He said she looked too innocent.
He could not capture his perfect shot.
I noticed only how she shivered.
From my bag of tricks I took Kohl
to outline her eyes. Did you see the photo
in the 1957 National Portrait Exhibition?
Those were the days when everyone
wanted a piece of her and some would say
I carved her up. No.
I was her trusted aide and conjured auburn curls
from next to nothing. Everywhere she went
my blend of sandalwood and jasmine lingered.
When I couldn’t contain the signs of age
and her wealth had been snatched by bailiffs,
we shared my small flat in Greenwich.
I earned a modest living
holding an occasional séance.
She did not want for wine or cigarettes.
The day she failed to appear at breakfast
I found her in bed, bare-faced and wigless.
I worked my magic.
I shut her eyes, applied the make-up
and crowned her
with a mass of tight tonged curls.
The papers got it wrong.
I’ll grant she died without a penny,
but since that freezing day
she’d been loved.
Poet: Sandra Burnett
Illustrated by Claudia Pendlay
This poem was placed third in the Poems Please Me Prize 2015
Sandra Burnett lives in Otley, Yorkshire. She is a member of Otley Poets. Her first pamphlet, published by Otley Word Feast Press, is due out early in 2016. www.owfpress.com
See other illustrations of this and all other winning & commended poems at Red on Bone