What do you see nurses, what do you see?
Are you thinking when you’re looking at me
A crabbity 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 a shoe.
Who unresisting lets you do as you will, with bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.
Is that what you are thinking, is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse, you’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still:
I’m a small child of ten with a father and mother, brothers and sisters who love one another,
A young girl of 16 with wings on her feet, dream soon now a lover she’ll meet;
A bride soon at 20—my heart gives a leap, remembering the vows I promised to keep:
At 25 now I have young of my own, who need me to build a secure, happy home.
A woman of 30, my young now grow fast, bound to each other with ties that last;
At 40 my young sons have grown up and 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 to the future, I shudder with dread. For my young are all rearing young of their own,
And I think of the years and the love I have known, I’m an old woman 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 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, 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 start fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, nurse, open and see,
Not a crabbity old woman, look closer, see me.
This poem was written by old lady in a geriatric ward. After she died it was found among her possessions by a nurse and it was felt it should have a wider audience.