Another Lugubrious Poem

When I finally learned his name and began using it in passing it seemed
a quick dark shadow of a cloud wisped across the bright white of his false teeth
and chewing tobacco smile as if I had crossed a boundary
I should have crossed earlier or not crossed at all.

I had no idea he was even ill or after these many months of years
he finally had a room of his own and was actually helping others
who had even less than the little he had.

He was just a tiny, little man way past working to support himself
if in fact he was ever capable or, perhaps, better mean enough
to wrench a living from life.

All I saw was someone always had a smile for me as if I was the only one
special person around and we had known each other forever.

And we probably had known each other a long enduring time
because, after all, the young man who came to Sunday soup and sandwiches
did seek me out to confide how he feared Bill was murdered
and was driven to find out how Bill had died peacefully in bed.

His “own bed,” I thought, how fit but sad that he only got a place to die in it
but had helped this young man struggling to stay in his own place
who’d had his electricity turned off who needed a place to plug in
and have a wee bit of light.

A young man who had found a sort of father he never had and yet through
the anger of grief could see what had been kept alive and passed on.


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.