We all know that it is important to love, care for, and respect our elders, but this poem really drives that message home. It’s been making the rounds of the Internet, and for good reason! Its touching and melancholy tone is sure to bring a tear to your eye.
Written by Phyllis McCormack, a nurse at the Sunnyside Hospital in Montrose, in 1966, this beautiful and eloquent piece of poetry entitled “Look Closer Nurse” speaks of the life of an old woman living in a nursing home. In it, the persona directs her thoughts to a nurse, telling them that she is more than just the trouble they perceive her to be.
The original author submitted the poem anonymously. As such, it was later published without a credited writer under the title “Crabbit Old Woman”, and was believed to have been discovered among the belongings of an old woman who lived in a nursing home. Luckily, the truth came out so we can credit this amazing author!
Read this poem below
What do you see nurse, what do you see?
What 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 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, quite unresisting, 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, 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,
And brothers and sisters, who love one another,
A girl of sixteen, with wings on her feet,
Dreaming that son a lover she’ll meet;
A bride soon a 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 together with ties that should last;
At forty, my young sons have grown up and 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, I shudder with dread.
For my young are all busy, wit 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 vigor 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 all over again.
I think of the years, all too few and gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, nurses, open and see,
But a crabby old woman, look closer, see me.
The poem’s message is so universal that it has had many variations, including one that switches the female persona for a male one. Share away, people.