I am Not Afraid; I Was Born to do This -Jeanne D’arc
Joan of Arc
is the greatest story I have ever been told.
I remember being fourteen
-with scabby knees and wide eyes-
of this woman warrior.
Joan rose above her station
to fit the pieces of her war-torn nation back together,
the same way you would solve a jigsaw puzzle, blind.
She trusted nothing more than the voices ringing in her ears
and the puzzle beneath her fingertips.
Her trial by fire consumed her
until all that remained from the heat
was the spark of defiance she left to her people.
That same spark caught within me;
to this day I want to be Joan of Arc.
I want to be strong and brave,
but, more importantly,
I want to know what I stand for.
Now this is more complicated than it seems,
because while everyone has hopes and dreams,
not everyone has something they would face the flames for.
Not everyone has their soul carved into their backbone,
bracing their chin up to meet the gaze of all who hunt them.
But Joan did.
At fourteen I knew this to be true,
and in silent moments, in quiet pockets of time
I would talk to her.
“Dear Joan, grant me courage.”
“Dear Joan, make me brave.”
“Dear Joan, I want to be untouchable.”
I had no real reason to want this other than to have it,
and at fourteen all I knew
was I wanted my soul carved into my spine.
In life, she had called out to her saints,
and in death, I swore she became mine.
When she was seventeen,
Joan of Arc broke through the siege on the city of Orleans
like rolling thunder from the mountains.
Her angels sang her into history
as she turned the tide of a war that had left her people gutted.
Though she heard whispers of the end in her ear,
all she could see before her was her duty
to God and her people.
when I was seventeen,
I tore through my last child years like wildfire.
Unlike Joan, I did not heed the warning of the end.
Instead, all I saw was duty to myself and my ambitions,
a voice goading me on for more.
At the age of eighteen,
when she tried to free the city of Paris,
Joan was captured by her enemy and eventually left to rot.
For a year they held her on trial,
until finally the fire by which she had burned so brightly
came to lick her bones.
I am no longer a child, but I still look to you.
I know in your last moments
you called for our Saviour,
and as I stand here petrified,
I see you as a lifeline.
I see you as I see the sun.
They handed you a verdict, slandered you heretic,
as though the voices in your head,
the truest truths you have ever known,
could somehow be false.
They demanded that you renounce everything.
Sign your name to a document declaring your actions to be sinful,
even though you are nothing more than a farm girl
who cannot write her own name.
I see the cracks in the glass of your skin Joan.
I see you waver, and it reminds me
of how torturously human we all are,
how I am.
It will be three days and four nights
before you are able to breathe again.
And once you have found yourself,
that breath will only draw in smoke.
You will be nothing more
than a spark above a burning bush,
just a girl with hands clasping for deliverance.
What I am finally coming to understand,
is that I am not fireproof either.
I am finally coming to recognize that I have had something stolen.
My childhood has been spent
and I cannot take it back.
It is not even that I feel regret,
but the knowledge that I have lost a part of me.
When you were seventeen, you were a hero.
When I was seventeen,
As though the world were a train refusing to be on schedule.
The whistle is insistently impatient.
Now that I have all I was waiting for,
now that I move to leap,
my legs betray me with a stubborn insistence to want to stay behind.
When you traded life for your name,
did you ever look back?
And as you went down,
and the flames went up,
did you ever ask yourself if it was worth it?
Or did you know that you would shape the world in your echo?
You shape me in your echo.
I call to you because you know the fear of oblivion.
The fear of consuming flames which choke you in the night.
I do not know where my life goes from here.
In a years’ time I will outlive Joan of Arc.
For all that I love in you, I cannot be you.
For all of your fight, I must heed caution.
For all of your fire, I must learn to not burn myself out.
I see you and your funeral pyre,
sending out sparks to other little girls with wide eyes and scabby knees,
and I know that someone must carry on
all the work left to be done.
I intend to take
what little of your fire I can,
and keep it close to my heart.
I will do all that I am able
to take your light into the unknown with me.