we met under the giant Ficus Benjamina
me certain in the knowledge we were the fountain of life
watering the tree at the center of the world in poetry.
This poet-tree was an in depth blessing for the city
at the beginning of its day and the end of mine.
Jack was just starting and I’d seen him the night before.
There were Jack Kerouac birthday parties and counter-inaugural balls,
readings in front of city hall, Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti come to town,
events from Newburyport to Somerville to Dorchester
from the hub across to Cambridge there really was an ersatz community
of poets and musicians, painters and sculptors, storytellers and performers,
mimes, dancers, and guerilla street artists.
Oh, Pogo where are you now that we really need you
or how can you find the far middle when you’re really nowhere at all
but we were really trying for all the cats who never got to the gig.
We were singing in all the voices that never got to hear the song
even if we were the word that couldn’t be heard.
It was all there.
Anybody could and probably did get up there and let it all hang out.
Sometimes it was way out there. Sometimes it wasn’t.
But as theater it never lacked the immediacy of surprise, the heart of drama.
It did have a life of its own. It’s here right now. This is just the beginning.
Who’d have thought there could be so many flavors
brewed from those same old stones.
Here’s to all the poets men and women, gay and straight,
young and old, Wombats and way too human, feminists and brothers,
fugitives from his story, the disabled healing them selves,
bikers, behemoths, and leviathans, Hindu-Christian, Buddhist, Muslim
Native, American, mystic, atheist, humanist conundrum
Ecological, maniac, world, mother, pagan, animist shit bums
Of all the nations of all the world
Whoever, whatever, whichever, whenever, why!?!
Because we’re here?
Because New Yorker magazine said Beatniks are back?
Naw. Because we’re hippies?
Naw. Because we’re punks?
Naw. Because we didn’t go away.
Because we’re alive.
Because it’s just the beginning.
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. His work appears weekly in Oddball Magazine. “Stone Soup” was written in 1993 (before it’s current meeting place at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery) and was published in the inaugural issue of Spoonful.