The Castaway

The winter rain came down in sheets,
Drenching the fields, and flooding the streets,
Driven by winds that howled and screamed,
Like the nightmarish plot of a devil’s dream!

Oh, pity the soul without warmth of friends,
With no one to care if his life might end,
And without the clothing to keep him warm,
And no place of shelter from the awful storm.

Now a policeman’s work is hard, indeed,
For he deals first hand with those in need;
The outcasts, the bewildered, with no home or friends,
With little to eat, and no money to spend!

From his prowler car, that wintry night,
A policeman spied a form so slight,
Huddled against a building there,
Seeking protection from the cold night air.

Probably a drunk, who is full of wine,
Or a beggarly bum, without a dime –
But wait: There was something about that form,
That caught his eye in the relentless storm.

For he saw a face, so thin and white,
Like a ghost, he thought, in the dim street light,
So pinched, and drawn, with a look forlorn,
And he noticed her clothing, ragged and torn.

At the station house, she was warmed and fed,
And she looked like one who’d returned from the dead.
Then with raspy voice, she began to tell,
Of the life she’d had in that living hell.

Terrible things began to unfold,
From the lips of this lady, now tired and old;
Of the filth and neglect she had suffered there,
With no one to help, and no one to care.

She had begged many times, to once more see the home,
Where she and her husband had lived all alone,
For they’d been so happy, in those years now gone by,
Before a dread sickness had caused him to die!

No relative had visited her, no one ever came,
She had felt like a pawn, unloved, and unclaimed!
If just once again she could see the old place —
And visit again with a warm, friendly face.

That night, she’d escaped, and struck out on her own,
But that’s not so easy, when you’re old and alone!
Then the rain storm had struck: And she’d lost her way,
She was sick, and confused, just an old castaway!

Her old voice grew weak, a doctor was called;
She’d forgotten her name — she couldn’t recall!
Death came to her rescue, that cold winter night,
And she joined her old sweetheart, in that City, so bright!

“The Castaway” is one of many poems and stories written by Robert F. Knapp (1913-1994) in the 1970-80s. Usually his stories were of his childhood adventures in northern Wisconsin or of working the waterways of Washington State in the early days of the state’s history. All of these stories were part of his work in a creative writing class he took through a community adult education program, so they cover a wide range of writing styles and subjects. We are honored to share his wonderful writing and storytelling talent with you as these tell us so much about the man himself.

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Robert F. Knapp (1913-1994)

About Robert F. Knapp (1913-1994)

Robert F. Knapp was born Wausaukee, Wisconsin, in 1913, and moved with his family to the Pacific Northwest in the 1930s. His father, James Asa Knapp Jr., worked in the logging camps and rarely spent much time with his eight children. Eventually, James and the children's mother, Emma Beatrice Primley, divorced and Emma packed up the family and headed west. Robert grew up working odd jobs in logging camps, railroad camps, on farms, and taking what work could come his way until finding steady work and a home with his wife, Evelyn, in Monroe and Lake Stevens, Washington. He had four children and many grandchildren. Robert left behind a legacy of stories and poems written for a creative writing class throughout 1960-1980, writing of life growing up in Northern Wisconsin and the struggles to find work with a huge family to support through the Depression. Permission to reprint this has been graciously granted by the family of Robert F. Knapp with the hope that you will enjoy reading about the life and times of this amazing man.
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