Old Girls

This scroll of photograph became our mothers:
kneeling or standing or sitting, as their rank
allowed it. Some seem modest, proper. Others
stare down the future's iris, looking blank.
The eye behind the lens? Why should they thank
his flash-gun? One man's lie is like another's.

That afternoon was airless. Blouses crisper
than if they'd glazed them, every tuck or pleat
perfectly creased, no inkling of a lisp or
even fib upon their lips, all turned out neat.
What draws them still is not the film's deceit:
an innocence threads through them like a whisper.

Yet in our time they'll suffer stupid suitors,
testing their patience as they'd taste a wine,
spittoons and all. Their curls will look as cute as
candy floss. Their smiles will mime design.
And stylists will pursue them to refine
what fads are fed them by their neuter tutors.

Fathers will coddle them, teachers be insistent
that girls must always close their mouths like clams,
while stray men claim that once they have been kissed and
stripped of their virtue, morality just slams
shut in their faces. The devil damns his dams:
but we should praise these images, so distant.

From the book Rime Present