I came across this on-line and knew nothing of its authenticity. So I did a little research and found generally the free form poem is considered a “hoax” and not necessarily written by a “cranky old man”. Regardless of who wrote it and why, there is wisdom contained within. As one transitioning from the late fall to the early winter season of life I was touched by the realities highlighted many old-timers have quietly thought and felt.
Amongst his belongings, the memories of an entire life, they found this poem:
What do you see nurses? What do you see? What are you thinking, when you look at me? A cranky old man, not very wise, What are you thinking, when you look 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 a 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 you 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 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 25, 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 is beside me, to see that 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 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 once I 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!
I wept for relationships not possible
due to denial and dreams locked
in the back of people’s minds,
all of the bits of life
that lay dormant until
the babblings of televisions
and nursing homes sweep them away.
It makes me wonder how many of the dreams
we had originally have already been forgotten.