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Poem by Steve Glines

 

First Sunday after the Ascension of Saint Jack

We sit in a pew three empty rows from the front where the
reverend is sure to spot us. I am here to satisfy my wife’s
desire to find a church I will tolerate. I have my spiritual
side. I seek the truth, I seek compassion, I seek justice. I am
my brother’s keeper, but I am not religious. I cannot be
religious given what is done in the name of religion.
Nietzsche was right, god is dead or, at best, no longer cares.
He has moved on to populate another place with his
offspring. By Zeus I hope it works out for them.

The protestant priestess of this well appointed church offers
the usual incantations and exhortations and, passing on to
the homily, she fawns and gushes over a prominent member
of the church sitting in the front row like a peacock. She
adores him and asks him to read. His name is Mathew but
he reads from John 6. The irony is lost on all. His suit is
French, his shoes and tie are Italian and, I suspect, his car is
German. He has gone far on pocket change.

It’s been a week since Jack died. Poor and penniless, he
thrived on a pension of crumbs and love from the flock he
tended, those for whom The Word was paramount. No one
was unwelcome at his table and no one lacked shelter from
the storm. His tent could sleep a multitude if required and
while his shoes sank into the mud from the holes in them, he
would have walked barefoot willingly.

I look down to hide the tear rolling down my cheek. Jack
would not be welcome here. The Word is not worshipped
here. Yet I recognize the language rolling effortlessly off the
silver tongue of the Mathew reading from John, he has his
reward. I know this church, they would shut and lock their
doors to the homeless at night. Next week my wife will ask
me to try yet another church. I pray for different results.

 

Steve Glines is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Wilderness House Press and Wilderness House Literary Review, an online quarterly. In his past lives, he has been a general assignment reporter, a political commentator, a technical writer with two monthly technical columns and half a dozen computer science books to his credit. Today he writes poetry and fiction. In 2016 he was awarded the Ibbetson Street Press Lifetime Achievement Award and a lifetime achievement award from the Massachusetts State Democratic Party. He is a member of the Robert Creeley Foundation and is a past Assistant District Governor for Rotary International.

Jennifer Matthews’ poetry has been published in Nepal by Pen Himalaya and locally by the Wilderness Retreat Writers Organization, Midway Journal, The Somerville Times, Ibbetson Street Press and Boston Girl Guide. Jennifer was nominated for a poetry award by the Cambridge Arts Council for her book of Poetry Fairy Tales and Misdemeanors. Her songs have been released nationally and internationally and her photography has been used as covers for a number of Ibbetson Street Press poetry books and has been exhibited at The Middle East Restaurant, 1369 Coffeehouses, Sound Bites Restaurant in Somerville and McLean Hospital.

 

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It’s All One Thing #230: May Day

 

a Poem for John Margaret Powers

At the memorial for your “rival”
all I keep thinking is how angry
you would become always jealous
for your own venue and afraid
there wouldn’t be enough participation
to go around even as your initial start
continued to spawn a wider scene
that eventually included poetry readings
in multiple neighborhoods each day of each week.

To me that just seemed inevitable
as the turning pages of the book culture
bleed into the flickering blinking screens
of the Current Age Interminable Internets
but for you each new emerging community
each new event in the annual aspirational cycle
were these long days up early in the A.M.
working all day late into the nights
at jobs that barely paid the basic freight
for all the other works that had to be done.

But then you so gentle hence so traumatized
so waiting for the last time coming back home
to find your whole life evicted out onto the street
where you always noticed those who were living there
already your buds, the ones you might have been
but for the grace of God everything you did was done.

No wonder it was so hard to sleep.
No wonder there was no rest for the wicked (or just).
No wonder the saints stood by wide eyes
at Jack Powers sleepless in the grim night
of his vision of International Workers day
Ancient Religious May Pole Bohemian Celebration
Of Creation intimate personal collective Life.
If it hadn’t been so painful
it couldn’t have been so full of life.

 

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.

 

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It’s All One Thing #201: It’s Amazing It Works as Well as It Does

 

Written for Jack Powers

Caught in conversation, I always hear
pitiful palliative, pathetic plaint
echo of large machine, the grid round here
the place I look from, looks back fear, complaint:

Burst pipe, struck pole, fray wire, pierced shell, blown tire
bridge down, dam broke, levy gone, error in design
maniac down the hall, man up in fire
the road that kills, the disappeared sign

The endless struggle of the human race
the void, the great cold ice box universe
the screaming light, atom’s lost in space
the plot we all rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

Life goes on with a frightful buzz
it’s amazing it works as well as it does.

 

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.

 

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It’s All One Thing #182: Lucky Me

 

for Stone Soup Poetry and Chad Parenteau

Here I am riding through Fields Corner with a notebook in my bag that I wrote when
I lived here almost 40 years ago on my way to Stone Soup still there waiting on Monday
night as I think of event ASSAULT ON AMNESIA Jack and I put together of Retread
Troopers and Civilian Casualties about Vietnam that’s what we need now that’s what
everyone says over and over People Need to Wake Up and look at that Sleeping Giant
America most of the young people are way too young to remember Vietnam or Jim Morrison’s
the Doors singing We Want the World and We Want It Now .… Nowwwww!!! all they
know is “Come on Baby Light My Fire” tell it to Donald Trump and there it is again like
the Wake Up the Earth Festival out in Jamaica Plain at the Urban Gardening Project there
that Jack Powers and (more probably) Julie worked on like the first Charles River Regatta
still going still flow row(ing) down a much cleaner Charles, muddy, muddy Charles down
where we went to read a few poems and say a few words for the two guys I knew from Pine
Street Inn who both drowned in one night so they found their bodies floating by the Sailboat
Club and one was in the poetry group at St. Francis House Jack started and Jack was livid
that the two human deaths were in the inside pages of the Metro Section while the murder
of a swan from the Public Garden was front page news in the Boston Globule and so I say
Thank God for Jack Powers! Thank God for Stone Soup Poetry!
Here I come across from Dorchester to Cambridge, Ashmont Station to Central Square again
how many times I have ridden those rails across the two towns screeching and screaming so
deep under doesn’t seem aging infrastructure is any kinder or the wind anymore embracing
as we walk out the doors and into the wind down the stairwells and up those stairs into the
world of the square only to arrive at Out of the Blue (art gallery as ersatz as the original store
front of Stone Soup on (get this) Cambridge St. to hear Neil Young singing “I Believe” I believe
that’s how it happens just like that Synchronicity Strikes Again, Urban Wild Life all around got
us so Lucky, Lucky Me America needs to wake up Sleeping Giant America, Assault on Amnesia
save the Civilian Casualties, retread again the Retread Troopers Assault on Amnesia for that
Assault On ALL ONE THING America Amnesia Now More Than Ever All One Thing Irony
All the Time Lucky, Lucky Me, Lucky Be
Stone Soup still here even though Jack is such a gone dude, Lucky Me.

 

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.

 

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It’s All One Thing #176: You Can Always

 

Count on the I Ching
such a patriarchal, parental book
to give you a good stomp on the top of the head
when you’re already way down below the waterline
demanding complete, total adulthood
as I hear my old buddy boy John
reading it to me on the phone
(my copy was stolen by the muggers)
and on the return from identifying the corpse
of my crazy cousin Charlie
who died an apparent overdose
on a scallop boat out of New Bedford.
I see his face both living and dead
and still have the feeling he is near
which filled me when I saw
the stiff form, the body
his earthly remains
lying there swaddled in sheets on a stretcher,
an amazingly innocent bundle
waiting for me to see his face
in Christ-like peace, pax vobiscum
swallowed by the eternal womb
oh, that commonplace, airless vault
while I would go home to wait alone
and watch his appearances
living and dead until other dreams
might just as finally overtake me
and the infinite dialogue
and roll of the coins
move to other conversation.

 

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.

 

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It’s All One Thing #175: After

  

After my St. Francis House Poetry Group
where providence has magically provided
two Jamaicans
one now a 70 year old teacher
who got his education at Boston University
only to be almost destroyed
by the “desegregation” of the Boston Public Schools
and the other a young man now just 24
attempting to get his G.E.D.
after having dropped out of N.Y. Technical
for the wild, wild streets of America
I go to sit in meditation before work
under the Cherry trees on the Boston Common
from our sister city Kyoto
planted by my old poetry buddy, Jack Powers
who started Stone Soup and the St. Francis poetry groups
and I still limping a bit from a poetry contest I dared to enter
but now can see I could never win
because even the leftist radicals are so lost in the sin
of fighting to remain superior
way up there on top the world system
while we , we are way down here just waiting, waiting for the sun
to finally warm the Artic air and for the light to enliven the brown grass
so that the blossoms, the blossoms may hatch from their husks
and the petals, the petals spread their flowers to devour the great blue feast of sky.

 

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.