Poem About Growing Old
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..