Whatever happened to those knowing leading ladies,
who glared through the lens like a challenge to a duel?
They knew they were extraordinary – the Veronicas, Rosalinds, Ritas.
Call it chutzpah. Charisma. Pure blessed arrogance.
Love me , their mascara-ed eyes seemed to say,
or loathe me: you’ll always remember.
I’m lodged in your memory like a glamorous ear-worm.
conveying each nuance of passion
with simply a twitch of my cigarette holder,
a flick of my elbow-length glove. A glance.
Just put your lips together and – blow.
They stood straight, strode long – stiletto heels,
seamed stockings – tiny waists, huge brains.
Not always pretty – the Barbaras, Bettes, Joans –
but dames who got their own way, spun men
round their fingers like fidget toys
– unless derailed by love.
Diction polished and nonchalant, whether wise-acre quick
or sexy drawl, dropping bon mots like careless confetti.
O, those women! They’d survived life,
fur collars and diamond earrings intact;
they were unbowed, those femme fatales –
the Laurens, Marlenes, Marys – molls who packed a shooter,
businesswomen who cracked a whip,
socialites who played the field – til love struck like a gong
and they finally lost.
And, older, they were such villains.
Baby Jane dancing on the beach,
face a melting waxwork, grey ringlets, lacy frock.
Norma Desmond on the Boulevard,
trying to CPR her long-dead fame.
Or, at worst, the waspish older aunt of a fledgling ingénue,
uttering deadpan put-downs like a professional bitch.
O, those wondrous, wild-eyed women – the Glorias, Gretas, Genes –
women who knew their own worth,
who didn’t always smile, wringing their hands,
pouring tea, baking cakes, blending in.
They’d always ask for the moon:
the stars would never be enough.
Yorkshirewoman Louise Wilford is an English teacher and examiner. She has had around 100 poems and short stories published in magazines including Lyonesse, Pushing Out The Boat, The Stinging Fly and Agenda, and has won or been shortlisted for several competitions. She is currently writing a children’s fantasy novel, and is about to embark on an MA in Writing.