Tabula Rasa

Tabula Rasa
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The Crabby Old Man

When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a general hospital, it was believed he had nothing of any value.  Later, when the nurses were going through his 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. It has been circulated around the world.

Crabby Old Man
What do you see, nurse? What do you see?
What are you thinking when you're looking at me?
A crabby old man not very wise?
Uncertain of habit with faraway eyes.

Who dribbles his food and makes no reply
when you say in 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 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 a lover he'll meet.
A groom soon at twenty my heart gives a leap,
remembering the vows I promised to keep.

At twenty-five, now. I have young of my own,
who need me to guide in a secure happy home.
A man of thirty, my young have grown fast,
bound to each other with ties that should last.

At forty my young have grown and are gone,
but my wife is beside me to see I don't mourn.
At fifty once more babies play at 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.
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.
My body it crumbles, grace and vigour depart,
there is now a stone where I once had a heart.
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 too few gone too fast,
and accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, nurse. Open and see.
Not a crabby old man. Look closer. See me!

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