Friday, 27 June 2008

A Tale From The Family

Every family holds a character in its past who deserves not to be entirely forgotten. Here's one from mine in the form of a poem. I have incorporated some of my grandmothers' phrases about her late niece word-for-word (italicised), as she did like to romanticise the tale! I do not regard it as one of my best pieces, but it means a lot because of the family connotations.

Family Legend

A blonde siren to whom all the family looks had been handed
Together with an impossibly sweet and generous nature
My grandmother told me many times of Miriam Gunn
Loved by all who knew her – a charming girl
Could only die young
Became an early air hostess
Fell in love with an airline pilot as dark as she was fair
They married and bought a flat in Bell Green
A thoroughly modern suburb of Coventry
And lived in mutual adoration
For eight blissful months, until tragedy struck
When his plane was iced up and lost over the Atlantic
Less than a year later Mirries’ plane crashed in the Cape
She the only survivor
Dying of her injuries several hours after.
They were destined to be together, you see
Broken hearted, her parents left the Midlands
To live out their days running an antiques shop in Brighton
When they had lived them out some years later
My grandparents went down to clear their shop
Came across a locked trunk in the attic
Full of Mirrie’s things
Unopened since the day she died
And all as unfadingly beautiful as she
Shimmering silks and glittering mementoes
Of a short career’s travels round the world
She could never have been older than 26
And remained a figure of endless intrigue
In my young mind
Frozen in magic by tragedy
Only two hand-tinted photographs left
As testament to her glamour
Jealously guarded and shown only as a treat.

© LS King

While reading up on 1930s Stewardesses, I was surprised to learn that they all had to be trained nurses, as flying was regarded as so dangerous! I guess my relative didn't have a chance to use her training in her own crash though.


nearside said...

"As dark as she was fair"- no wonder you're a poet. It runs in the family. That was beautiful, sad and perfect.

Rol said...

That was beautiful, Laura. I'm fair touched, as they say up here.

Especially liked this line:

"When they had lived them out some years later"

Brother Tobias said...

Poor cousin Miriam; immortalised by the brevity of her life. There is nothing one could wish to add or subtract from your telling of it.

Steve said...

Oh that's sent cold shivers up my spine. What a tragic though also very beautiful story. The poem really captures the emotion... grief and awe together. One of your best methinks...

KAZ said...

What a wonderful story, beautifully told - but so sad.

I was thinking about present day Ryanair flight attendants recently - no comment.
Even in the sixties they needed language degrees and still found it very difficult to be chosen from the hundreds wanting the job..

Can Bass 1 said...

My word, your tale sounds like the treatment for a Thirtie's movie - who, though, would play your cousin. How tragic! How romantic! (And poetic!)

Reluctant Blogger said...

Gosh, Laura, what an amazing but tragic story. It is incredible that those who die young are often immortalised for ever. I loved this piece - I can't write poetry at all and it always amazes me how much more effective it is for getting the emotions of a story across than all the words i would use to tell it.

I always had a fascination for a great aunt of mine who died in her mid twenties (of TB) but she was reportedly very beautiful and a bit of a wild child and had an illegitimate child in her late teens. I spent ages a few years ago trying to track down this child but with no success.

You are so clever!

The Sagittarian said...

Great story well told (as always). Tragic and romantic, all been said above. I love going through old things, you can find me at the fair's and fetes going thru the old postcard bins and photo bins wondering about the stories behind them!

lucyfishwife said...

That was not only beautiful but quite gothic too! Anyone whose plane is "lost" becomes some kind of legend.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Nearside, Rol, Brother Tobias, Steve, Kaz, Can Bass 1. Reluctant Blogger, Sagittarian and LucyFishWife, what can I say? I am deeply touched by all your comments.

As I said in the intro, I've never regarded this as one of my better poems, it is purely the family thing, the tragedy of it (and the fact that one seldom comes up with a narrative poem) that keep it in my file for reading out at gigs, tho' I usually 'play to the gallery' with the funnier poems, it has to be said.

It is interesting that sometimes poems one feels are somewhat under par turn out to be more popular than you think. I have another one or two poems about the dim and distant family past which I might post in due course - one about a great aunt who took to the stage and fulfilled the family prophesy about her!

RB, you should definitely dust down that glamorous relation of yours and do something with her!

I'm wary of the 'glamorous dying young thing' as it is an unhealthy premise in many respects, and an undeniable truth in others - that they do somehow become immortalised. That said, I guess Mirrie has almost passed from living memory now. She was very cute as a child too apparently with angel blonde curls which she had to have shaved off at the age of six when she caught ringworm. 'Don't I look a cheeky monkey?' she asked my grandmother when she came round to visit. My grandmother never forgot this image of her frozen in time either, although there was no photograph. Must find that photograph of Mirrie as an adult though - almost wielded over me as an unspoken 'you'll never match up to Mirrie', but I'm sure she was genuinely lovely.

Wisewebwoman said...

Well told, Laura, I love how you've incorporated your grandma's phrasing into the poem.
These dead rellies become almost mythic, don't they, their unrealized potential and beauty exploded into unattainable heights.
Sad, sweet and lovely your Mirrie.