A Poem: “What do you see?”

This poem came to Jessica, our REL in the Interior, through a volunteer. The poem was posted with the box of survey materials for volunteers to see. The poem was originally found among a few possession in the locker of a geriatric patient following her death at a Prestwich Hospital in England.

What do you see, nurses? What do you see?

Are you thinking when you look at me –

A crabby old woman, not very wise,

Uncertain of habit, with far away eyes.

Who dribbles her food and makes no reply

When you say in loud voice, “I do wish you’d try”.

Who seems not to notice the things that you do,

And forever is losing a stocking, a shoe.

Who, unresisting or not, let’s 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 are not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still,

As I rise 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 another,

A young girl of sixteen with wings on her feet,

Dreaming that soon now a lover she’ll meet.

A bride soon at twenty, my heart gives a leap,

Remembering the vows that I promised to keep.

At twenty-five now I have young of my own,

Who need me to build 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 sons now grown up have gone.

But my man stays beside me to see I don’t mourn.

At fifty – once more babies play at 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, I shudder with dread.

For my young are all busy 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 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, I remember the pain,

And I’m loving and living life all 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 nurse! Open and see

Not a crabby old woman,

Look closer……….. see me!

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