Another Lugubrious Poem

How does he do it?
The first time I met him
he was wearing a blue suit,
expensive overcoat and a fedora
and, of course, his ubiquitous briefcase
so although he looked rough around the collar
and so inordinately rumpled and soiled
I believed he might have been
what he claimed to be …. a lawyer
from Worcester stranded in the city
just needing train fare to get home.

I gave him more than I would most panhandlers
but now fifteen years later there he is again
coming down the steps of Boylston St. Station
(where I always seem to run into the doomed)
and he has another brand new suit
and is engulfed in a bulky long overcoat
with his head swallowed by a sporty scally cap
and a leather briefcase with straps in hand
and I think his shelter name
even though I know
there’s a real possibility he can’t remember his own name
and would probably be outraged, maybe even volcanic
if I was so to be so forward as to try to address him
but somehow he manages to remember to dress his part
and then to show his disabled pass to the fare collector
and come threw the turnstile, a tiny figure in bulky new clothes
who jumps on the first outbound train to stop and ride away
toward important cases, big deals, and constitutional issues.


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.