This poem was written by an old woman living in a nursing home in Ireland. It was found among her things when she died.
What do you see nurses, what do you see?
Are you thinking when you look at me?
A crabbit old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with far away eyes,
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice- “I do wish you’d try.”
And forever is losing a sock or a shoe.
Who unresisting or not, lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.
Is that what you think, is that what you see?
Open your eyes, nurse, you’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am, as I sit here so still,
As I use at your bidding, and eat at your will,
I’m a small child of ten, with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters who loved one another,
A young girl of 16, with wings on her feet,
Dreaming that soon now a lover she’ll meet.
A bride soon at 20, my heart give a leap.
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep.
At 25 now, I have young of my own,
Who need me to build a secure, happy home.
A women of 30, my young now grow so fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last.
At 40, my young sons have grown and are gone,
But my man’s beside me to see I don’t mourn.
At 50 once more, babies play round my knee,
Again we know children, my loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead.
I look at the future and shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing young of their own,
And I think of the years and the love that I’ve known,
I’m and old women now and nature is cruel,
Tis her jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigour depart.
There is now a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now and again, my battered heart swells,
I remember the joys and I remember the pain,
And I’m living and loving life over again,
I think of the years all too few- gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
Open your eyes, nurse open and see.
Not an empty old women, look closer- see ME.