I see him pop! blue and yellow scarf in each small hand plie’
head turned in profile and eyes piercing concentrating total
intensity encompassing the old store front on Cambridge St.
the building still there, last remnant of the old West End
even then almost completely taken by “Urban Renewal”
obliterated with Scollay Square and the poor Old Howard.
Yes that walk-up where jack lived upstairs in that cut-away
apartment front and back rooms connected by only a hall
next to the huge indentation in the top two revealed stories
where downstairs amid psychedelic paintings of sovereign
sun gleam Bill Barnum was the beatnik remnant in the flux
of ebbing Hippie Time in black tights and ballet shoes he was
modern dancing his surrealist poems of gay blade concealed
in a cane of the Beacon Hill gentleman become exclamation
point body convulsed in shocks into immobility a throbbing
image in a charged night city all around aura of listening ear
that articulates without one word that does not come in rush
Some people never know when to stop but who is that contrarian
gnome who as male dancer was the jumper with hang time who
just went on up and somehow, some mysterious way stayed there
full extension going up in a miracle of levitation floating not falling
I can see him sitting in the afternoon sun with Stone Soup buddies,
Labyrinth Workshop participants, Cosmic Spelunker Theaters
together sharing a meal around a table but I’m the only one I see
who sees the humming bird that comes to hang over the shoulder
of the theatrical, the white mane underground surrealist head that
finally yesterday stared at me with just one eye but could still see
the Winged Victory salute, the presentation of the cord by teacher
to student, student teacher of that old Marquis Torsade who surely
certainly could have known hang time humming bird Bill Barnum.
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.