Sometimes I feel like I’m writing the same poem a million different ways; as if I have no new stories to tell. I used to stop writing when I started feeling like I was writing the same story because I usually defined the topic and/or experience that informed the topic as negative—not negative in the sense that it was marked by ill consequence, but negative in that it—I admit I believed this once—lacked the redemptive quality I had come to find in, and thus expect of, my work.
Redemption, it turns out, doesn’t happen in “due course” and not even in “due time” when it comes to art-making.
So while the following poem is the story of Angel from a small town in 1995 and Crystal from a metropolitan city in 2007; is my own story in 1980something, the poem is a story of what it can mean to be the Final Girl in the every day and the every where. Surviving, because that’s what Final Girls do.
Oh yeah, and “tropism” (the title) refers to the biological phenomenon in which living things (usually plants) grow or move in response to an environmental stimulus. The growth/movement is involuntary.
“What good can come of Nazareth?” he asked.
“Come, let’s go see,” was Philip’s reply.
I John 1:46-49
She waits most days. Sometimes she walks quarters to the corner store
to buy Now and Laters, usually pineapple ones. Or “mystery mix.” Then she waits some more.
Sometimes her friends come around but they are more interested in the smell between their legs
that makes the boys unable to control their own bodies. So they throw the full weight of them
upon taller girls, a heaviness that makes the girls shift to bear it. If they can’t
they pretend to anyway; flattening into what passes for desirable.
She tells them she wants to be one of them. But since she also wants to wear white chiffon,
learn ballroom dances and be received then handled like the quarters—cautious—
because once spent she knows that it better be for something good, they don’t believe her.
She doesn’t get chased much anyway except by the dogs that rove the streets
with coats spiked by the grit of chicken bones sometimes, what they can paw from greasy bags
of discarded bits of rolls, and bitches whose babies barely nurse before joining the convoy.
All they want is a friend, she imagines, and all she wants is something
she could not identify if she saw it face to face.
Unadorned transactions that pass for nightly news pepper her day but leave it bland.
She studies a Red Sea that lies before her, vista of roofs flattened like those girls
against the weight of the sky and wills a fault line with might that rips a red rivulet
in her tongue; blends with the sunny yellow of her candy. She wonders if she would be missed.
And starts toward the basketball courts. A wind goads her. She turns to face it
before her foot misses the curb;
she brushes crumbs of cement and debris from her thigh and knee
in no more certainty about where she’s headed than 2 seconds before.