None of us would be here if it weren't for the generation before us. Our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents are all responsible for our existence up until this point. They helped raise us when we are unable to care for ourselves and guide us with love when we grow up. But how do we view our elders when they grow older?
That's the premise of the poem entitled “Look Closer” or "Crabbit Old Woman" by a nurse named Phyllis McCormack. Written in 1966, it originally appeared in her hospital's newsletter and later gained critical acclaim when it was published by multiple magazines and journals over the next few decades. The piece takes a look at what it means to grow old, hitting on everything from childhood to marriage and death. McCormack spent her days caring for elderly patients and had to deal with death on a regular basis. This inspired her to write a poem that would capture the voices of those who passed away without getting a chance to impart their final wisdom on the world.
Check out the entire piece below. No matter how old you are, McCormack's poem will have something for you. And remember, the next time you see someone elderly, instead of judging them, take a moment to look closer ...
“Look Closer” by Phyllis McCormack
“What do you see nurses?… What do you see?
What are you thinking… When you’re looking at me?
A cranky old man… Not very wise,
Uncertain of habit… With faraway eyes?”
“Who dribbles his 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 sock 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 do at your bidding… As I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of 10… With a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters… Who love one another.”
“A young boy of 16… With wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now… A lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at 20… My heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows… That I promised to keep.”
“At 25, now… I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide… And a secure happy home.
A man of 30… My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other… With ties that should last.”
“At 40, my young sons… Have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me… To see I don’t mourn.
At 50, once more… Babies play ’round my knee,
Again, we know children… My loved one and me.”
“Dark days are upon me… My wife is now 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 now an old man… And nature is cruel.
It’s jest to make old age… Look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles… Grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone… Where I once had a heart.”
“But inside this old carcass… A young man still dwells,
And now and again… My battered heart swells.
I remember the joys… I remember the pain.
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, people… Open and see.
Not a cranky old man. Look closer. See… ME!”
Via: Little Things