Count on the I Ching
such a patriarchal, parental book
to give you a good stomp on the top of the head
when you’re already way down below the waterline
demanding complete, total adulthood
as I hear my old buddy boy John
reading it to me on the phone
(my copy was stolen by the muggers)
and on the return from identifying the corpse
of my crazy cousin Charlie
who died an apparent overdose
on a scallop boat out of New Bedford.
I see his face both living and dead
and still have the feeling he is near
which filled me when I saw
the stiff form, the body
his earthly remains
lying there swaddled in sheets on a stretcher,
an amazingly innocent bundle
waiting for me to see his face
in Christ-like peace, pax vobiscum
swallowed by the eternal womb
oh, that commonplace, airless vault
while I would go home to wait alone
and watch his appearances
living and dead until other dreams
might just as finally overtake me
and the infinite dialogue
and roll of the coins
move to other conversation.


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.