Poem by James Van Looy
Photo by Bill Perrault
When I first moved to Boston
I lived on So. Russell at the base
of the then poor side of Beacon Hill
and it was right down Cambridge St.
where I took my son to the Yellow Submarine sandwich shop.
It reminded me of mid-western garage sales
except the junk was art.
The diverse paintings on the walls,
the small press publications, the stacks and shelves of used books
bespoke not a business but life on it’s organic own.
I didn’t quite know what to make of it,
but it made me remember the late 50’s
when I was a kid frozen in time with everyone else
waiting to live out a pre-ordained existence
no one much less me wanted to live
until my big brother left Catcher in the Rye
lying around, leftover, from Freshman Lit. class
and he and his friends sat in bedrooms
quoting Holden Caulfield at each and every other
as a lengthy form of a conversation
they didn’t know how to hold on their own
with Charlie Parker and Thelonius Monk
screaming agony and cool on the HiFi.
Maybe anything could happen.
And everything did happen at Stone Soup,
at workshops and readings
at Stone Soup Moving Co.
with pianos and refrigerators
microphones, voices and bodies
and the ever present urbane notebooks
and scratchy, itchy, bleeding pens
and even when the storefront was lost
to become a travel agency finally
(forever haunted by Bill Barnum’s and Brother Blue’s
incantations and romping ministrations)
it was like Jack just pulled up oars
and weighed anchor to float through a picturesque novel
adrift through the oceanic city
to find port at arcane watering holes
like the Maverick Bar, The Sword and The Stone,
Peter Piper’s Restaurant, Charlie’s Tapp,
T.T. The Bear’s, Zeitgeist, and now Out of The Blue.
I came and went living around
the rim of the flesh eating ghetto
in Dorchester, Mission Hill and Jamaica Plain
and going thru a love affair with mime
but Jack was always there
early in the morning
glorious summer down in Faneuil Hall Flower Market
when we met under the giant Ficus Benjamina
me certain in the gnosis, knowledge
we were the fountain of life
watering the tree at the center of the world in poetry.
The poet tree, an in depth blessing for the city
at the beginning of its day and the end of mine.
Jack was just starting
and I’d seen him the night before.
And there were Jack Kerouac birthday parties
and counter-inaugural balls,
readings in front of City Hall
Ginsberg and Ferlinghettti come to town
events from Newburyport to Dorchester
from the hub across to Cambridge
there really was an ersatz community
of poets and musicians, painters and sculptors,
storytellers and performers,
mimes, dancers and guerilla street artists.
Ah, Pogo, where are you now
when we really need you
or how can you find the far middle
when you’re really nowhere at all
but we were really trying
for the one who never got to the gig
we were singing in all the voices
that never got to hear the song
even if we were the word that couldn’t be heard.
It was all there.
Anybody could and probably did
get up there and let it all hang out.
Sometimes it was way out there.
Sometimes it wasn’t,
but as theatre it never lacked
the immediacy of surprise,
the heart of drama.
It did have a life of its own.
It’s here right now.
This is just the beginning.
Who’d have thought there could be so many flavors
brewed from those same old stones.
Here’s to all the poets
men and women, gay and straight, young and old
wombats and way too human
feminists and brothers, fugitives from his story
the disabled integrating with them selves
bikers, bohemians, and leviathans
Hindu, Christians, Buddhist, Muslim
Native American, mystic, atheist, humanist conundrum
ecological, world mother, pagan, animist shitbums
all the poets of all the nations of the world
whoever, whatever, whichever, whenever, why!?!
Because we’re here? Because New York magazine said beats are back?
Naw! Because we’re hippies? Naw! Because we’re punks? Naw!
Because we didn’t go away. Because we’re alive.
Because it’s just beginning.