Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cranky Old Man

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

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 . . . 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 is 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 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 vigour, depart.
There is now a stone . . . where I once 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!!


Gillian said...

A powerful, meaningful, and important message! The discounting of the aged and infirm can be noticed all around us everyday.

Interestingly, over the years, I have seen this poem appear many times--sometimes written as a man and sometimes written as a woman. Have never seen it with as many details of origin as this one, nor with a photo of the supposed author.

The discounting of another in our society is all too prevalent--occurring far beyond the nursing home. It is our sickness, We frequently close our minds and hearts to each other--even as a habit, even without realizing the doing of it. Very often this closing is triggered by an idea held, a naming, a categorization, a judgment, an idea of good or bad. We often do this considering it normal or natural or justified. We can do it without even recognizing our attitudes of justification or our doing so.

This closing may originate as protecting ourselves from the hypothesized suffering of the discounted,
all grounded in fear and the experience of isolation and separation. Also, we may fear becoming infected with whatever the disenfranchised, discriminated against has got and thus find our own selves disapproved of and discriminated against. We may find ourselves facing the truth of sickness, old age, and death.

Would that I could meet each person, each being, with the openness of mind and heart to see and embrace their "me."

Would that I could meet each person, each being, with the openness of mind and heart to allow the "me" of myself to be seen.

One by one we are each human, human beings.
One by one we are beings, inextricable from each other and the great whole of interbeing.

Glad for the reminder of this poem.

Gillian said...

from "Just Seeing is Buddha Nature"
in "Compass of Zen"
Zen Master Seung Sahn

"One by one each thing is complete.
One by one each thing has it.
It and dust interpenetrate.
It is already apparent in all things.
So, without cultivation, you are already complete."

July 22, 2012 3:23 PM
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Anonymous said...

Hapchang, deep bow, thank you, thank you, thank you. Kwan Seum Bosal.