Another Labyrinth Floor Poem

I dreamed of being a Hippie organic farmer living on our own land and I may
          have been only one
industrial job from having stayed in N. Ohio and working at the Lordstown Vega
          plant but instead
I got laid off and went back to Brownsville PA to sit on old benches beside the
          Towne House Hotel
with black lung miners and disabled steel workers and finish college on the G.I.
          bill of rights. I tried
to find a job down there but working in a prison for teenage girls was too much
          for me because I’d
already been through one war which was still going on and I decided I might as
          well do what I want
because they sure weren’t offering anything anyway I still went back up to Ohio
          one more time and
(I tried to get in a General Motors tool and dye apprenticeship) my Dad would
          forever maintain I lost
because of affirmative action (an intimation of the Southern strategy still to be
          fully deployed) and
I asked my friend and army buddy Bob to get me a job on the R.R. at Bellevue
          the big switching yard
with a hump that made up the freight trains across the north part of Ohio but I
          ended up working
in a press room of pounding sheet metal presses during an again prophetic
          unsuccessful union drive
just like the Lordstown strike to stop the exportation of the auto industry failed
          and then every union
drive I was ever involved with would fail. I was a sub-contractor of my self and
          from then on I was lucky
to pay rent much less thinking of buying land. I think about this personal history
          every time I hear
the candidates leading off with their favorite talking point about the hundreds of
          millions who became
“middle-class” that is those hundreds of millions who migrated to the
          enveloping out skirts mega cities
leaving behind their families, their kids with grandparents and a way of life they
          had been living for
centuries, even millennia to work in some dangerous fire hazard sweat shop for
          just enough to live
after they send some home to support the children. There’s nothing as insecure
          as sub-contract work.
They’ve even stopped talking about the middle-class. We’re all just folk now. All
          One Thing. One Big
Family. Except for the Ones way over there. And then I see it as if I’m looking
          over the river I will never
cross. It’s just like Moses dying just before he gets to the Promised Land. You
          reach the height that over
looks the Jordan but that very attainment means you will not get to actually go
          to the place to which your
vision has led. The path you had to take to find the vision precludes your
          actually enjoying its bloody
                                              Your foresight leaves you unfit for fulfillment.


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.