There it is first on Cambridge Street just the other side of the river:
Bill Barnum and Brother Blue are still dancing modern mime in the window
which was once Stone Soup but then became a travel agency instead

All I can do is what I can do
be there for voices of the past
as much as I am capable of being there
for as long as time will let me be there

And there we were there
standing there in the biggest wettest
snowflakes falling so heavenly heavy
all around us this blow
of the storm that began fully
as I left the house
and came down as super wet crystals
hexagrams of interstate H2O
working its way into gloves and boots
as we listen to Martin Luther King,
(Junior as my grandson reminds me the next day)
speaking his Riverside Speech for Peace
if he had not mentioned Vietnam
he could have been talking about Iraq and Afghanistan,
the War on Terror which is really the War of Terror
so I can see many of the younger passer-byes
all hurrying in the snow can not even know
whose voice is filling the corner of the Common
so vibrant, so compelling, such a dream of a speech
saying what we all should know by now, indeed
should have known long ago by now
the choice is not between non-violence and violence
but between non-violence and the end of existence as we know it

Someone has to be that voice that attempts to speak for all
even as they tell us, the pundits and factotums
you do not matter, no one cares what you think
you are only trying to get attention all the more
when we are kicked to the corner, the Corner of the Common
or banished to languish in the blogs that awful combination
of bog and log dull as a diary and sinking like a morass
the horrible clutch of B-movie quicksand if you are not a good guy
you could go down in a blurry in a blog — Blog, Blog, Blog
we do not even know what a blog could be when we are there
and we are out here speaking the voice of the street
it is the Analogue Antidote to the Digital Days,
Dale Carnegie built a whole movement on public speaking
the Alexander Technique was created to treat a speech impediment
Maria Montessori invented a holistic curriculum from sensory psychiatry
the rainbow arc is right back to the physiology of prayer; that is of attention

We all need attention
We all need to physically be with others
Even when distracted we still feel the bird in the tree
If we are alone in the forest we are least alone
On the lonely mountaintop lives Peace
While the life of our times is passing in the square
but they cannot stop us from talking, from moving, from kinetically interacting

They can pen us up in “Protest” zones
and infiltrate us with spies
and instigate provocations
and capture our communications
but all that finally does is drive us closer together
we meet in the refugee camps
we rise up in the long lines
we take over their prisons
we fight their minimum cage
we resist their military and financial predations however we can
we continue to find a place to speak
wherever we can, wherever we can, whenever we can
whenever we can we are dancing modern mime in the travel agency windows
whichever we can we are making poetry on the corner or out of the blue
however we can we are the Voice on the Corner of the Common.


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.