A dove leapt right out of Joan of Arc’s mouth. If I were burning at the stake a dishrag would leap right out of my mouth. Today, a young woman held the door open for me the whole time I descended the stairs while repeating thank you, thank you, thank you. Did I think I was casting a spell? Joan was nineteen when she burned to death. Did she ever touch her breasts? That was the year I lay in a road in Spain and picked pieces of skull out of my hair. It was possible to believe stone was the same as bone. At sixteen she was already a military tactician; later, in the heretic cells, her horse-bowed legs forced inside a skirt, she deflected every semantic trap the inquisitors set for her. I sat in the library reading biographies—what could I do? I didn’t know why Vaseline was funny; that rubbers were a kind of shoe. This morning, however, wasn’t it you who stopped me on the street to say the color of my dress was holy?
Barbara Tomash is the author of two books of poetry, Flying in Water which won the 2005 Winnow First Poetry Award and The Secret of White from Spuyten Duyvil (2009). Her poems have appeared in Colorado Review, New American Writing, VOLT, Jacket, ZYZZYVA, Parthenon West Review, Third Coast, Five Fingers Review and numerous other journals. She lives in Berkeley, California and teaches in the Creative Writing Department at San Francisco State University.