A. E. Stallings
Late at night,
One of us sometimes has said,
Watching a movie in black and white,
Of the vivid figures quick upon the screen,
“Surely by now all of them are dead”—
The yapping, wire-haired terrier, of course—
And the patient horse
Soaked in an illusion of London rain,
The Scotland Yard inspector at the scene,
The extras—faces in the crowd, the sailors;
The bungling blackmailers,
The kidnapped girl’s parents, reunited again
With their one and only joy, lisping in tones antique
As that style of pouting Cupid’s bow
Or those plucked eyebrows, arched to the height of chic.
Ignorant of so many things we know,
How they seem innocent, and yet they too
Possess a knowledge that they cannot give,
The grainy screen a kind of sieve
That holds some things, but lets some things slip through
With the current’s rush and swirl.
We wonder briefly only about the girl—
How old—seven, twelve—it isn’t clear—
Perhaps she’s still alive
Watching this somewhere at eighty-five,
The only one who knows, though we might guess,
What the kidnapper whispers in her ear,
Or the color of her dress.
We’re almost at the end of our poems about movies theme now, so it feels apt to indulge in a little nostalgia. This little gem comes to you from the archives over at Blackbird, via a recommendation from Space Bar. It’s a pleasant, clever poem, which reminds me, for some reason, of Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (the 1934 version with Peter Lorre, not the 1956 one) and also makes me think of the time before we had color television, and the shock of seeing some of the shows I’d only known in Black and White suddenly blazing with color.