Bag Lady

You see her everywhere, but never look,
On every corner and crowded city street,
Hoping to score the perfect find, the one
To carry her forward and provide, each
Picked up and carefully stored in her bag.

Like a shark she seldom sleeps, always 
On the move - survival depends upon it,
Spoils clutched close to her breast,
Vigilant against the predators of her own
Kind looking to take a shortcut to happiness.

She may be old and slow and move with pain,
Soon approaching the end of the journey, but still
She searches and gathers discarded bits of life:
Maybe this time a better thing, some thing,
Any thing to succor and sustain another day.

Exhausted, she stops to rest a moment and
Sits down on her heels and breathes in
The smell of desperation and despair
Swirling around her, and she opens her bag
To find it filled with nothing but ash.

You look but never see her, until the day you do.
You see the woman she is and the woman she was
when she had hopes just like you, the woman you will be,
hopes to find the best thing, the sparkly thing, the bright 
shiny future, until one day you see that you are she.


This award-winning video by Bert Salzman is a bit long, but very well-worth watching.


  1. This reminds me of the Ralph Mctell song "The Streets of London'
    I always feel so sad for the homeless. Wondering how or why they got there. And, I always try to never think lowly of them because, we just never know what our futures hold, and, there but for the grace of God, go I.
    Lovely, sad, powerful write. )

  2. When I actually try to imagine their life, the particulars of it, the little daily needs of it, I'm flooded with despair.

  3. That last stanza brings the message home...I hope that when I do see her, I will see the hope lingering on her hands ~ Thanks for sharing ~


  4. I am so moved by the story. Yet at first, from your poem I thought of someone who has lost my trust and love and used me badly. Yet we never know what motivates people to do these things or act so selfishly.

  5. Wow! That last stanza really hit me! Knowing (in my heart) that we are all part of one another makes fills me with sorrow for the ignored and shunned among us. I'm ashamed of humankind.

  6. Oh for years I feared winding up a bag lady. Years ago, I saw a woman who must have been in her eighties, sitting on the cold pavement, ringing a little bell and singing a chant: "anysparechangeanysparechange?" Her eyes when I gave her a twenty. My wondering how it was possible that she wasnt in a facility, somewhere warm, where she would be fed. Once she had a home, children. What had happened. I can still see her face and hear her little bell - they haunt my dreams.

  7. nice, you knocked it out of the park at the finish.

    you can find anything on youtube!

  8. I am not a stranger to homeless Peeps, Patti. Each one I've met has a story to tell, worthy of a published book. Thank you for the video. Beautifully done by those students of the Arts in NY City.

  9. Nice use of brilliant writing to wring out the truth and the point which is well taken in this mans eyes. Sad and desperate....a great write.

  10. You've helped show a real human connection to someone who seems to have slipped between the cracks of society. The sadness and desperation you have illustrated is tangible. So well written!

  11. a bit of a scary end there in the realization that you may end up just like her...and that she too once had hopes and dreams..because it can happen to anyone...

  12. gripping narrative and loved the ending.also, thanks for your perceptive comments on my poem...you got it dead right.

  13. That is the problem no one takes tee time to stop and look, not if and when either... kewl scribe

  14. It's sad to think that one can be alone with life's burden and life's possessions all in a bag. It could have been myriads of reasons to come to that. A pity! Great write!


  15. Wow...this is so good, and the powerful last stanza brings the whole journey of this poem home, right to our own doors. Very well done!

  16. Once again, you hit the nail on the head. We are often just a step away from misfortune.

  17. It's not so much that we end up just like her, it's that we are no different than her in any of the ways that count, except for what we haven't yet lost. Your perspective here is spot on.

  18. Your last stanza, line, totally surprised me!

  19. I watched the video... the photo album just about did me in. Yes, like Hedgewitch said - it's about what we haven't lost.

    Thank you for this.

  20. This made me cry. You write with such sensitivity. I know a few homeless people (who I kind of look after) and have grown so fond of them. If the wheel of fortune turned the wrong way that could be me living on the streets. It breaks my heart to think of anyone living like that. Thank you for this, Patti. It is one of your best!


Thoughts? I would love to hear from you.