The New England sun in late February can be
as hard to approach as a solitary A.I.D.S. vigil
lived out just beyond cusp of Orpheum theater
on the stairs of apartment building against wall
left by the demolition of an old department store
beyond all the fantasies of youth and against all
numbheaded mayoral failures of imagination and
corruption of the social will that is the hole that is
the stage and the hole that no one planned to fill:
a young man too early confronted by death (never
believed in) which now, perhaps, will go away that
is if only he sits long enough out here in this cold
when anything he’s ever wanted and whole lot more
have always come to him without trying before and
indeed if you do approach then even your voice will
be stolen if it weren’t Lazarus himself coming on up
the walk when you knew he was dead and had been
thinking just yesterday ‘my favorite all time guy’ must
be dead, since I visited him in City Hospital with spine
rot from T.B. and wasting away with the virus and then
hobbling around the shelter in full body cast with sweat
at temples as if in invitation to the inebriated and mad
to fall upon and break him in half who now comes to me
thin but smiling, the hint of a death head behind his face
but still alive, still very alive asking me direction to a hotel
for a job interview, fercristsake, so that all I can say, over
and over, is just this “Man, it’s so good to see you” and
when he is just as mysteriously gone as he arrived I go
over to the current age street refugee and say so slowly
“The last time I saw that guy he was in hospital really sick
and now he’s walking down the street looking for a job.”


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.