Saturday, June 15, 2013

Martha Braniff

Joan's Question

In the stone church
of Lesser Towne,
Joan of Arc, Lorraine’s maid,
prostrate on the transept floor,
her womb, a sacred sepulcher
of slandered witches.
As French armies fall, she prays
in a chapel where walls rage
with men-crushing dragons,
dead children hanging
on knights’ silver shields,
Savior dragging gilded cross,
horses flying into heaven,
and a spiked halo
on a statue of the Bishop.
Her mother, the organist,
and her father, the janitor,
dissuade Joan from listening
to the Angels who exhort her:
Beat the English.
March to Paris.
Send a hot epistle
to the Bishop of Beauvais,
insisting he remain
a loyal Frenchman.
A letter ignored at first,
then saved for her burning.
At her trial,
the Bishop’s accusation:
Joan dresses as a man.
Her last words, a simple query:
How can a woman fight a war,
if she wears a dress?

Copyright © 2004 Martha Braniff

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