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It’s All One Thing #189: A Spectre is Haunting America/The World


or Some Things Never Go Away

I come from almost 4 weeks outside the U.S.A. U.S.A. U.S.A. bubble
of corporate media spin, spin, spin and a Spectre is haunting the maze
of vinyl strips on waist high posts that makes us go back and forth
back and forth across the great room just to spread out our number
so we won’t stack up at the touch screens whose only real function
is to get us to commit again that we have no contraband food, plants
or animals and to record our pictures exhausted, sleep deprived, travel
blasted for the surveillance state and somehow already between it all
the vinyl stripping and the surveillance cameras there is a Spectre
haunting America, indeed the World right there in Logan Airport
Watergate is waiting, yes has been there all along waiting this third rate
burglary as they say a band aide on the cancer sore of the war crimes
of Vietnam, the assassination of the Diem brothers engineered by the C.I.A.
with Henry Cabot Lodge as U.S. ambassador so I remember the rhyme
                         (Boston land of beans and cod
                         Where the Lowells speak only to Cabots
                         And the Cabots speak only to God)
that is the “secret” bombing of Laos and Cambodia, agent orange chemical
warfare only you can end forests deforestation, the secret Phoenix Program
of torture and assassination, the Tiger Cage detentions, the sales of heroin
to finance militia allies, the genocidal war on “the little yellow people” and
my platoon on Okinawa actually provided the radio teletype operators for U.S.
secret operations in Laos so one day one guy just appeared on his once empty
forever bunk and the sergeants just left his sad PTSD ass alone in the morning
when the rest of us went out to formation for report and I came home knowing
Richard Millhouse Nixon’s “secret” plan to end the war would keep it going
for many more years and tens of thousands of U.S. deaths and millions more
dead little yellow people while Nixon would spy on everyone and use the war
to deploy the Internal Revenue Service and F.B.I. and C.I.A. against dissidents
who were locked up by the war on drugs and array of political dirty tricks
deployed against protesting veterans for peace and activists like Black Panther
Fred Hampton, author of the original Rainbow Coalition as he tried to ally
with Hispanic and other organizers for which they assassinated him as he slept
one night in Chicago and the U.S. Attorney there and the F.B.I. and Chicago
Police who shot Fred in his sleep all got away with it because Watergate, you
see, Watergate was just a third rate burglary (of the Democratic National Com.)
and the free fire zones and reconnaissance by fire and dropping a grenade in
the Hooch to make sure no one was left alive but the bodies never stay buried
and the blood keeps screaming deep from the Earth and Watergate won’t go
away even now as all the real crimes of Vietnam and its domestic suppression
of the anti-war movement are drone strikes in seven different countries and
Indonesian mass murderers business partners of agent (Russian?) orange head
in the White House and the Nobel Peace Prize winners’ war on whistle blowers
still ongoing and the woman who ran the torture site in Thailand is Deputy
Director of the C.I.A. and the Deputy Attorney General who presided over the
creation of the torture memos and deployment of the (un)Patriot Act is fired
as F.B.I. head for being too independent although initially they pretend it was
because he dropped the bomb on Hillary (Clinton) whose smithereens must be
there somewhere spectral adrift haunting the nether world between national


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 #133: The Lone Stranger Meets the Drone Ranger


or the 50 Year Cover Up in Plain Sight

When I grew up we watched Westerns on our new T.V. sets and it was so popular
that local stations had their own cowboy heroes to introduce the cowboy heroes
of the old 1930’s and 1940’s shoot em’ ups — brave riders who drew fast, shot straight
and were always good, selfless protectors who rode off into the sun after the showdown.
They had names like Hoot Gibson and Ken Maynard and The Three Mesquitos and
what a joy to see them loping into the camera toward us ten gallon hats tall in the saddle
who would hop from horseback to tree limb, from tree limb to float down near ground
dangling from perfectly thrown rope and ascending back again onto galloping horseback
they were so graceful in all they did skipping back and forth over whirling lariat only
to tip their big hats forward over their brows never looking for trouble, always first to find
a clever way out of confrontation available to another way so steadfast, humble and true
that each episode they show us that even the most draconian conspiracies always contain
the seeds of their own destruction and innocent unpretentiousness will always prevail
and away we will gallop on our great pony to cut them off at the pass and bring the word
that must be heard to all those who never know what’s really going on and only to stop
for a moment just in polite farewell to turn and doff those huge hats on their rearing steeds
and then shyly disappear in a cloud of dust out toward the brilliant sunrise of the future
where life is waiting not just for them but for all of us so that as we reveled in this simple
purity fads broke out for Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett and every kid had to want a real
genuine raccoon skin hat and before it was all over gambler and land speculator Jim Bowie
had his own show “Jim Bowie, Jim Bowie’ was a fiercely fighting man and Thunk! His massive
curved fighting knife blade sticks still quivering in a tree. I’ll never forget finally seeing the show
Gunsmoke for the first time at my cousins’ house in Detroit because back in those days of rabbit
ear antennas we only got 2 of the 3 networks and Gunsmoke turned out to be as grim as Wagon Train.
Something truly horrible was always about to happen out on the old frontier and yet the New Frontier
was endlessly empty space itself. We always seemed to be looking for another new frontier over & over.
Now I wake after watching a historian talk until midnight about our forever war that he says
began when cousin Jimmy Carter made his Carter Doctrine vow to defend American interests
in the Persian Gulf when the U.S. (us) was already supporting the Mujahideen in Afghanistan
to give Russia its very own Vietnam and Charlie’s War was arming Osama bin Laden and in fact
creating his base “Al Qaeda” so named after the C.I.A. data base kept at the C.I.A. training camp
in the tribal areas. Yes, we were helping those tribal people to kill the Russians then yet soon enough
there they were inexplicably, inexcusably flying planes into the World Trade Center Towers and
then their trainer from that (C.I.A.) training camp was being tortured in Thailand of all places, gee,
how did all those revolting developments happen? Heh? And how did we end up with a war on
whistleblowers waged by the president who had promised the most transparent administration ever.
Maybe if we had a draft we’d have some skin in the Terror War game? But it’s all so bucolic
as we all graze in those virtual fields forever in that Forever War of, by and for Terror. When, oh,
when did the Black Site Gang take over? When did the president become the Drone Ranger?
When did the president become Corporate Caesar? Who can say to Boudicca with her daughters
in scythed chariot that their children will become the head of a greater empire than the Romans?
How do we live with the Sixth Extinction in the eternal moment? Hi Ho Silver and away when
the U.S. never did buy silver and it was the great inter-war great depression and F.D.R. that finally
got rid of gold redemption and Nixon himself who of course got rid of the Gold Standard so those
banksters have been quantitative easing whether Keynesian or Monetarist for 40 years and it turns out
Watergate and Iran-contra were just way stations on the continental migration to the Current Age
State of lawlessness and total surveillance states and it seems the Lone Ranger has become the Lone
Stranger who is really the Drone Ranger and his theme song, the William Tell Overture that once
I used to put my grand babies to sleep with a gentle hand on their smooth backs bump per rump
per rump rump rump has turned into childish chant that in my head repeats over and over
                    Drone Ranger Drone Ranger let Precious Peace come over
                    Drone Ranger Drone let the Forever War be over
And where’s the Lone Ranger now? And when will we hear Happy Trails to you?
And never be heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day?
Oh, out on the interstices of cultural borders and out on the frontiers and the tribal areas:
                    Happy Trails to you until we meet again
                    Happy Trails to you keep smiling on ‘til then
                    Who cares about the stormy weather,
                    as long as we’re all here together
                    Happy Trails to you until we meet again x 2. (Thank You Dale Evans. Goodnight).


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. His work appears weekly in Oddball Magazine.


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It’s All One Thing #128: Vietnam and Iraq: Bookends of an Adult Life


rice paddies jungle, delta and highlands
desert twin rivers, palm grooves and marshes
punji sticks, booby traps, roadside bombs
bouncing betty bombs, grenade launchers
claymore mines, rocket propelled grenades
tunnel complexes, suicide bombers
satchel charges, martyr belts
Long Binh Stockade, Abu Ghraib
Tiger cages, stress positions, enhanced techniques
bringing smoke, Humvees , kits
Puff the Magic Dragon, lighting up the night
agent orange, only you can end forests
we had to destroy the village to save it
clear and hold, protective hamlets
counter-insurgency, search and destroy
recon by fire, check points, 18 foot blast walls
Phoenix program, death squads, special ops
the Cong, Charlie, bad guys, Haji ragheads
national liberation civil war sectarian strife
sectarian death squad ethnic cleansing genocide
genocide, genocide, genocide, genocide ….


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. His work appears weekly in Oddball Magazine.


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It’s All One Thing #110: Boots on the Ground


We’ve been to this movie before. Even before the previews of coming attractions
we’re already squirming, anxious in our seats. The screen does not even have
to light up and we feel the cracks in us in the cracks in the seat under us. We are screwed in place
so tightly we can’t move. The numbers on our punched tickets must match the little metal tags
on the backs of us, our seats. Indeed we’re melted into the seats of our pants and our pants
are just a second aching layer of skin. We’ve been to this movie before.
“No Boots on the Ground” becomes “They’re only advisors”.
“No Combat Role” becomes “Only to Defend Themselves”.
They had advisors in Vietnam, too. Mission creep. Creep. Creep. Creep.
Those missions will creep up on you. Won’t they?
First the bombing then the creeping then the boots.

We’ve been to this movie before. Will we ever go barefoot in the splendor in the wet grass again?
No, the boots are on and the boots are on the ground again and the main feature has finally started
and the bombs are dropping from the bomb bay doors and the cannons are firing and recoiling
and shells are landing and the drones and gunships circling rat-a-tat-tat
go the gatling machine guns, go the artillery, go the tanks boom, boom, boom
we’ve been to this movie so many times before. Boots on the Ground.
Every day is the longest day, every day is anchors away, we go, anchors away
and off we go into the wild blue yonder, at them boys give her the gun
we live in fame or go down in flame, bombs away, 30 Seconds Over Tokyo
The Day the World Stood Still, John Wayne and Patricia Neale.
We’ve been to this movie before.
We’ve been to this movie before.
Boots on the Ground.


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. His work appears weekly in Oddball Magazine.


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It’s All One Thing #78: May Day: The Silent Generation


for Richard Higham and John Margret Powers

I think of you both as Boston waits for a jury to deliver a verdict in the Marathon bombing case sentencing phase.
Of course, I think of Sacco and Vanzetti as if we might have learned something since 1927 when they were executed
in the Charles Street jail right near where Jack, a vegetarian, was forced to work in Buzzy’s Roast Beef just around
the corner from the original Stone Soup in the still extant store front which is the last stand of the old West End.

Jack was proud of that and it was Jack’s quest to open new outposts on the frontier of poetry that brought us all
together down in what became the Combat Zone and then faded back into China Town as strip bars and porn shops
clustered there in a tight seed pod that eventually burst and drifted out to new nubile fields on the outer rim.

In 1927 they electrocuted Sacco and Vanzetti but right now reminds me more of the Scottsboro Boys as mug shots
of young black men alternate with replays of their fatal confrontations with multiple police officers across the land.
You grew up in the 1930’s that saw probably the lowest crime rates of any decade in U.S. history even as a rash
of bank robberies and shootouts with police by people with names like John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty
Boy Floyd, and Ma Barker and her Boys became infamous all over America if not all over the world.

Decades later as I worked the shelters I would still meet old hobos occasionally who had been children then
who in their old age would remember how you could walk everywhere and be safe anywhere in those years.
Even in the late 1960’s when I hitch hiked around the North East I experienced the remnants of that mutual aide
ethos not yet cut to pieces by the fear that has grown and grown with the cult of individual privatization. Click.

But like Jack and Richard, I grew up in it, and we were all marinated by that splendid spirit of cooperation.
Orphaned and abandoned as they both really were they had only hope in something larger than personal failure.
They were survivors, of course, with the survivor’s grim guilt of everything that happens by inevitability.
People do what they do and then people make the best of it. Jack would always remember coming home to find
all his family’s things out on the street. Richard would end up working on a farm where the care of chickens would
become the great solace of his young life. They were both too young for the war, but just like me they were caught
by Vietnam, Richard overseas in Saigon, Jack at home in the resistance movement. And yet they remembered WWII
and the depression that spawned it. They were only babies then. Richard was born in the depths of the post 1929
economic collapse. Jack was born with the Spanish Civil War still ongoing. For both of them WWII would have
been the backdrop of their school years. Richard was starting first grade as Hitler invaded Poland. Jack was still
in middle school when the A-bombs went off in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. My whole world was still vibrating from
events that formed their youth. And somehow our lives all crossed as Jack tried to plant a poetry seed in the former
Combat Zone at a restaurant attempting to front run a city development plan to re-invigorate the mid-town Theater
District that was left legless as it was side swiped by the Reagan-Bush recession of early 1991. Instead Jack
ended up doing a poetry workshop at St. Francis House day program just down the street from the Mason Bld.
I took over the workshop from Jack when I came up from Delaware after having gotten married there in 1989. I
became the poetry guy there and then at Pine Street where I worked. Every week I would see Jack at Stone Soup
at T.T. the Bears where I would usually be the closer. Every week I would meet Richard at the Thai restaurant
after facilitating the St. Francis House poetry group so we could relax and talk while I read his poems to make sure
I could get all the words and punctuation right when I typed them. I still have his handwritten versions and what
I typed back then sitting on my mother’s little coffee table some of Jack Powers poetry seeds still living now as if
Johnny Appleseed Stone Soup Jack had left them for me to re-member May Day. Richard’s May Day of flowering
red flags. And Jack’s May Day of Haymarket martyrs for the 40 hour week and overtime and the real Labor Day.
                                             And both May Days for the mother of months.


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. His work appears weekly in Oddball Magazine.


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It’s All One Thing #67: The Only Time


The only time I was actually in country someone says, “Hey this is Vietnam,”
visions of black and orange getting blown up on the run way but then when we got out
it was just this piece of an airfield socked under a thin grey mist, grey over grey, concrete
and the corrugated front of a hanger in steel mist of dazzling runway moist and silver all around
a womb of space on the ground until a jeep emerges w/o a driver in memory just, just
a machine gun with the belt hanging and a M.P.’s corporal stripe arm gripping a M-16 and clip
right there on his hip distant artillery sound and turning around the hanger drools forth this dude
(always watch out for that 1st character who come up to talk we always said “he’ll break your heart”)
and this one dangling his hand over his nose sez “oh, that ain’t nothin’ nothing happens on the perimeter
here, but it’s something man when the rockets come in wow! it’s wild, man, it’s wild” twitch, twitch, twitch
we took off in a huddle destined again a heap asleep amid our equipment I looked out the porthole in back
the transport as we banked to reveal a few flashes around Da Nang through the clouds of humidity on the
way to Thailand to play a game of nuclear war in S.E. Asia on walls of maps for the stars of generals but
returning home it was then to Okinawa we flew non-stop first class separate from our bag and baggage,
and our communication equipment, when the clouds opened up a vision valley appeared trapped by the
too green hills slashed with purple, a muddy brown river flowing squares of rice paddy delta, a blue mouth
to the sea, a living stage for nine pillars of smoke some more black than white, others more yellow than
brown, nobody said anything I counted 9, 9 columns in the sky in a cloud, did some on say it
or did we all just think it ‘what the fuck was going on down there?’


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. Today marks his one year anniversary as a poet columnist for Oddball Magazine.