This poem was written by an old lady who was at the time an inmate of a British ‘mental hospital’. I do not know or have her name. I found it amongst some of my old notes. She was described as “dumb, unable to communicate, suffering from deterioration of old age”, however, was “seen to scribble from time to time”. After her death her locker was emptied and this heart wrenching “scribble” was found. This is her poem about her life.
Look Closer See Me
What do you see, nurses, what do you see, What are you thinking when you look 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 wish you’d try”. Who seems not to notice the things that you do And forever is losing a stocking or shoe.
Who unresting or not lets you do as you will With bathing or feeding the long day to fill.
Is that what you're thinking is that what you see? Then open your eyes nurse you are not looking at me. I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still
As I’m used at your bidding as I eat at your will
I am 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 that soon now a lover she’ll meet.
A bride soon at twenty my heart gives a leap Remembering the vows 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 are now grown and all 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 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 a fool.
The body it crumbles grace and vigour depart There is now a stone where I 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 life over again.
All too few the years now, and gone far too fast I accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, nurses open and see
Not a crabbit old woman look closer see ME.
Eleanor Rockell, who runs her own practice, London City Psychotherapy based in Bethnal Green, has been a practising therapist for over ten years. Having worked in the NHS and now running her own private practice, Eleanor is an experienced therapist who holds a Masters of Science in Psychodynamics of Human Development from The University of London and is also registered with the BACP