Tuesday, 6 October 2009

For those who care -

What do you see then
what do you see
What are you thinking
when you're looking 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"
Who seems not to notice
the things that you do
and forever is losing
a stocking or shoe
who, unresisting or not
lets you do as you will
with bathing and feeding
the long day to fill.

Is that what you're thinking
is that what you see
then please open your eyes
you are not looking at me.

Shall I tell you who I am
as I sit here so still
as I wake at your bidding
and eat at your will.

I'm a small child of ten
with a father and mother
brothers and sisters who
love one one another -
A young girl of sixteen
with wings on her feet
dreaming that soon now
a loved one she'll meet -
A bride soon at twenty
my heart gives a leap
Rememberinbg the vows
I promised to keep -
At twenty-five now
I have young of my own
who need me to build them
a secure happy home -
A woman of thirty
my young now grow fast
bound to each other
with ties that should last -
At forty my young ones
now grown and all gone
but my man stays beside me
to see I don't mourn -
At fifty, 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
it fills me with dread
for my young are all busy
with young of their own
and I think of the years
and the love that I've known.

I'm an old woman now
and nature is cruel
for her its a jest to make
old age look a fool
the body it crumbles
grace and vigour depart
it leaves an sore ache
where there once was a heart

But inside this old carcase
a young girl still dwells
and now and again
my battered heart swells
I remember the joys
I remember the pain
and I'm loving and living
life over again,
I think of the years
all too few - gone too fast
and accept the stark fact
that nothing can last.

So open your eyes, then
open and see
not a crabbit old woman
look closer - see me.


  1. Alleged to have been found in the locker of an old lady who died in Ashludie Hospital, Dundee sometime in the 60s. Student Nurses from the mid 70s were often given a copy of this poem to impress upon them the need for particular compassion towards the frail elderly. I question whether it is circulated today to the same effect?

  2. Ah brownlie, preparing me for old age are you? I shall print this out and stick it in my bedside table.

    I doubt it Clarinda, very much. Today's nurses don't appear to have the vision to see the person, they only see the illness or disabilities.

  3. brownlie

    I'm not ashamed to admit that the poem brought a very large lump to my throat.

    A powerful, thoughtful and emotional poem and I thank you for sharing it.

  4. Good stuff brownlie.
    Times winged chariot IS a bastard.

  5. Clarinda,

    The lady that passed it on to me reckons it was a lady called Florence who was classed by the care staff as non-communicative and, in her own words, crabbit.

  6. subrosa,

    Please, don't be too hard on the modern generation. Times change but care staff are as compassionate and dedicated today as they've always been.

  7. Ah Brownlie - yer a big saftie so ye are. Good poem - a right tear jerker.

    Got some nurses in the family. They rarely deal with patients as they're "clinical". Nursing assistants are the ones who actually see the people.

  8. scunnert

    Funnily enough, my wife said something similar on our honeymoon.

    Whether nurses or nursing assistants I owe them my life.

  9. Brownlie, I suppose being a big saftie is marginally better than being a wee saftie...
    Nurses are great; I've got my own personal one.

    And no she's not a psychiatric one.