Enlightened, perhaps. God-engorged hormones, maybe. Regardless of why, Joan, you were the rebel prototype
long before James Dean zipped up a red jacket,
or Marlon Brando mumbled and curled his upper lip into a totem,
before Louise Brooks and Josephine Baker and Mae West scorched bits of screen and earth and tore hearts to shreds with a flickering edge.
You, Joan, were the world’s most famous, cross-dressing heretic,
the It-girl of alleged sorcery,
a rebel very much aligned with a cause,
coursing a waxwork future and belated sainthood.
It was in your father’s garden, age thirteen, when you first heard the voices, saw the visions.
St. Michael, St. Katherine, and St. Margaret, a trinity of Beauty unbearable that brought tears to your eyes.
But they didn’t come to serve as spiritual eye-candy, or to bring you otherworldly comfort. They were delegates, delivering a message direct from the Man Upstairs, a command which, to any less a mystic, might have fallen on deaf ears, a task that would have registered as preposterous or impossible, but not for you Joan: faith was your stock-in-trade.
So you listened, took it in, an illiterate, thirteen-year-old peasant girl on the cusp of puberty, being told that it was her duty and obligation to help lead France to victory over the English, to fulfill a destiny that had been part of France’s prophetic pipeline for generations: a virgin will come, a miracle-worker, and she will restore France to its former glory.
You would have been happy to stay at home spinning wool with your mother, tending to the animals, gazing dreamily upon the milk-bearded faces of clouds, to pass your time as a humble girl quietly in love with God, but you knew it would be bad form, downright impious, to argue against a trinity of saints that had taken the time to visit you, just you, in your father’s garden.
Not to mention, when God gets in your head, like a luminous migraine, or a marvelous tumor, what can you do except abide?
The rest is history. Or myth. Legend. Pages from a tattered scripture in a gilded dustbin.
There were the victories over England, the coronation of Charles VII, at which you wielded your iconic banner, your capture and imprisonment.
If there had been tabloids, you, Joan, would have been splashed daily across the headlines:
France’s Favorite Maid to Be Tried for Heresy
Joan, the Teenage Witch, Refuses to Admit Allegiance to the Devil
Of course, as God’s cheeky, chosen daughter, you had no intention of going gently into that good night.
Several times you tried to bust out of the big house, often falling from great heights.
When the Inquisitors grilled and viciously quizzed you with the hopes of railroading you into an incriminating confession, you shrewdly sidestepped and evaded all their tactics, case in point:
Inquisitor: Are you in God’s grace?
Joan: If I am not, may God put me there, and if I am may God so keep me.
You had the bastards squirming, Joan, eating their own blasphemous piles of shit.
But, as it went, they rode a gross miscarriage of justice all the way to the stake, to that fateful day,
May 30th, 1431, when they burned you, not once, not twice, but three times, before scattering your ashes into the Seine.
You were nineteen.
Twenty-four years away from being acquitted at your retrial,
four-hundred and seventy-eight years away from beatification,
and four-hundred and eighty-nine years away
from official sainthood.
Which just goes to show that history may be written by the winners,
but the rewrites belong to a much higher and more mysterious order.
Originally from Brooklyn, NY, writer, poet, spoken word performer, and playwright, John Biscello now lives in Taos, New Mexico. He is the author of three novels: Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale, Raking the Dust, and Nocturne Variations, and a collection of stories, Freeze Tag.
His fiction and poetry has appeared in: Art Times, nthposition, The Wanderlust Review, Ophelia Street, Caper, Polyphony, Dilate, Militant Roger, Chokecherries, Farmhouse, BENT, The 555 Collective, Instigator, Brass Sopaipilla, The Iconoclast, Adobe Walls, Kansas City Voices, and the Tishman Review. His blog--Notes of an Urban Stray--can be read at johnbiscello.blogspot.com. Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale was named Underground Book Reviews 2014 Book of the Year.