Joseph White

A Tramp On The Street

The tramp living on the street looks
vaguely familiar but he has not always been
a homeless vagrant, once he was on the battlefield
in WW11, Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq or Afghanistan
once a hero he now is forgotten
and sleeps under yesterday's papers

Most everyone, especially those younger than he,
but those his age, too, have moved on with their
little lives, but he cannot move, he has no where to go
his body and mind still feel the pain and fear of battle,
the loss of his friends and the inability to justify
their death and his life

Over and over he asks, ' why them and not me? ', to no one
in particular but God answers, ' I am not ready for you, yet'
at least that is what they tell him at the Rescue Mission
where he goes for food and cot once in a while
he thinks, 'where was God when those good boys
begged for death? '

He cannot forget their faces as the terrible wounds
caused them to call for their mothers
they were sons, fathers, brothers and they died
back on the street he awakes with wine breath
and unshaven for days and reads newspaper
that served as his bedding

The workaday crowd walks around him avoiding
his rag-tag look, afraid he might attack them or beg money
he means no ill-will toward anyone and does not want
spare change, he just wants to be alone with his awful dreams
he looks familiar as it is you and me in his place
but for fortune, happenstance and maybe God

His heart is not cold but too full to tell of it's content
his mind cannot be mended with food or comfort
so, he shall remain a tramp on the street
until he goes to those fellows haunting his sleep
and together they will tell tales of battles
and at last he will find peace with them

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, November 12, 2009

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Langston Hughes


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