Just A Tramp: A Poem to Honor Our Returned War Veterans

This is one of my earliest and favourite poems, first published in a "Poetry Page" in a local newspaper. I thought I'd bring it out of my hidden files and publish it on HubPages for a wider audience.

Just A Tramp

by John Hansen © 2012

Sitting on a park bench

Watching life pass by,

Patches on his jacket,

Doesn't own a tie.

Tattered pants and worn out shoes,

A bottle of the cheapest booze.

He doesn't have a social class,

A sign says "Please Keep Off The Grass".

Once he dined on home cooked meals,

Roast chicken, apple pie,

Now he raids the litter bin,

He can't afford to buy.

Whatever happened to his life,

Son and daughter, darling wife,

Friends, especially best mate Bob,

Hobbies, pastimes, steady job.

No bank account, no home, no car,

Or soft warm featherbed,

No roof to keep the rain away,

No hat upon his head.

His pension cheque does not go far,

Donates it to the local bar.

Sometimes he dines at 'Meals on Wheels',

Depending on how well he feels.

His shabby looks and ragged clothes

Make people turn away.

Children ask,"Mum, who's that man?"

"He's just a tramp", she'll say.

Life is tough for poor old Jim,

There's not much love for tramps like him.

A friendly chat, a caring smile,

Would make his life much more worthwhile.

But caring people number few,

And most don't spare a thought.

This worn out soul upon the bench,

Once for his country fought.

Proud and brave and seventeen

He fought against a foe unseen,

Alongside mates and not alone,

But still a boy, so far from home.

Gunfire rang from out the trees,

But brave men stood their ground,

Advancing and returning fire

Despite that fearful sound.

All around him heroes fell,

Boys, now men, alone in hell.

No time to think of friends and lovers,

All these men were now Jim's brothers.

Finally the fighting ceased,

The war was won and lost.

The allied ships then headed home,

The sick and dead the cost.

A hero's welcome on the docks,

A pretty girl with golden locks,

A cheering crowd, a big brass band,

The champions of all the land.

In uniform, with head held high,

A medal on his chest,

Jim's greeted by his hometown friends,

They cheer that, "He's the best!"

But now his life is in the park,

Birds still sing, and dogs still bark,

Lovers stroll, and children play,

But a vagrant's life is not so gay.

Today old Jim is "just a tramp",

A champion no more.

He never sees a uniform,

Except that of the law.

The only token of his past

The medal on his chest,

Reminding him of days gone by,

When he was called "the best".

Theme song from my favorite childhood show.

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Comments 48 comments

tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

There is no doubt, you have a wonderful gift. This poem says so much as we approach Remembrance Day. Heartfelt and so very sad because it reveals such an ugly truth. My best to you.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

A story that is all too true in today's society. Give me five minutes and I can find the gentleman you wrote about downtown...and in any city in the U.S.....shameless.....a public disgrace....those are just some of the thoughts that come to mind when I think of the state of some of our military, or for that matter any of our homeless. Well done Sir!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you very much Jo, for your heartfelt comment. I'm glad it is relevant to you because of the approaching Remembrance Day, ours in Australia is 11 November. We stop for one minute silence on 11th hour on 11th day on 11th month, and I wrote this poem for our ANZAC Day when we celebrate our fallen and WW1 veterans from Gallipoli.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Glad to see you visiting Bill. Yes it is a sad state of affairs, and the same here in Australia. Thanks for your generous comments.


wayne barrett profile image

wayne barrett 3 years ago from Clearwater Florida

I see it every day. Very well done.


janshares profile image

janshares 3 years ago from Washington, DC

Jodah, very sad and true, beautifully written, capturing the obscurity of someone once revered. So tragic, reminds me of my poems about having dignity for those who are looked down upon based on how they look. Voted up and beautiful.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you Wayne, the sad part about this is how many people are saying they see this every day. it's just accepted as a regular part of life we can't do anything about. Society's attitudes have to change.

Yes Jan, it is sad. I am off to find those poems of yours now and have a read. thanks for your comments and for voting it up.


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 3 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

The critical word, "just" in the exchange:

Children ask,"Mum, who's that man?"

"He's just a tramp", she'll say.

That makes your poem all the more poignant, Jodah. Well written and very thought provoking.

Ah! ANZAC Days, I remember them well.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Yes Twilight Lawns, "just' can be a very powerful and derogatory word, can't it? You are correct, it does define the whole theme of the poem. Glad ANZAC Day brings back memories for you. Thank you for your kind words.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

Absolutely fabulous poem. What an incredibly gifted writer you are. Your poem might be all the more impactful with a sidebar that provides facts and statistics about the homeless, particularly homeless veterans. Just an idea. This is too wonderful not to share. Voted up and more.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

You are so generous in your comments FlourishAnyway. It's quite humbling for me to hear what some of you very talented writers say of my work. Great idea by the way to add a sidebar of stats. I better head off to do a little research into that. Thanks again.


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 3 years ago from USA

Excellent! I can say no more. I'll vote this up.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

That says plenty Barbara. Thanks!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 3 years ago from TEXAS

How good that you decided to publish this as a 'stand-alone' hub of its own! It's such a heart-wrenching tale of a man who has been honorable but has fallen into want.

When I think of a 'tramp', I'm always reminded of the Great Depression days of my childhood when shabby tramps with all they owned tied up in a bandana and carried on a stick, would come around begging to work for food. They may have been CEOs of their own companies or otherwise very successful, but that horrible economic depression took everything.

My folks weren't well-off themselves. Everything was tied up in the ranch which was worked at constantly. But we lived in town during the school year in a rental house, which was where the tramps came by. It wasn't far from the railway track and depot, and these men would have hitched rides on freight-cars to anywhere they hoped to find work or sustenance. They really were willing to work even just for a meal, and they delivered the work as promised.

We surely wouldn't have been able to pay them money. Everything went into trying to keep up payments on the ranch mortgage so we wouldn't lose it, as many, many other ranchers did. But we had chickens and a cow in town, and enough food to 'keep body and soul together', as Mother said, and enough to share.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Your comments always manage to enhance the poem or story in wonderful ways Nellieanna. The feeling or memories they evoke in you are always so interesting. Thanks for being one of the hubbers who encouraged me to re-publish this as a stand alone poem. It has attracted a brand new audience already.


Marie Flint profile image

Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, FL

My father, born in 1925, used to say, "The difference between a tramp and a hobo is that a hobo is willing to work for his meal--a tramp won't." if you accept this definition, you'd need to change the title. On the other hand more people are familiar with the term "tramp" than they are "hobo." So, you'll probably draw more traffic by leaving the title as is.

My grandfather, though, held the position that "no one would be turned away" if someone came to the door and needed a meal.

My father was one of few words. As a farmer and manual laborer, his vocabulary was limited to what he really needed to say. He also exhibited a sense of humor by using words incorrectly, such as "subscription" for "prescription." He said this so many times, I wondered if he remembered the correct forms.

He also said that, on the farm, the depression wasn't felt so much, as the family always had plenty to do and food to eat.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you for telling me about your dear father's distinction between 'hobo' and 'tramp' Marie. If I thought the word 'hobo' would fit into the poem easily I would gladly change it, but I'd have to change to much I feel to warrant the change. You may well be right though. It brings back memories of one of my favorite tv shows as a child "the Littlest Hobo".

My grandmother held a similar view to your grandfather..not turning anyone away. I was amazed at how many people, unrelated, were welcomed into my Grandmother's family. Christmas dinner was often an interesting affair.

I can also relate to your dad's use of incorrect words, my mother tended to use a few incorrectly herself, but was part of her charm.

Thank you for reading this poem, and for your comment.


Marie Flint profile image

Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, FL

I had corrected my comment to read: . . . you'd probably want to change the title. The passers-by, however, do refer to the man as "a tramp."

The first comment was made in response to others' comments without actually reading the poem.

I had also added that my father served in the U.S. Army during WWII in the Battle of the Bulge in Germany and received shrapnel. He was unconscious for eight days; the medics had given him up for dead.

Nevertheless, here I am.

Blessings!


Anna Haven profile image

Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

I really liked this. Very well written and poignant. You captured the past and present and laid them in such a sad contrast.

So importantly you highlighted our flawed world and the loss of sight we seem to have collectively experienced to the injustice all around us.

Excellent work.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you for checking out my poem Anna, and you wonderful insightful comment. The sad thing is that this is happening, and everyone is aware of it.....and nothing changes. Thanks again.


drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida

This is most definitely a poem worthy of standing alone. Thank you, Jodah, for republishing it.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

No problem drbj, thanks for taking the time to read it.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Hi, Jodah's,

Voted up and away on this masterpiece. I mean it. This is, in a nutshell, the best, sharpest piece on tramps, whom I call hobos.

Keep the great works coming.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Wow! Kenneth, thanks for the accolades. I've never had any of my writing called a 'masterpiece' before. Can I blow your comment up and frame it? No, I really appreciate your kind words, glad you enjoyed the read, and thanks for voting up.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

My friend, Jodah,

You are most-welcome. I meant every word.

May you experience a lot of success and happiness on HubPages.


old albion profile image

old albion 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

Hi Jodah. An excellent poem alas it is so true around the world.

Graham.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for visiting Graham and your kind comment. Yes it is an unfortunate fact that no one seems to be able to solve the homelessness problem.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 2 years ago from Orlando, FL

You do have a way with words! Impressive! :)


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hey Sunshine. thank you for reading and your kind comment.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

John (Jodah),

Thanks for telling the story of what, unfortunately, has been the fate of too many men.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Daisy, too many of our veterans fall through the cracks.


sujaya venkatesh profile image

sujaya venkatesh 2 years ago

like it jo


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for reading Sujaya.


Kenneth Avery 2 years ago

Jodah,

I loved this iconic look at being a tramp, who by the way, holds a place in the great scheme of things.

And you nailed it perfectly.

You my friend are very gifted. I encourage you to keep up the writing.

You will be my friend for life.

Kenneth


Kenneth Avery 2 years ago

Jodah,

Voted up and all the way.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA

Hi, Jodah - I'm glad you published this marvelous poem as a separate hub because it deserves a place of honor. It's truly awesome.

Too many of the homeless are veterans, some of them not able to work or be around their families because they're suffering from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder. (After WWI and WWII, vets who showed these symptoms were said to have "shell shock.") Others are addicted to alcohol or drugs because they used these substances to "self-medicate" in an attempt to forget the horrors they experienced in war. Even those who are mentally stable and non-addicted may be very down on their luck from losing a job and not finding another (all too common in my country) or ill health that used up all their resources. There are many reasons for homelessness, both for vets and non-vets, and it's my feeling that caring for these people should be a government priority, not something that politicians want to sweep under the rug while they fund other projects that haven't a fraction of the value. (Sorry....felt a rant getting underway.)

Whatever the reason for the plight of homeless vets, a country that doesn't provide adequately for its veterans shows a lack of caring for the sacrifices they made to serve their country.

That's a very sore subject for me. The homelessness of anyone distresses me, but I feel the USA does not provide enough (or thorough) healthcare, including mental health therapy, or other benefits needed by veterans, either those of most recent wars or the aging vets who served in earlier wars. I frequently pester my Congressional reps with my opinions about this state of affairs.

Thanks for shining a light on this problem with your beautiful poem.

Voted Up++++ and shared

Jaye


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

That's a truly humbling comment Kenneth. Thank you for the kind words. Yes tramps do have a special place. Your vote up is appreciated, as is your friendship. All the best.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Jaye, thank you for that wonderful comment. A good comment adds value to a hub. I feel strongly about this issue too, and though maybe not as bad. Thanks for the vote up and share.


Anna Haven profile image

Anna Haven 2 years ago from Scotland

I saw the link to this on the new related hub and had to read again.

Insightful and sadly, so true. Excellent writing.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you for revisiting this Anna and for your comment


CrisSp profile image

CrisSp 2 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

True say and you've written it so well. So well indeed that it is sweeping emotions. The tramps, the hobos, vagrants, homeless--whatever we call them, they have one of the saddest plight and it shouldn't be. They should be sheltered, love and taken care of.

Spreading the love by sharing this hub. Well done!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for sharing this hub and the love Cris. Glad you enjoyed it.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 23 months ago from the short journey

To think of any veterans being homeless, hungry, and hurting from loneliness is too sad for words, but it is sometimes a fact. What you highlight about not judging by appearances is also a fact. We must be careful not to think that any of our assumptions are correct when we come across other people--tramp or otherwise.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 23 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for that insightful comment RTalloni...so true.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 23 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Jodah,

Happy New Year to You and Yours.

May All Goodness and Good Things land in your hand.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 23 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Same to you and yours Kenneth. God bless.


EsJam profile image

EsJam 19 months ago from Southern California

Just beautiful. I need an "inspiring" button. Hello, I am a new follower, and I can tell I am going to enjoy reading your works!

I have just begun to write on HubPages and am not exactly sure how the commenting/messaging goes through. I did write you a "thank you" in response to your comment, but am not seeing it. I'm wondering if it went to a private message? I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to read my Hub, and am so pleased that you and your wife utilize your library's array of free resources!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 19 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi again EsJam. I am humbled that you are enjoying my poetry hubs enough to read more than one. Thanks for the follow and I'm not sure if I read your "thank you" but I have now. It takes a little while to find your feet here but it's an enjoyable learning process. Thanks again.

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    Jodah profile image

    John Hansen (Jodah)699 Followers
    277 Articles

    John has been writing poetry since his school days. He was awarded "Poet of the Year 2014" Hubby Awards and has had two poems become songs.



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