We called him Scraps.

That seemed to be mostly what he was.

We’d met him down at the mission one night

as we volunteered to work the bread line.

He sat there in a baggy coat and too-tight jeans

a scrabble of hair that couldn’t rightly be called a beard.

We called him Scraps,

 because he’d never give a name.

   He had these wrinkled up,

 yellowed papers

 that looked like they’d been folded at least a thousand times.

  He would spread them out across the oil cloth

and stare at them while he ate.

We called him Scraps,

 partly because of those bits of paper.

 If we tried to talk to him,

 he’d just shake his head,

 nod toward the papers and look away.

 And we’d smile our easy smiles,

 pat him on the shoulder and walk on.

We called him Scraps.

That seemed mostly what he was.

 Until one night we sat beside him

and read his faded yellow papers.

 A theater program with a familiar name underlined,

 newspaper clippings about shows and charity events

–         that name appeared often.

An obituary fluttered from his hand, about a child of three…

–         A page from a bank book lay to one side,

–          the credits at 0,

–         the withdrawals like none we’d ever known.

We called him Scraps

because that’s the way his life was

 and he wouldn’t give a name.

  When we pointed to the one we thought he owned,

 he shook his head and, before he turned away,

we saw his eyes fill.

 Sometimes we’d see him on the street,

shuffling along with his life in a beat-up backpack.

 Once in a while he’d pick up a scrap of paper someone had discarded,

carefully smooth it,

 fold it and put it with the rest of his life.

We called him Scraps.

We don’t know what God called him.

c.2011 Donna Swanson


About dswan2

Poet, author, columnist, lyricist, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, wife of 50 years. Born and raised in America's Heartland
This entry was posted in Inspiration and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to SCRAPS

  1. Jingle says:

    your words are so beautiful………..

    visit me to claim awards there,


  2. dswan2 says:

    Thank you, Jingle. I first wrote this as a short essay but when I was looking at it today, it seemed more poetic than prose, so I tried breaking it down. I once asked Calvin Miller (The Singer Trilogy) why he stopped writing poetry and just wrote prose. He said, “They quit buy poetry, so I just put it into paragraphs!”

  3. woih says:

    Out of all the things I’ve read this week, this writing has brought me to tears. I had forgotten about all the “Scraps” in my past and all that they have taught me.

    A truely, compassionate telling. Thank you

  4. Olivia says:

    Holy Bow!
    lady, I am blown over.. speechless actually!

    A great tale of lost glory told with huge empathy.. 🙂
    Many Hugs xox

    Congratulations for the award.. you certainly deserve it!

    • dswan2 says:

      Thank you, Olivia! I’ve never worked in a homeless shelter, but my twin brother was homeless for three years following the collapse of the oil industry in the 70s. Thankfully, he’s pulled his ‘scraps’ together and has a good life now.

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