Shhhh, don’t say a word, silence, silencio
We’re not supposed to tell, canaries die
We don’t want to end up disappeared,
We don’t want to end up with concrete shoes swimming at the bottom of the river
Or in a shallow grave dusted with lye or shredded by the chipper
So keep your beak shut, don’t open your mouth, be quiet!
Don’t let anyone know about what happened over there
Or what’s going on right here
Someone may be listening, it’s the code of silence
Blank faces and tight lips
Remember, always remember
The police are our friends, the prosecution takes care of the renegades
The judges are our protectors, the pols are our servants
We all stick together

Us against them, them better than us
Do it to them before they get us
And we’ve done it all (and a whole lot more)
Oh, yes a whole lot more than you can imagine
Or anyone can imagine or even wants to hear

Don’t say anything
Silence, silence, silencia, silensio
We’re not supposed to do anything
No one knows
Don’t squeak a word, don’t say a thing


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.