Mak Filiser’s Poem Is Really Phyllis McCormack’s Poem. They’re Both Good.

I came across a poem supposedly written by Mak Filiser called “Cranky Old Man.” Filiser, it’s written, died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home and staff found his poem as they were cleaning his room.

After researching, I discovered the poem wasn’t written by Filiser but by a UK geriatric nurse, Phyllis McCormack, in 1966. Her version is about an older woman and is titled, “Look Closer.” “Cranky Old Man” is an adaptation of McCormack’s work by David Griffith (or someone) written for the American market.

You can read “Cranky Old Man” and the history behind the poems here:

The Legend of the “Cranky Old Man”, Aging Care
The True Story Behind “the Cranky Old Man” Internet Poem That Has Become World Famous, Sunday Post, March 2014

This is Phyllis McCormack’s poem:

Look Closer

What do you see, nurses, what do you see?

What are you thinking, when you look at me,

A crabbit* old woman, not very wise,

Uncertain of habit, with far-away eyes,

Who, quite unresisting, lets you do as you will,

With bathing and feeding the long day to fill.

I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still,

As I move at your bidding, as I eat at your will.

I’m a small child of 10 with a father and mother,

Brothers and sisters, who loved one another.

A bride now at 20 my heart gives a leap,

Remembering the vows that I promised to keep.

At 25 now I have young of my own,

Who need me to build a secure happy home,

At 50 once more babies play around my knee,

Again we know children, my loved one 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 busy with young of their own,

And I think of the years and the love that I’ve known.

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 girl 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, nurse, open and see,

Not a crabbit old woman, look closer see ME.

This is the photo of “Mak Filiser” that accompanied “Cranky Old Man.” The story may be fake, but the person in this photo is real. I feel conflicted posting it because I don’t know if the man gave consent. But his face and the poem do evoke similar feelings.

* Crabbit. (cra·bit) Dialect, Scottish slang. adjective. 1. ill-tempered, grumpy, curt, disagreeable; in a bad mood [esp. in the morning].

One thought on “Mak Filiser’s Poem Is Really Phyllis McCormack’s Poem. They’re Both Good.

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