Believe me, they were thoroughly bad
but not in a sexual sense.
The sky wore a special transparent blue
those never tarnished noons in spring.
Sunsets in the fall glowed redder than today.
Getting away with practical jokes,
thinking other people didn’t count
or not in the same degree,
those girls decided the world was theirs,
yellow apple cut in pieces, one for each,
felt a fierce urge
to be noticed, either praised or blamed.
The reputation haloing their group
never shriveled, couldn’t shrink.
Also individual traits, you’ll add:
one self-appointed leader, mix of sadism and charm,
and the quiet, intelligent one who could almost have passed
for a scholar; the third, fan girl type,
egging others on with praise;
the upper-class poet who struggled so hard
to be ordinary, tough, with simple tastes;
and the loyal, brave child who did as she was told,
who could have died for a friend.
We’ll have to desert them, safe in the past,
leave well and less well alone,
leave them to their fate.
In any case, by now it’s way too late.
One victim resting among grassy dunes
turned her back toward you and them,
strategy of survival or to hide her tears,
impassive young woman under pensive pines.
Make no mistake,
bad girls were never particularly nice,
lacked compassion, made fellow students afraid
to return after summer to school.
Yet something of the charisma remains,
that dry energy still
crackling, sparkling where wicked girls would walk.
They have their admirers even today
who remember golden and green afternoons
in September or May
when wild girls made everything fresh,
wholly transformed, made it spring alive.
Helplessly, you admired
against your better judgment, your true ideals
such confidence and style.
In spite of all, you longed to be one of them
because the feeling they conveyed
by simply being around
was that no limitations could exist
while youth lasted, or life itself.
Wherever the girls happened to be
became the most important place
on the planet: they always appeared
as harbingers of something great,
dwarfing even themselves.
Any door, any gate swung open at their touch.
Leaving, such graduates took something away.
You live much more quietly now,
your mind suspended in the already lackluster air.
All bad girls gone, if not necessarily dead,
nothing matters now as it did to them.
Susanna Roxman, born in Stockholm, writes in English. Her father’s family is Scottish. She has studied at universities — including King’s College, University of London — in Britain and Sweden, and has a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Gothenburg. Her poetry collections Broken Angels and Imagining Seals were published by Dionysia Press, Edinburgh; the latter book was supported by the Scottish Arts Council. A third collection of hers, Crossing the North Sea, is supported by Creative Scotland (the Scottish Arts Council + Scottish Screen), and will appear with the same publisher.
Susanna has poems in more than 60 journals world-wide, including Prairie Schooner, Cimarron Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Crab Orchard Review, Stand (UK), Orbis (UK), Magma (UK), Poetry Ireland Review (Republic of Ireland),and The Fiddlehead (Canada). She has also written a book of criticism, Guilt and Glory: Studies in Margaret Drabble’s Novels 1963-80 (Almqvist & Wiksell International, Stockholm).