What do you see, nurses, what do you see?
Are you thinking when you look at me—
A crabbit old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of health, with far-away eyes,
who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice,
“I do wish youd try.”
And forever is losing a stocking or shoe.
Who unresisting or not, lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding, the long days to fill.
Is that what you’re thinking,
is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurses,
you’re not looking at me.
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 sisters, who love one another,
A young girl of sixteen with wings on her feet,
Dreaming that soon now a lover I’ll meet;
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:
A woman of thirty, my young now grow fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last;
At forty, my young sons have grown and are gone,
But my man’s 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.
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.
’Tis her jest to make old age look like a fool.
There now is a stone where I once had a heart.
And now and again my battered heart swells.
I remember the years, I remember the pain,
I think of the years all too few—gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
Not a crabbit old woman, look close—see ME!