the stake

I will bet this life
Jeanne d’Arc heard voices
and so do I:  Not angels
or other spirits,

but voices of women called witches
or even saints
after their ashes cool.

But she, and they
were silenced, and the murmurs I hear
are of the dead,
and they are faint whispers
and stories suggested
and never seen.

I will speak for them
as they have no breath left:
In my burning,
I am the woman whose tongue turns flame,
who cannot know silence:

To know if a woman
was a witch or not,
they dragged her
into deep water;
and the weight of her clothes
and her innocence
pushed her under, into
forever silence.

Still,
if she floated somehow,
came up choking
and hungry for air,
then she was a witch
who deserved burning.

More likely than not,
she was a woman
who loved God, but
who once spoke her truth,
or looked at another woman
sideways in anger,
or smiled at the wrong man.

Not I,
if I were so accused
as innocent as I am of magic,
upon my burning
I would be the woman
whose burning
becomes spectacular,
who later dances incandescent
on the ceilings
of my judges’ houses;
come to take what I can
from the men who burned me
and then had the nerve to sleep soundly.

I would walk in dreams naked,
long of tooth, red-eyed,
stealing blood and semen.

**** Here is what I could reconstruct of that damned lost poem.  Don’t know if I recalled all of it, but the voice sounds about right.

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About Susan L Daniels

I am a firm believer that politics are personal, that faith is expressed through action, and that life is something that must be loved and lived authentically--or why bother with any of it?
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23 Responses to the stake

  1. nelle says:

    A subject that resonates deep in my… loved it.

  2. This is powerful and beautiful! Touch this woman, try to quech her voice, try tying her or her convictions to the stake and your peace, your tranquility and masculinity would be at stake forever. The innocent souls of women and other oppressed finds a clear voice in this poem that rages against the results of prejudice and sexism! wll done, Susan. You have a voice and you use it well!

  3. Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

    Have you listened to Leonard Cohen’s “The Song of Burnadette”? (My favorite version is by Jennifer Warnes) I thought of it immediately, though your humor and fury strike a different tone. The playfulness here really works. It’s funny how in our “modern” times we laugh at the idea of witches as dangerous and yet, the deep mystery that was associated with those women (and feared because it bespoke power) is something that shouldn’t be neglected or forgotten. That comes through here. It’s great.

  4. Rhonda says:

    Susan,
    Full of emotion. I see myself in there. Fierce!

  5. Fascinating! I’m always intrigued by your writing ~Deborah

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