a Poem for John Margaret Powers

At the memorial for your “rival”
all I keep thinking is how angry
you would become always jealous
for your own venue and afraid
there wouldn’t be enough participation
to go around even as your initial start
continued to spawn a wider scene
that eventually included poetry readings
in multiple neighborhoods each day of each week.

To me that just seemed inevitable
as the turning pages of the book culture
bleed into the flickering blinking screens
of the Current Age Interminable Internets
but for you each new emerging community
each new event in the annual aspirational cycle
were these long days up early in the A.M.
working all day late into the nights
at jobs that barely paid the basic freight
for all the other works that had to be done.

But then you so gentle hence so traumatized
so waiting for the last time coming back home
to find your whole life evicted out onto the street
where you always noticed those who were living there
already your buds, the ones you might have been
but for the grace of God everything you did was done.

No wonder it was so hard to sleep.
No wonder there was no rest for the wicked (or just).
No wonder the saints stood by wide eyes
at Jack Powers sleepless in the grim night
of his vision of International Workers day
Ancient Religious May Pole Bohemian Celebration
Of Creation intimate personal collective Life.
If it hadn’t been so painful
it couldn’t have been so full of life.


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.