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Bad Girl Singing


She took her roommate's cash,
walked out of a supermarché
without paying, lost her passport,
lifted another girl's and stole her boyfriend,
ditched class to see a boules tournament,
persuaded others to ditch with her,
so they could buy her lunch,
got sick drunk on Sundays,
arrested, threatened with deportation,
and finally, finally after her parents
were contacted in the States
and arrangements made to fly her home,
she went on our little tour
of historic sites and even there
pulled a typical stunt, distracting
everyone from the guide's good English.
Separated from our group, she stood
in the apse of the ancient church behind the altar,
singing with a voice that glowed
and brightened in the candlelit space.
She sang through her trouble and our trouble,
her lies and laziness, license and dishonesty,
our disapproval and distaste.
Unearthly at first but transmuting
the stoniness of the air, the flints
of stained-glass light, the chill,
her singing, like a lover's warmth,
entered our bodies and made us
recognize our desire was being offered back.
She sang her rejection of our rejection.
And we stood miracle-stricken, shame-blinded,
renewed by failure more than triumph.
No one excused her. She would have to leave.
But we yielded to her song.


Mark Jarman

Harvard Review

Number 42


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