When I enter the crypt hall
(like Saddam Hussein in his ‘spider’ hole)
there is a real rat caught in a trash can.
I immediately hear it skitter about
on the plastic bag and try to jump out.
As I take up my meditation posture
it jumps again and again for the rim
and there are sharp cries from the corners
that answer and urge on its efforts.
It can’t get out of this black hole.

Once I, too, fell into a black hole
of consciousness after I got lost coming
home on the first day at a new school.
The next fall I got sick and seemed
to fall into the same black hole
as I lay in hospital for months
with a strange gastro-intestinal illness
that never managed to have a name.

The next year before school could start
I slipped off a horizontal monkey bars
and fell into the black hole of a concussion.

The sharp distress calls of the rats pierce my brain.
When I walk the Labyrinth it takes me
all the way down to those great depths
where we finally meet those tormentors
who can look over the lip of our world
and say exactly what we most fear to hear.
Only the stillness between the squeaks can hold such fear calm and quiet.
Only the flower of spinning space can guide us through all this horror.


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.