D’Arc Night of the Soul

(For All Hallow’s eve, a “witch’s” tale)
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.
Images by Guy Denning

About John Biscello

Originally from Brooklyn, NY, writer, poet, performer, and playwright, John Biscello, has lived in the high-desert grunge-wonderland of Taos, New Mexico since 2001. He is the author of four novels, Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale, Raking the Dust, Nocturne Variations, and No Man’s Brooklyn; a collection of stories, Freeze Tag, two poetry collections, Arclight and Moonglow on Mercy Street; and a fable, The Jackdaw and the Doll, illustrated by Izumi Yokoyama. He also adapted classic fables, which were paired with the vintage illustrations of artist, Paul Bransom, for the collection: Once Upon a Time, Classic Fables Reimagined. His produced, full-length plays include: LOBSTERS ON ICE, ADAGIO FOR STRAYS, THE BEST MEDICINE, ZEITGEIST, U.S.A., and WEREWOLVES DON’T WALTZ.
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