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, image copyright Mary Evans / David Wright Collection
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.