James Van Looy has been, among many things, an open mic regular at Stone Soup Poetry for many years, having performed in the early years of the venue. His open mic spots range from the poetic to the melodic to the political. Oddball is proud to present James’ work on a regular basis. We start things off with a signature poem of his that inspired the title of the column.


It’s All One Thing
Yes, It’s All One Thing
(That’s Why It’s Called the Universe)
It’s All One Thing. It’s All One Thing.
Deep and wide— Tall and Broad
All One Thing
Fossil Fueled Economy – Fossil Fueled War
All One Thing
The Veneer of the Biosphere – A Culture of Life
All One Thing All One Thing

I remember back in the 1950’s the time they imagine as bucolic
when father knew best and they all loved Lucy but even then
Elvis had a pelvis and doomsday was waiting just beyond the next horizon
line blinking like a test pattern on a black and white screen about midnight.
I came home from school to see the fool McCarthy trying to take down
the Army as Mom seemed lost in her ironing. I got lost in a black cloud
in a mighty rainstorm after school and could never remember how I ended up
almost exactly one year later throwing up in storm drain on the way to the hospital going at both ends at once until I lost all consciousness and woke up looking
like I came out of one of those death camps and bleary eyed sat in the late winter sun
on the porch sipping chicken noodle soup and crunching on soda crackers.
But that’s all right, that’s all right. All one thing. All one Thing. It’s all one thing.
                           How can it ever end when it’s all one thing.

Then that last year in high school in 1965 Lyndon Johnson invaded a little land
in this region called S.E. Asia I might have heard of a couple times previous when
one of our advisors got killed or their president was assassinated, why Vietnam
whatever could the old U.S. of A have been doing way, way over there back then?
As the war heated up I dropped out of Junior College like a shot and was drafted
almost a year to the day that I had graduated from that old Central High School .
I never even knew what happened until I woke up in the base hospital
at Ft. Gordon , Georgia taking a cold shower with a temperature of 105 degrees F.
That was the treatment then for the bronchitis that knocked me out of training cycle
and got me off the ice cold floors of the barracks for a week or more of rest.
But I ended up a holdover living in tents for many months waiting for orders
that would take me back to a previous life time that someone else lived.
All one thing. All one thing. It’s all one thing.
It was a whooshing sound in a spinning space.
It was an atmosphere more than a concrete place
this funnel of energy not of this world however much
permanently associated with a particular geographic spot.

You know these places like the walk-right-in closet you collapsed in
When she told you she didn’t want you anymore and you fell so close
to breaking your own neck like a great toppled prince of the forest.
We’re all so close to death when circumstance strips away all our stories
we tell ourselves about how it’s supposed to be and what really works (for us).

We stick our arm into the machine and the machine crushes it to the nerves.
Only the slightest twitch of middle digit gives any indication of possible recovery.
After all it’s a miracle that we’re still here at all and some people never seem
to learn even though never learning may be the only way to get through.
The next thing you know there’s your own son become a big question mark
about everything you thought you had learned at the school of shard knocks.
They punch holes in the wall and want everything you avoided all your life.
Their music sounds like blaring demons; they thunder down the road at 150mph.
You were young once too …. sooo…. that’s the way it is: you have to do
                                                                                        anything for your own blood.

Except now the generations rush down the tunnel.
They fall in defensive battle to protect the retreat.
They are never the same after the Great War.
They threaten the whole family with a hammer
and end up unmentionable in an unknown institution.
They marry their mother’s half sister’s child.
They’re the richest man in America (back in the day).
They fall off a horse in W. Virginia without ever making good
the way they always said they would.

They lose the factory they founded to the depression
and end up working in the shop they built for somebody else.
They sell themselves for a living and have a heart attack
in the shower they had to take just so they could die clean.
They were never to know how good they really were.
They were soldiers in the unending wars.
They picked up the pieces of what was left.
They carried on until it was over. They survived the trip.
The farther they went in the farther they were out.
Because it was all one thing. All one thing.
How can it ever end when it’s all one thing.