Anonymous Poem on Loneliness

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!

About Nan Mykel

I used to think I would be a child prodigy, but then I got old. Formerly I had fantasies of rubbing elbows with cultural and academic leaders but that did not come to pass because I did not become a cultural or academic leader or any other kind of leader, for that matter. I am not even an "Alpha Dog," a term learned from a friend who had to become "Alpha Dog" in order to influence her own pet. (When gazes lock, she never looks away.) For years I expected to become a published author, but in passing I could not avoid the fact that I had little to contribute to the world's bulging dumpsters. I'm embarrassed to report that I also considered my primary process artistic productions powerful, rather than mildly neurotic. Which is not to say that I disrespect myself, only that I am beginning to doubt my potential for making a mark on the world. If I focus on strict self discipline I may be able to keep my garbage removed on a weekly basis, to keep the kitty box changed, the clothes cleaned, the dog watered, fed and walked, but that just catches me up to the starting mark again. When writing I physically grapple with words, wrestling them from their indifference into attempted chunks of awareness. I sit heavily on my chair; I breathe in artificially cooled air; my ear drums note the tap tap of the keyboard and the steady uninterrupted sound of the air conditioner, What is that sound? The roar of the ocean from 30 yards away...Inside, my thoughts are are balls in an electronic game machine, bouncing hither and yon from lever to lever. I am a little grim and intent until I recall a dream related by a black man in the prison where I once worked. He said that when he was a small boy, back home, he dreamed he was standing on his front porch pissing, and that he suddenly found himself pissing stars...
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