We always think we know what we want
but only find out its real full meaning
when the levees burst or the hurricane
now scours the coast of our foundations.

It’s not as if rivers have never undone dams
or lightning has never ignited a conflagration.
A tremble of the Earth sends concentric waves
racing for vulnerable flesh on naked beaches.

We take the normal course of great patterns for granted.
We assume the rain will fall, the streams will still run and
the oceans will lick the sky, just as the clouds will still course,
the mountains will collect the vapor, so that small creatures
will climb up to the tips of the cupped leaves to take a drink
and the air currents will convey their warmth way beyond us
to lands that otherwise would still be buried in tombs of ice.

And yet, and yet somehow we do know about heavy water
burrowing its way down into the base of a mighty ice dam
and we feel the queasy crystals collapse in deep wormholes
and the entire architectural structure wobbles around us all
ready to burst into its true violent nature in a sudden instant
this paw-claw of time, this fang-change of world we thought
we had mastered but now discover we never ever really knew.

The true nature of our own constant interventions
Is only made clear by their eventual malfunctions.


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.