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Poem About Growing Old

Updated on January 5, 2015
Image by James McTagggart (NARA) United States public domain
Image by James McTagggart (NARA) United States public domain | Source

The Twilight of my Days

Look to my heart, past my face, shaking hands,

Past the bones that defy me, these legs that can't stand,

Then tell me the truth, what is it you see?

Can you still see the person I used to be?

Can you glimpse the soft sparkle behind my eyes,

Or it is all lost, an unwitting disguise?

A disguise of deep lines; of loose, baggy skin

That rips and tears open; hides what is within,

It's a mask I must wear now, not a costume of choice

And this chair that I sit in, it's a curse, not a life,

But I'm still the same person, if only you knew,

Though you might think I'm useless, a burden to you.

Once I was busy, there was meaning to life,

I was needed, I mattered, through the laughter and strife,

You think we're so different, you haven't yet learned

That the wheels of life, they gradually turn,

Today it is me, though your time will come

As the wheels turn slowly, away from the sun.

I once went out dancing and moved with such grace;

With a butterfly's beauty, now my wings are displaced,

But I haven't forgotten the halcyon days,

They lie here, inside me, a heartbeat away

And when old legs don't walk, still the memories smile

And I sometimes remember, I once was a child.

I was the child who skipped on the beach,

Who ran with the breeze, after dreams out of reach,

I was the girl who covered the wards,

With medicines, comfort - now a double-edged sword

And you might not believe, but I travelled the world

To places so torn it would make your mind swirl.

So remember, my life, it has chapters, like yours -

A beginning, a middle, a finale of sorts,

You can't cheat the evening, can't go back from the night

As you lay there, skin prickled by the thorns of hindsight

And trust, they dig deep but by then it's too late,

You have made all your choices, and now you must wait.

So my message to you is live every day full,

Without judgement; with passion; with love's gentle pull

And find understanding in all that you do

For I am your mirror; my truth lies in you

And the years, they are short; the decades, not long,

You could smile at me now, but soon I'll be gone.

About This Poem...

The inspiration for this poem was unusual. I had just spent a short time reading about the role of Grizabella in Andrew Lloyd Webber's well known musical, Cats. The musical is currently enjoying a sell-out re-run at the Palladium in London, and I recently bought myself a ticket. However, I didn't know very much about the show, other than that it was based on T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.

It seems Grizabella is an old and faded cat, looking back to days of glamour with regret and yearning. However, this poem is not about Grizabella - inspiration is a strange thing, in that it can begin as one thought and quickly change direction like a free-blowing wind. Rather, this poem explores the experience of one elderly woman, knowing that she is nearing the end of her days. It addresses an issue that many might need reminding of - that we are all mortal; that we all used to be young, seemingly with the world at our feet. Sometimes the elderly are treated with impatience; with indifference; as a burden to more able generations. Some of the televised documentaries which exposed poor treatment in residential care homes is the most extreme example of this. Although the poem is a monologue, it could almost be thought of as a dialogue, since there seems to be a silent stranger in the room.

Of course, the moral of the poem is that, even when the body (or mind) of an elderly individual might appear to have given up, we could all do well to remember that a full life has gone before and some people are only at the end of a long path that we are all following..


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    • Li-Jen Hew profile image

      Li-Jen Hew 

      17 months ago

      Hey Polly C! Read your poem and it can really move someone to tears. That's the sign of a good poem. It was thoughtful and sweet of you to address aging and mortality and how we're still the same person inside. Thanks for sharing! :)

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      4 years ago from UK

      @hellenmiano - "Old is gold" - love those words. And yes, the eyes can dim but the soul still sparkles... lovely comment, thank you :)

    • hellenmiano profile image

      Hellen Miano 

      4 years ago from Mombasa Kenya

      A nice piece...they say even when the eyes dim and gray the soul lives..old is this piece

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      4 years ago from UK

      @Michael-Milec - It's so true - under our outer shells, we are really all the same. And the outer shell grows old and withers, but our essence is still there. And as for the question of reaching 'older' , I suppose it is something that changes all the time as we gradually pass through the years and accept where we are. How lovely that you met such an inspirational lady. Looking to the future and making plans for it, whether or not they come true, keeps us going. I remember my grandmother, when she was in her mid-nineties, making plans for her garden the following spring. And also, looking forward to having her kitchen decorated, and talking about the colours she would have. I also remember her anticipating receiving a telegram from the Queen - in the end, she didn't quite reach 100, but the point is that she always seemed, to me, to find the positive side of life.

      Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comments, very much appreciated :)

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      4 years ago from UK

      @manatita44 - peace to you too, and thank you for your lovely words :)

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      4 years ago from UK

      @Frank Atanacio - thank you, Frank. To cause a reader to pause is a very big compliment! I really appreciate you coming by and reading :)

    • manatita44 profile image


      4 years ago from london

      Excellent poetry, Polly. A heart-rending poem.

      You have captured this well - this age-old problem. God bless your empathetic spirit. Much peace.

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      4 years ago from UK

      @annart - yes, we need to make the most of what we have, each and every day. It's too easy to forget that sometimes, when we become caught up in, and distracted by, things that don't much matter. Thank you for your lovely compliments, it means a lot :)

    • Michael-Milec profile image


      4 years ago

      Hello Polly. Such a powerful truth about growing old, you've made me think its all your personal experience. Than again looking at the point of my life's journey, you've express thoughts rolling trough a mind of one being at age God could start using Moses for a historic purpose.

      Yes, we live our fullest knowing inside of our spirit, we are the same... The outward shell sends different message. Educating ourselves on acceptance the reality 'growing older ' ( likable term ), often crosses my mind a question , what age should be appropriate using term " older " ? - having in mind a lady in neighborhood , living alone, self sufficient and listening to her life story: She is the only person I ever heard of at age of 45 she was making plans of living in her nineties. Great inspiration...

      Thanks for message needed " today", a day when I needed encouragement. In short few hours ago I wrote for myself "Before- some time ago - it was easier to open a new chapter."

      Voting across, but funny.

      Peace with us.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      4 years ago from Shelton

      wow this poem is very good stills me as I read it.. brought me to several pauses... voted interesting :)

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      This is one of the best poems I've read in a long while. You've captured the problems of age and the thoughts of looking back to youth, all within an internal conversation of someone with a 'young' mind. We can feel the frustration mixed with acceptance.

      It's a timely warning to those who follow to make the most of what they have. We need to do that, as well as give respect to our elders for their knowledge, experience and wisdom.

      Wonderful poem, well crafted.

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      4 years ago from UK

      @Bobbi Purvis - sorry for the multiple posts of the same comment, I think Hubpages had a mind of its own for a moment!

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      4 years ago from UK

      @JayeWisdom - Thank you for your lovely words. my grandmother loved simple things - especially beautiful flowers in the garden. She liked them so much she carried on doing light gardening until she was about 96! As far as the line in the poem about the dancing goes, I was probably inspired by my grandmother when I wrote that bit - she occasionally talked about how she would go dancing with her sisters and all their husbands. I particularly recall how she told me about New Year's Eve dances, after which they could stay and have breakfast before going home! I remember thinking that she must have stayed out later than me!!

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      4 years ago from UK

      @jhamann - That is exactly how I like to think of life - as a collection of little moments and snap-shots that make the film that is our life. And when we get older, there are so many moments and memories that can be shared. When my grandmother was alive - she passed away when I was 35 - I loved nothing better than to hear her talk of the past. They were just simple little tales, of life before I was born or could remember - but they were always special to me.

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      4 years ago from UK

      @Subeesh4n - What a beautiful and insightful comment you have made, I think you have nailed it in one sentence! Thank you for visiting :)

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      4 years ago from UK

      @Billie Kelpin - Inspiration, I think, is such an amazing thing. Sometimes it comes and I don't even especially want it to, since it interrupts whatever else I am doing! I definitely agree that creativity inspires creativity. But as far as having to be an avid reader, well, I get a lot of inspiration from other sources of creativity. I am quite often inspired whilst listening to music especially, because music always tells it's own story. I have written another (rather long) poem on here about a mysterious woman who is on the run - the poem starts as she walks into a supper club in London. However, the inspiration for that was sparked when I was reading the online newspaper, which contained a short piece about a celebrity couple at The Supper Club. That turned out to be a nightclub in LA, but then I started wanting to know what a real supper club was, and so somehow the poem began from that. I did used to read a lot, but I don't so much now because I don't have time. Also, I prefer not to think much about writing when reading other people's books to avoid being influenced by them. When I was younger, though, I would read all the time - I'm sure that reading produces better language skills in a person.

      Sorry, this is a bit of an overly long comment! Thank you so much for your nice compliments and for coming by to read :)

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      4 years ago from UK

      @Smilealot - So sorry for your recent loss. I understand that some people may find the poem sad, but I'm pleased that a positive message shines through. Thank you for coming to read it, and take care of yourself :)

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      4 years ago from UK

      @Bobbi Purvis - Thank you for your amazing comments. You're right, it's not a place I've yet been but for some reason I had the urge to write it. Thank you for reading and sharing, and very best wishes for the New Year to you too :)

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Although this made me a bit sad having had an elderly parent pass away recently, it conveys a positive message about ageing and the elderly, and that shines through. A lovely poem:-))

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      4 years ago from UK

      @Barbara Kay - thank you. Well, I guess I am sort of midway in life, but some of my family have been very long living and so I think I probably draw on that a bit, especially after visiting a care home a number of times. Although it was supposed to be a 'good' home, I was sometimes struck by the lack of personal interest and true empathy during what seemed like a rather clinical routine. Thank you for your nice comments :)

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      4 years ago from UK

      @Phyllis Doyle - You are so right, they do deserve our attention, and not only that but we can actually learn from them, if we bother to listen. Thank you for your lovely comments and for coming along to read :)

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      4 years ago from UK

      @ladyguitarpicker- thank you so much, I'm really happy you liked it :)

    • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

      Polly C 

      4 years ago from UK

      @Jodah- thank you for your lovely comments, much appreciated. And yes, respect is everything :)

    • Billie Kelpin profile image

      Billie Kelpin 

      4 years ago from Newport Beach

      JayeWisdom, I love the "I've gotten my money's worth." Exactly how I feel. Thanks for that quote that I want to pass on to my daughter.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      4 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Polly, this is a beautiful and profound poem. At the age of 72, I still recall my younger, more active days. Many of those memories are good, but I don't fret when reminiscing about how much I enjoyed dancing the night away. I still enjoy the music.

      My grandmother used to say, "I've gotten my money's worth...." when referring to many things that brought her happiness. Well, I've gotten" my money's worth" out of life, and all that remains I consider a bonus.

      Voted Up+++ and shared


    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 

      4 years ago from Reno NV

      This poem needs to be read. It helps to remind us that age is the collection of wonderful memories and moments lost that can be shared and respected not only the physical decay of our bodies. Jamie

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      one day when we turned back, sometimes the path we traveled would be fading from our eye. That is just because of reduced eyesight. But the sight of heart wont reduce, and would be more and more powerful to see the path, when turned back.

    • Billie Kelpin profile image

      Billie Kelpin 

      4 years ago from Newport Beach

      Rachel, not only was this poem meaningful to me at 69, soon to be 70 in a month, but your note on the source of the inspiration was especially powerful to me. I had written the question here on hubpages asking if it's necessary to be an avid reader to be a writer. Your note gave me the answer to that question because you speak about inspiration and it's vagaries. We never know where another's work will lead us. Creativity creates creativity. You inspired me to seek to be more inspired :) Thank you and Cheers, Billie

    • PurvisBobbi44 profile image


      4 years ago from Florida

      Hi Polly C,

      This is an amazing poem written by someone so young looking. And, this makes you an even greater poet to have the passion to write it and the compassion to understand.

      Have a wonderful 2015. I will share this with my Twitter friends and put it on my repin board.

      Bobbi Purvis

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 

      4 years ago from USA

      The poem is beautiful and because you are still young, it is insightful.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 

      4 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      You are so right, Polly. We all are on that path and your poem is a great reminder to everyone that one day the path becomes shorter. Our elders not only crave and love our attention and respect, they deserve it. Thank you for writing this hub and sending out this very important message.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 

      4 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Hi, This poem is all so true, we will all be there one day. Loved the poem everyone needs this reminder.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Hi Polly, this is almost the perfect poem. Yes we all get old and we were all young once with the world at our feet. We need to how respect and patience with our elders. I loved this. Voted up and shared.


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