The New England sun in late February winter can be as hard
to approach as a solitary A.I.D.S. vigil lived out just beyond the cusp
of the Orpheum Theater on the stairs of an aging apartment building
and against the wall left by the demolition of an old department store
beyond all the fantasies of youth and against all the numb head
mayoral failures of imagination and corruption of social will, the hole
that is the stage, that hole that no one planned to fill, a young man
too soon confronted by a death he never believed in, which now, perhaps,
will go away if only he sits long enough out here in the cold when anything
he’s ever wanted and a whole lot more have always come to him before
and indeed if you do approach even your voice will be stolen as if it weren’t
Lazarus himself coming up the walk when you knew he must be dead and
again indeed had just thought yesterday ‘my favorite all time guy must be dead’
since I visited him in City Hospital spine rotted by T.B. and wasting with ‘virus’
hobbling around the shelter in full body caste and sweat around the temples
an invitation to every crazy and drunk to fall upon him and break him in half
now comes up to me thin but smiling with the hint of a death’s head behind
his paper thin flesh but still alive, still very alive asking me directions for a job
interview, verchrissake, so that all I can say, over and over, is “man, it’s good
to see you,” and then when he is so mysteriously gone as he arrived, I go over
to the street refugee and say “the last time I saw that guy he was in hospital
                       really sick and now he’s looking for a job.”


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.