What do you see, nurses, what do you see?
What are you thinking when 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 resisting 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 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, as I 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 now soon 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 have grown and are gone,
But my man is 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, I 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 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,
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, nurses, open and see
Not a crabbit old woman, look closer — see ME!

First published in Chris Searle’s poetry anthology Elders (Reality Press, 1973), this poem was without title or attribution. As the story goes, it appeared when an old lady died in the geriatric ward of Ashludie Hospital, near Dundee, Scotland, that she had left nothing of value. Then the nurse, going through her possessions, found a poem. So impressed was the staff that it was copied and distributed throughout the hospital — and the rest is history.

According to Wikipedia, in an article from the Daily Mail on 12 March 1998, Phyllis McCormack’s son claims that his mother wrote it while working at the Sunnyside Hospital in Montrose in the 1960s, where she submitted it anonymously to a small magazine intended just for Sunnyside with the title “Look Closer Nurse.”

It is rather obvious why I include it on my blog.  It is just the sort of thing that might result from Musing At 85.  If you look inside the shriveled oldster before you, you have a time capsule, a person with a history, a person who even yet may have hopes, and fears, dreams and longings…a person who above all would like to be seen as a PERSON, who says SEE ME as worthy of respect and tenderness.

But beyond that,C.   Look beyond the packaging – open your eyes – open your heart – look inside and SEE!

The men have their say — a reading herewith: