Once as I manned the church social ministry office
in the Cathedral across from the Boston Common
I came upon a terse passage in the book I was reading
on the Indian wars of North America which described
how at the bitter end of King Philip’s War about 1675
one tribe seeing that they were defeated and further
resistance self-defeating tied up their war chief and
marched into the Common to give him to the colonists
who in order to mark the finality of the moment tied
the chief to a tree and had his own people shoot him.
So as I sat in the little church cubicle waiting for the
next person to find his or her way from the street to me
I could see that war chief’s ghost as if I was standing
on the Cathedral porch wandering from the Frog Pond
to Shaw Memorial across to Park Street Station’s earth
rumbling trains and then to Boston Massacre’s plaque
and on to the old Bandstand where we planted all those
white crosses in 1987 I painted with names of the home-
less dead in black and somewhere there, too, just must be
the post holes now filled in from the scaffold where they
hung that Quaker relation who refused to just go away.
And then somewhere between the haggard resistance
fighters tottering on horseback along Charles Street
and the cherry trees planted by my old poetry buddy
there’s this wraith, this powerful soul of the continent
that once was so open to all that would come and empty
of all our previous expectations and yet always, all ways
there and yet something we can never seem to find or
at least not keep for all our deeds, titles, legal documents
our claims, rights and boundaries, as the chief owns it all.
P.S. The Resistance Fighters have been deported to South Boston
near the Convention Center there now.
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.