Saturday, 23 October 2010

What Do You See?

This poem was found in the bedside locker on a ward at one of our local hospitals when it was being cleared out after the death of an elderly patient. It was published in the daily newspaper a number of years ago and for some reason my father kept the cutting. He showed me it this weekend and it struck a special cord as I have so recently lost my own Mum in the very same hospital.

It makes poignant reading........

What do you think you see nurses, what do you think you see?
What are you thinking when you are 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 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 move 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 now soon that a lover she’ll meet;
A bride soon at twenty my heart skips a beat,
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, shall be gone,
But my man stays beside me to see I don’t mourn.
At fifty once more babies play round my knees,
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,
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 once was a heart.

But inside this old body 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 all over again.
And I think of the years, all too few, gone too fast
And accept the stark fact that nothing will last.

So open your eyes nurse, open and see,
Not a crabbit old woman, look closer – see me!


  1. So true. How we forget sometimes. Brought a tear to my eye. I have thought on many occasions on seeing an elderly person 'what was your life like' and the poem expresses my thoughts and more. It pains me when my grandmother who is in her 90's recounts the past and others shush her for repeating herself..and I think..'why can't she relive it one more's her life and inside she is an individual with a fascinating story.' Thank you for sharing this at what must be an extremely trying time for you. Your Dad sounds like a sensitive soul. Make sure you take special care of him.

  2. When I was a student nurse all of those years ago,they gave us that poem. I've never forgotten it.