Ethel, The Bag Lady


This is Ethel's ... the bag lady's story,
She was a woman of little renown;
But, for as long as I can remember,
Ethel lived on the streets of this town.

She came by her title quite fairly,
Having been wrapped in a bag when first born;
Her mom used a clean flour sack for this baby,
To protect and make sure she stayed warm.


While a poor child, raised on a dirt farm,
Flour bags were sewn into dresses;
They were also used to make baby dolls,
Which could relieve a little girl's stresses.

In a flour-sack nightgown, at night in her bed,
Ethel curled up with her flour-bag doll;
She hugged it and loved it; 'twas her very own,
Her most precious possession of all.


At the age of twelve, little Ethel left school,
She was needed for chores on the farm;
From sun-up to sundown, the little girl toiled,
But, at night, held her doll in her arms.

The years were not kind to dear Ethel,
One spring, in a flood, her mom drowned;
The farm washed away in that same storm,
And Ethel moved into the town.


Having dropped out of school before eighth grade,
Ethel found little work she could do;
With only odd jobs, she couldn't pay rent,
Nor could she buy any clothes and eat, too.

So, Ethel took to the alleys and back streets,
Her worldly goods aptly stowed in a bag;
Sometimes folks gave her a handout,
Sometimes old clothes, or old rags.


The summers weren't bad, but the winters were hard,
Each seemed colder, with more snow on the ground;
Ethel tried to keep warm by wrapping herself,
In the brown grocery bags that she found.

The town opened shelters for the homeless and poor,
Which were filled, often by late afternoon;
Ethel sometimes was late, and when she went in,
She was told that they'd run out of room.

In her bag of possessions, were some old flour sacks,
Which Ethel carefully saved from the farm;
At night, on the street, she'd wrap the bags 'round her feet,
And around her cold shoulders and arms.


One wintry night, with a cold, North wind,
And the snow blizzarding down helter-skelter;
Ethel found a card board box to curl up in,
So blest to have found such fine shelter.

When the sun arose the next morning,
At the curb, was the old card board box;
Inside was poor Ethel who had died in her sleep,
Still with crystals of ice in her locks.


Her head at rest on her bag of possessions,
Her feet in flour sacks from the farm;
And pressed tight to her breast, her flour-bag doll,
Still secure and snug in her arms.

It seemed appropriate, then, in a cheap body bag,
Poor Ethel was moved to the morgue;
No one tried to pry loose the flour-bag doll,
That, in death, she held still and adored.

~ Virginia Ellis ~
Copyright 2000

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