The “Cranky Old Man” When I first read this poem, it touched something deep in my heart. It scares me a little picturing myself where he was mentally, emotionally when writing it. I guess there’s a little bit of that “cranky old man” in me at times, wondering what people see when they look at me.
I’ve since learned the poem has been around for some time and is known by several other names, including “See Me” “Crabbit Old Woman”, “Kate”, “Look Closer Nurse” and “What Do You See”. .
The story goes like this…
“When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in an Australian country town, it was believed that he had nothing left of any value.
Later, when the nurses were going through his meagre possessions, They found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital.
One nurse took her copy to Melbourne. The old man’s sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas editions of magazines around the country and appearing in mags for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem.
And this old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this ‘anonymous’ poem winging across the Internet.”
Cranky Old Man “See Me”
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 ten with a father and mother,
brothers and sisters, who love one another.
A young boy of sixteen, with wings on his feet,
dreaming that soon now a lover he’ll meet.
A groom 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 guide and a secure happy home.
A man of thirty, my young now grown fast,
bound to each other with ties that should last.
At forty my young sons have grown and are gone,
but my woman’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.
Dark days are upon me, my wife is 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;
’tis 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 boy 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, nurses, open and see,
not a cranky old man; look closer – see ME!
I recently found the reply written by the nurse that had found this poem. it feels a little less thought out than the cranky old man’s, but it’s nice to know he didn’t leave this world unheard. A Nurses Reply Enjoy.
In response to the cranky old man – A Nurses Reply