April 4, 2015


Carroll Ann Susco holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Pittsburgh and numerous publications including three essays in The Sun Magazine.  She writes and teaches in Alexandria, VA.  Her chapbook: True Fiction: A Pseudo Autobiographical Chapbook in Three Parts is available at Smashwords.com

You can read more of Carroll's work in the December 2014 issue of IVJ.


 Joan of Arc: An Autobiography

Waiting for something to happen. Pull the covers up.  Try to sleep. Close your eyes.  Open them. Something is going to happen. Watching my breath. A draft. Something is coming.  Something powerful.  Something old.
God’s voice shakes the cabinet.  “Go,” He says. I squeeze my eyes closed, as if to say, Don’t hit me.  I’m going to be ill.  “French Blood is spilling,” He says, “Lead the French to victory or it will be a massacre!”  I am on a ship rocking and sea sick.  I see the massacre. I see the French blood spilling.  I say, French blood is spilling.  French blood is spilling.  I will say it many more times, my new mantra. I feel my own blood leaking out of me. The pain will not stop.  Disoriented, my feet hit the floor.  I tear at my arms.  Stop!  The candle falls over.  The bloodshed.  No longer can I see my breath.  I want to say I am not up to this, but I cannot.  I know then that He has chosen me and I don’t know why but I will—what?  March on the enemy?  I fall back into bed.  I bite my lip.  I must go.  All of me says it, excruciatingly.  And then I know what needs to be done.
Mother, I scream.  Father.  Joan, they say, rubbing my red skin.  I tell them. Joan!  Our Joan has been chosen by God!  They give me a hug, and I faint.  In the morning, everyone has already heard and the best men are gathered at the kitchen table.  Okay then, I say, scratching up and down my forearm where the blood wants to leak. God has made them believe, but the king?  He is not a Godly man.
Together, we ride to the castle.  Take our horses.  We are here to see the king.  He’s tricky, that king.  Hides from me, but I find him.  Now do you believe?  Excruciating.  French blood is spilling.
God spoke.  People believe.  They will listen.  They will charge.
I am the king’s last hope.  He gives us what we need and we are on our way.
When we arrive, the soldiers are kind but half dead.   All I can hear is my mantra and I say it, desperate for them to stop.  Stop!  Stop, I plead.  Sleep leads to unruly dreams.  I am sweating and cold and the blood is spilling. Every report is the same.  We are going to lose.  
The only thing left: I don shield and sword, cut my hair.  I grab the flag and a sword.  Charge! My blood spills.
Victory.  My blood stops.
God is good.
We come home to cheers. I could sleep forever if these smiling faces did not make me want to be in this moment forever.  Something is wrong. They stop my horse.  They ask me to follow them, lead me to the Bishop. He asks if God talks to me and I say yes, but when I ask God to speak, only silence.  
They put me in a room, at the top of the tower with tiny windows to see the people at their daily business, free from bloodshed.
And I get very confused.  I hear many voices, good and evil.  I hear many people tell me to recant, but why?  And it starts to bother me that I only cared for the French blood.  Something in me is spreading out to all bloods.  Blood is spilling and I feel the burn in my veins. I am a troubled woman.  I would go to the nunnery to pray for God to end suffering, but I cannot leave the tower.
I cannot.  GOD spoke!
No.  It’s not that way.  I was embraced.  
Thoughts spin.  Questions. I don’t understand.  I can’t recant.  They question me.  They implore me.  They threaten me.  And I do not bend.
But God…
God does not talk to the good.  Recant.
Yes, yes he does the candle fell over my breath my blood.
In the tower, filthy now, a small crack of light.  Voices everywhere.  God?  I hold on.  So alone.  Gruel to eat.  Torn frock.  Please don’t rape me.
I have no choice, the king says, you must realize.
I see, I say, I see.
I bite my lip.
And so, I hear the lick and crackle of my skin as it roasts.
God?  May I find favor in your sight.  They don’t understand. It was not me who chose to ride to the king, to ride to the soldiers, to ride to the Bishop, to ride to the tower, to walk down the steps.  To tie my hands to the post, to lick my feet with flame, to feel the heat rising up, to feel the searing of my marrow until my soul rises out of me, a lick, smoke, rose toward you.  I can hear you better now.  Blood is spilling.  


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