I have worn everything you gave me – 
The ring, of course, and that absurd string of beads 
Reaching to the navel, and your battered shirts 
Full of your energy and our many conjunctions.

And I have worn myself – this body, your tent
Of contentment, once your second skin,
Shrunk now, but serviceable, not yet for the scrap-heap. 

I have worn, almost to shreds, our tatty jokes,
Ludicrous memories, and our crumpled rags 
Of rhythm and phrase, – old hat, but comfortable. 

Everything has been worn, nothing worn out. 
Elma Mitchell

from The Human Cage (Peterloo Poets, 1979)

Reproduced by permission of the Estate of Harry Chambers.
Elma Mitchell

Lanarkshire-born Elma Mitchell went south with a scholarship to Oxford, and remained in England, working as a librarian for the BBC, and latterly as a freelance writer and translator. Her compassionate insights into people’s lives were collected in four books of poetry. 

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