For the Myth of Plato’s Cave


Feathery forms plunge through the periphery
and their dark trails languish on the retina.
Sometimes there is a flash of red or blue color
that seeks to become known as name and identity
but more often we are just left hopeless waiting
for another chance to know what it is we have lost.
We see the world from its rear, a retreating beauty
whose face we will only imagine but never actually see.

All those who go up the stairway from dark subway tunnel
to the bright doors above, that open into Spring,
lead us into a realm that blinds by its brightness.
The intersecting paths of our bodies that labor
through the crowd of our shifting social visions
manage to avoid collision much more successfully
than our oh, too political selves which have been crashing
and burning in an oh, too long cultural conflagration
that has consumed our oh, too adult lives for decades.

So that here we are again never managing to really see
what it is that went around the corner just before
we arrived and looking up at who’s disappearing
in the blinding light and what is that that’s moving
in the darkness so far down there way below us
and what is that evil which is consuming all of us
and what is that good that devours our best impulses
and how can we survive the pornographic dream
and live through the many violent rapes and murders
and find our way back to the friendly, helpful faces
that would return our lost pen as they stop us
to say, oh, here it is that which you lost
and there it is, that which we could not take
and thank you for coming into my precious world.


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.