Saturday, January 25, 2014


image borrowed from bing


“No one would remember the samaritan if he only had
good intentions--he has to have money too.”
--Margaret Thatcher.

When you came out of the supermarket
and you were approached by a teenager
in a gray hoodie, with a yellow striped
skateboard tucked under one arm,
and he asked you for spare change,
you stopped & stared at him

“Stupid little shit--
who does he think he is?
Why did he pick me to ask?
Why doesn’t he just flip burgers
for some pocket money
like most of his friends?
Did his parents know that he was
out here begging for money
from strangers?”

Yet he calmly returned the stare,
& there was no arrogance
or lack of respect
in his watery blue eyes;
there were dark circles under them,
dirt on his cheeks, & he had bad breath
with yellowed teeth.

“Was he high on drugs,
or strapped with a Glock,
or carrying a hunting knife?

He was terribly thin,
his soiled clothes hung on him
like rags on a bag of bones,
his cheeks were wet
from recently weeping,
& he had a long scar
on his forehead.

Other people bustled by
unaware of the mini-drama
playing out in those few
chilly rain-soaked moments.

Making a snap decision,
you pulled out your wallet
and handed the young man
a five dollar bill.

“Thank-you,” he said quietly,
moving on quickly to another shopper.
He had a ripped back pocket
on his grimy jeans, & you could see
his dirty white underwear poking out. 

When you got to your car,
you became angry with yourself;
“The little asshole probably conned me--
screwed again by my soft heart!”
you thought,
“Or maybe he will eat his first meal today
across the street at McDonald’s.”

But the anger resurfaced with a resentful surge;
“You’re just an easy mark, a sucker--too stupid
to realize you can’t fix the world with five bucks.

Then another voice suggested,
“No, I can’t--but maybe this small thing I have done
will infuse a positive vibe into the dark soul of just
one lost child, & it will be a pivotal point, a new
beginning, an impetus for change.”

So you felt good as you drove home,
deciding not to dwell on the negative

Two days later, you saw the same kid
in the strip mall parking lot, laughing
& skateboarding with some other boys,
wearing clean clothes, & a damned
stab of regret left the taste of metal
in your mouth. 

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over on dVerse Poets Poetics

Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?


Gabriella said...

I enjoyed your poem, Glenn! I can hear the disappointment and the feeling that you were too gullible. At the same time, I guess that it is probably 'better' to have given 5 bucks to someone who did not need them than denying them to a person in need. Who knows the next one might change his life because iof your generosity!

Mary said...

Actually one really still doesn't know about this boy. Maybe the money he got in the supermarket parking lot allowed him to BUY the new clothes he is seen in now.

On the other hand.....of course...maybe it was all a scam to begin with. Perhaps this will not be known. Perhaps it will make a person a bit more skeptical next time.

These kinds of things are so often judgment calls. Sometimes we judge them right...sometimes not. But, in any case, one can hope that the young man did something good with the money & that the giver will not have his faith in humanity stilted by his experience.

Brian Miller said...

i figure when i give, i have no control what it is used for...and i am sure i am conned on occassion...and it would piss me off to see the kid in the mall parking lot a bit...but you know. if i am willing to give no matter what i have no reason to feel animosity...often i give what they need, not the keeps me from attaching expectations to the use of the money....

Claudia said...

ugh...makes me more sad than angry as i wonder why that kid chooses such a way to get's easy, yes but is it really that easy to lie to people... i find it always difficult as well to know when to give and when not, i sometimes buy them a burger rather than giving them money

Stormcat Poetry said...

I questioned my gf once when she handed a kid $20 who had just interrupted the excellent conversation we were having, seated at an outdoor cafe, to ask for money. She said he's more likely than not just scamming but if not it can make a difference for him.

Björn said...

Giving money to beggars is is a double edged sword... I think it takes some stamina to humiliate yourself to that level... on the other hand, it doesn't necessary help in the long run to give them money.. Great take for the pros and cons.. Most people would take the easy way of not giving.

Anonymous said...

Interesting take Glenn. It's hard to know how to react to it.I'll have to mull it over a bit. >KB

Anonymous said...

Loved how you addressed this "you" - you certainly captured my own familiar thoughts (though I try to avoid ending them on regret)..

Peggy said...

What a story. You just never know. And the possibility of doing good is probably worth $5 at least.

Laurie Kolp said...

It's a tough situation. I used to buy a homeless man fast food every once in a while, but never, ever would I give him money. I knew he'd go spend it on beer.

Wolfsrosebud said...

we are too eager to criticize what we don't really understand

Bodhirose said...

This stirred up quite some thought and debate...very good. I think if we decide to give...we have to let go of how that gift is used. If we give with "strings attached" then better to keep your money.

billgncs said...

good poem - I am sure I get gamed all the time - but we have to be careful to fail on the generous side.

Bing Yap said...

I love the story! But then again, there is also another side of the story- the boy’s story. I love the way you put into words all the thoughts/doubts/skepticism running into our minds each time we give to them.

alan1704 said...

Interesting the way we look and see the world through the vision of our own preconceptions. This raises a lot of questions, some of which are unanswerable. Great writing.

Anonymous said...

Hey Glenn, a new favorite--the fact is that we don't know what we do leads to, and there are always all kinds of second guessing - a part of me feels that if someone is asking, they need something--anyway, well done. k.

Mama Zen said...

You've captured that mental tug of war really well.