The End of Enclosure


It took a long time to get here so you know
there’s “Religion and the Rise of Capitalism”
and the “genial Harrison” late Elizabethan
saying “ at whose hands shall the bloude (blood)
of these men be required” stating plain the claim
of the “poor” on us all that is the Commons,
the Great Society, when less than a century
later (after the restoration of the monarchy)
when the policy became in Puritan parlance
“to surround the right to relief with obstacles”
and “to give it, when it could no longer be avoided,
in a work house or house of correction, and, for
the rest to increase the demand for labor by
reducing wages.” And I always remembering
that as I worked in modern day poor houses
that we call shelters for ten years which sand-
wiched four years in lower slower Delaware in
group homes for “developmentally disabled” de-
institutionalized from one of the old plantation
work farms for the “least of these” doing personal
care and future plans for those so long sent away
only to return to the city to work again in the shelters
expanding after the initial emergency of Reagan years
until it was openly being documented that it cost
more to provide homeless services on the streets
than it would to provide housing (with staffing
if necessary) not to absorb the cost of shelters
and emergency care on the streets for all those
who refuse to concede to be consigned to a cot
and, now, of course the shelters and the prisons
the mass incarceration, actually the genocidal
drug war on the people (of color) and dissidents,
people like me all ways who I have been living
with always but especially since drafted and, yes,
the shelters were (of course) full of those veterans
from all the wars but also especially from Vietnam
when I started there in 1986 and when I left in 2000
I was still getting poems at my workshops from vets
at those shelters who tended to write about anything
except the institutional mess wrought again and again
by small government, so small indeed that vital relief
just dwindles away and leaves so many of the people
living in tents and trailers and “parks” infrastructure
of septic tanks and satellite discs this short tenuous
existence where you better not apply for any slight aide
from draconian dragon called transitional assistance
this Welfare that isn’t, this way of life that never works
even as all you do is work, where you, yes you, must be
sacrificing babies at Satanic orgies if you’re not home
schooling your fund-mentalist version of decades of life
cut off in a past that never existed called a culture of LIFE
(with industrial strength nitrate water and pesti-herbicide
drifting down from the busy buzzing roaring crop dusters).

Quotations: from Religion and the Rise of Capitalism by R.H. Tawney.


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.