The widest range of historical pictures for editorial and creative use
Advanced search >>

Original painting by pin-up artist David Wright of a beautiful, dark-eyed brunette wearing an off-the-shoulder blouse.  

circa 1950
Now that her memory has degraded

 

Now that her memory has degraded, the daughter

wonders if she overestimated her mother’s beauty.

 

Youthful photographs, like the early snaps of Marilyn,

offer no clues as to her face’s full potential.

 

And the portrait taken in middle age to celebrate her

beauty’s climax, is disfigured by melancholy.

 

Her mother was ordinary until she joined the school

girls’ crush, as they peeped at her through the stage curtains.

 

Grew up to be invisible by her side, as men and women

gawped at her in the street like a gorgeous freak.

 

When paparazzi raised their cameras reflexively at the airport,

it was clear her face deserved a wider audience than East Kent.

 

Yet her ambition was to ‘look out her kitchen window

and see a reliable husband digging in his garden.’

 

In civilian life her beauty only drew a gold rush of rogues

to her front door, and like Rita Hayworth, she could never live

 

up to her face’s promise. She became a sheep in a wolf’s skin

coat trotting down the high street unable to pay the gas bill.

 

Incredible now, the daughter’s cultish existence, where

housekeeping was willingly sacrificed for turtle soap

 

and Vichy skin preparations. Her mother’s morning’s

observance; heated rollers crowning snow white’s hair

 

and a wing of 50s movie star eyeliner swept above moss

agate eyes that changed colour with her mood.

 

Since the housekeeping would never have stretched

to a facelift, the daughter wonders what her mother would

 

have done when heads stopped turning like sunflowers.

‘That’ll be me,’ she teased as they watched Sunset Boulevard,

 

but she would never have resorted to shoring up her own facial

landslide with a chin hammock and tape behind her ears.

 

Becoming perhaps the Garbo of the housing estate, or made

up for a lifetime’s abstinence like Elizabeth Taylor.

 

Twenty years since the daughter has really seen her mother’s face.

Occasionally her memory is ambushed by the appearance of

 

Ava Gardner on the TV and she changes channels.

 

 

© Fiona Sinclair

Picture 10584627, reproduction of a painting by David Wright, circa 1950

 

 

Fiona Sinclair’s work has appeared in numerous publications. Her first published pamphlet was Dirty Linen (2010, Koo Press, Scotland). Two pamphlets followed this: A Game of Hide and Seek (2012) and Wonderland (2013), both with Indigo Dreams Press. Her first full collection is Ladies Who Lunch (2014, Lapwing Publications, Belfast). She is the editor of the online poetry magazine Message in a Bottle.