An Archive Film by Jean Earle

They are all naked. A young man,
Moving to death in the company of women,
Covers his sex. It cannot signify
Whether he does or not; but his hands
Describe for him this last shame.

After him tries a mother,
Clasping her daughters; helping them on
As they learned to walk. One-two. One. Two.
Then an old couple, briefly hand in hand,
For balance. How they hold themselves
Seems to mean more to them than the gape-door
Through which they go.

Some faces leap to us – but most go by
Flickered and grey. We are not used to grey
And it bleaches us
in our coloured room. How quietly grey
Drizzles the children. They are cold?
They shiver. Surely they cannot know?

Perhaps it is the film, ageing.
Perhaps it is…

And all the while, our supper bread and cheese
Is on the table,
Perfectly still.
How can we eat –
Sleep, love – ever again?

But we will.

By Jean Earle

Additional information: Jean Earle was a prolific poet during the last two decades of her life. She was born in Bristol but brought up in the Rhondda Valley in South Wales and lived as an adult in Carmarthenshire, saying in a published interview that in spite of her birthplace she felt more Welsh than English. Her first collection of poems A Trial of Strength (1980) was published when she was already in her seventies, but she went on to publish five more volumes of poetry before her death at the age of 93.