A Young Girl Still Dwells

A Young Girl Still Dwells

From A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul

A Young Girl Still Dwells

The following poem was written by a woman who worked as a nurse in the old folks’ ward of Sunnyside Royal Hospital in Montrose, Scotland. It first appeared as an anonymous submission in the hospital’s staff magazine. Several months later, the staff of Ashludie Hospital near Dundee, Scotland, found a hand-written copy of the poem among the possessions of an elderly patient who had recently died. The poem so impressed the staff that copies were widely distributed throughout the hospital and beyond. The poem’s original author was eventually discovered. She died, at age 80, in her sleep.

What do you see, nurse, what do you see?
Are you thinking when you look at me—
A crabbed old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit with faraway 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 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 looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still.
As I move at your bidding, 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 a love she’ll meet;
A bride 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 together with ties that should last;
At forty, my young sons have grown up and 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 ones 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 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 it crumbles, grace and vigor depart;
There is a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now, again, my embittered 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, nurse, open and see
Not a crabbed old woman,
Look closer—see me!

Phyllis McCormack
Submitted by Ronald Dahlsten

Reprinted by permission of Michael McCormack. © Michael McCormack.

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