“The light comes in the name of the voice.”
– Jeanne d’Arc, as quoted by Anne Carson in Variations on the Right to Remain Silent
And in the end, only this moment.
First the ash-pile, white, fine wood-ash,
grimy ice, a grey noon. The pigs.
Frost lacing the leaves. The girl
with itchy thighs, cold nose. Then
this moment. The voice.
It did not flow like a muted shaft of sunlight
in water; it wasn’t like snow,
snow at dawn, the white flecks
on a fox’s tail as it bounds in snow-ferns.
Nor like the flash of a stoat at dusk
overcoming a rabbit bigger than itself
(though, like the stoat, it held everything
in its jaws). It was not even like moonlight,
like being thirteen, warm in a moonlit room, moon
so full and bright it lies in long white beams, white
shadows on the skin, skin melting into shadows
as though there is no longer any space
between self and moon. The light
was only like itself
just as she was only Jeanne. Her breath
a shape in the frost. Then this moment,
only now, only ever the light
and the voice. Wordless and complete.
She was questioned. At her trial they said where
does your voice come from do you
hear it like you hear my voice when do you hear it
do you hear it now. Does it echo. She
could not answer, there were no answers, as there had
been no songs, no angels, no shadows. Only light,
the girl transformed by light. After the trial
it seemed to her the light had always been full
of the smell of herself burning: her bursting lungs,
her fried skin. The questions already licked
her arms; behind the voice, her white ashes –
and somewhere she still knelt by the pigsty, hands tense
as if searching for a sword.
Image credit: still from Georges Méliès, Jeanne d’Arc, French silent film (1900). Via YouTube.
Part of The Learned Pig’s Wolf Crossing editorial season, spring/summer 2017.