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Something That Struck a Chord

I’ve been trying to find something meaningful to me to share for the ‘random acts of poetry’ day…. I mean it seemed as good a reason as any to do a little soul searching and find something out about myself that I’d not realised or yet shared publicly.

I’m not generally a big one for poetry… I studied it at great length at school and as a result found that trying to discover the hidden meaning in texts based on the reference to a red hankie got a little bit much for me…. Those of you that know me will know that I over analyse everything so it was a complete shock to me that I was shite at it but there you go!

One thing that has stuck with me since primary school though was this poem – ‘Crabbit Old Woman’. I remember vividly standing up in a cold school hall and reciting every other paragraph with a girl called Jemma.

Something about this poem has stuck to me, I’ve lost three of my grandparents to dementia in stages though out my life and each time I revisit this poem and think about them and what they must have been trying to convey and remember to hold onto that happiness.

I also love this poem in that as a tiny tot having not long lost her mum the poem gave me hope, hope that I would one day be seen myself because looking at the poem… looking at all those years that she’s recalling and the wonderful times she had… Even though it is in itself bookended by sadness there is still joy and hope!

More than ever at the moment I believe it is so incredibly important to hold onto hope and small moments of joy… I’m going to try this weekend and write down happy memories from the decades, just in case one day I have to write this poem for myself!

“Crabbit Old Woman” By: Phyllis McCormack

What do you see, nurse, 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 do wish you’d try. Who seems not to notice the things that you do
And forever is losing a stocking or shoe.
Who, unresisting or not; lets you do as you will
With bathing and feeding the long day is fill.
Is that what you’re thinking, Is that what you see? Then open your eyes, nurse, you’re looking at me.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 10 with a father and mother, Brothers and sisters, who loved one another-
A young girl of 16 with wings on her feet,
Dreaming that soon now a lover she’ll meet,
A bride soon at 20 – my heart gives a leap,
Recalling the vows that I promised to keep.
At 25 now I have young of my own
Who need me to build a secure happy home;
A woman of 30, my young now grow fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last;
At 40, my young sons have grown and are gone,
But my man is beside me to see I don’t mourn;
At 50 once more babies play around 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 rearing young ones 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 is crumbled, grace and vigor depart,
There is now a stone where I once had a heart,
But inside this old carcass, a young girl still dwells, And now and again my battered heart swells,
I remember the joy, 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, nurse, open and see,
Not a crabbit old woman, look closer-
See Me.

I hasten to add that there is a second poem that’s been written more recently called “The Nurses Response” you’ll find it if you google the title of the above. It also makes a very good read and is something that is still very apt, especially at the moment.

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