The poem below appeared in Guy’s Hospital Gazette, the Newsletter of Greenwich District Hospital, London, on February 2, 1974. It was written by a lady in a geriatric ward and found in her locker after she died by staff who thought her incapable of writing.
POEM ON LONELINESS
What do you see, nurses, what do you see?
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.”
I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still
As I rise at your bidding , as I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of ten with a father and mother
Brothers and sister who love one another;
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;
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 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 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 carcase 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, nurses, open and see,
Not a crabbit old woman, look closer–see me!