I’m kind of in this poetry kick lately. This poem was my Christmas present to my mom this year. Its called “The Ragman,” and is based upon Walter Wangerin’s short story entitled “The Ragman” from “Ragman and Other Cries of Faith.” Here goes…
Silent now, O wand’ring one, I’ll tell a Christmas tale,
For stories told are I’ll I’ve got, this once intrepid male.
Listen now, O broken one, a truth may be revealed,
This truth has altered hearts of steel and wounds forever healed.
I visited the City once and there I saw a sight,
That perplexed me as I stood there in the middle of the night.
For in the streets and alleyways I saw a handsome lad,
A wooden cart filled high with brand new clothes was all he had.
“Rags!” he cried. “New rags for old!” his voice rang through the night,
Lights came on and people strained to see this wondrous sight.
‘Could he find no other job than this?’ I wondered in my mind,
and with some curiosity I followed close behind.
Soon the Ragman saw a woman sitting in the street,
Sighing, sobbing, shedding tears into her handkerchief.
Her hands and shoulders made an “X,” her poor old heart was breaking,
The Ragman wheeled his cart up near and spoke with no mistaking:
He said to her “Give me your rag, we’ll make a trade you see,”
She handed him her tear soaked rag and frowned unhappily.
He gave to her another rag, this one was pure and white,
Her eyes went wide, her sadness gone, her wrongs had been made right.
Then the Ragman took her rag and slowly held it close,
And then began to sob into the rag against his nose.
The woman watched in wonder as the ragman walked away,
Her tears were gone, the strange young man had taken them away.
“Rags!” he cried, “new rags for old!” continuing down the street,
and came upon a little girl, no shoes upon her feet.
She sat there clutching to her head a rag that was dark red,
And blood dripped out from underneath, I thought that she was dead.
The Ragman knelt before the girl and said “give me your rag,
I’ll give you mine,” he said, and then he reached into his bag.
From it he pulled a bonnet, beautiful as morning sun,
He dabbed her forhead softly until all the blood was done.
He place the bonnet on her head and then the wound was gone,
He grabbed the bloody rag from her and then he put it on.
Another strange and wondrous sight did baffle me just then,
The Ragman bled into the rag just like the girl had been.
“Rags!” he cried, “I take old rags,” through broken sobs and pain,
He limped along the nightlit street as it began to rain.
A man who stood against a post was quick to signal him,
The Ragman limped up to the man, who stood there in the dim.
He asked the leaning man if he was going off to work,
The man replied, “you’re kidding, right? What do you want, you jerk?”
The Ragman beckoned to the man, “come here, I mean no harm,”
The Ragman saw his jacket sleeve was limp; he had no arm.
“Give me your jacket, I’ll give you mine!” the man looked up in wonder,
He took his jacket slowly off amidst the rain and thunder.
The Ragman took his coat from him and gave him one brand new,
But his arm came off and stayed inside the coat and on him grew.
The Ragman stumbled on without an arm, sobbing and weeping,
And at this point I looked and saw the coming dawn was creeping.
I followed closely as he made his way outside the town,
Out to the city dump he went, the rain still coming down.
He then cried, “it is finished!” and he broke into a dash,
He threw himself with all he was into a pit of trash.
Upon a glance into the pit I only saw his head,
I knew it in an instance that the poor young man was dead!
I cried, just then, O how I cried, and broke into a run,
The people he had healed and helped, and now it all was done.
That day it stormed all day I think, the sky was dark and grey,
The mem’ries of the night before filled all my thoughts that day.
Then on the third day, Christmas morn, I woke up with a start,
A brilliant light surrounded me and pierced me like a dart,
There he stood, magnificent, without a hint of age,
Had this been a storybook I’d not have turned the page.
His cart of rags was nearby, but no longer rags were they,
They shined like brand new clothes for which a man, a lot would pay.
His presence loud and confident; I fell before his feet,
Before this former Ragman I was not worthy to meet.
With silent yearning in my voice I said “could you dress me?”
He said, “My son, that’s why I’ve come,” and wheeled his cart to me.
He clothed me; garments white and pure, and raised me to feet,
He reached into his bag and gave me something good to eat.
He looked with eyes of fire blazing deep into my gaze,
And as he said these words I knew the dead in me would raise.
“Arise my son, go forth now, for you have been made new,
and be to all a Ragman trading rags of old for new.”
© Luke T. Wright