Joan in Skates
If Joan of Arc were alive today
she’d get out her anger through raves
and roller derby. She wouldn’t have
to take up warfare to escape her sweet
well-meaning family because this is
the timeline where Joan isn’t doomed.
She’d be literate. A hardworking
farm daughter rewarded with freedom.
There’d be no talk of her sacrificing
her life or health. She’s only nineteen.
(She will always be too young.)
Instead, she’d drive to schoolyards
late at night to climb the monkey bars.
She’d pray for peace. She’d grow fresh
tomatoes in a tin bucket on her steps.
She’d go to Mass and tell the priest
her violent dreams, the dying horses.
The last one to leave a concert, ears
ringing, glitter-painted—that’s Joan.
She’d wear clean gingham men’s shirts
and no one would beat her for it.
She’d shave her own damn head.
She’d wind the rope around her wrists
and tie herself not to a stake, but to
another girl’s burning bed. And best
of all, she’d only be saintly in the small
forgettable ways that people tend to be.
That’s what I love most about this Joan,
punk-rock Joan, holy-wine-drunk Joan,
Joan of arugula salads and fresh venison,
Joan playing arpeggios on her guitar,
Joan in her skates chasing down pigeons
on an overcast morning. She is exactly
as boring and beautiful as you. In fact,
maybe she is you. Maybe you’re the Joan
who made it. Look at your fingernails,
your purple-veined hands. Looks like
you don’t have to save France after all.
What do you have to say to this world
that spared you such a grand, sad end?
Say nothing. It will still be yours.
Seeking Muse #11
Sappho loved men, too, the beehive-bearded
graduate student reminds us before we read
her thirty-first fragment. In fact, it’s disputed
whether she loved women at all. It’s spring.
Out the windows, the world yellowing slow
like old Polaroids. Flower dresses stuck fast
to thighs, the clock’s a blown-out candle
and who cares whether Cleis was conceived
with thoughts of soft throats and sweet
purple lips sustaining the broken-lung breathing,
the meter of her mother’s sighs? It’s April, hot,
we’re too tired to believe in a muse we have
to imagine ourselves. You can live with a woman
and die with a woman and they’ll say you loved
her like a daughter. We’ll string these broken
words together, fill the gaps with hyacinths,
place the garland on the crop-haired head
of a better emblem—later. For now, we parse
piecemeal lines about apples and desire
as if it isn’t spring and just as Sappho said,
with honey-flowing breezes, with birdsong.
Anna Kelley’s work has been published or is forthcoming in Cherry Tree, Literary Orphans, Up the Staircase Quarterly, CICADA, Split Lip Magazine, and in other literary journals. She is currently a reader for Salt Hill Journal and is pursuing an MFA in Poetry at Syracuse University.