My big brother had told me
that some one of my same name
Jacobus Van Looy
was on display in the Frans Hals Museum
but the little “Oude man met Armbos”
the old man with alms box
taught me complete, total surprise
as I learned that the museum
which had been an orphanage
for Jacobus Van Looy
the impressionist Dutch painter
who later became a writer
about what it was like
to grow up in an orphanage
which had once been
the Old Man’s Alms House
of Haarlem, Holland
my grandparent’s home town
oh, not so far after all
from the shelter for homeless men
in Boston’s America
where I live and work
all these long seeming years
suddenly quick.


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.