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if i am not, may god put me there

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EL-FAYOUMY. Your Honor! The prosecution calls to the stand the Maid of Orleans, la Pucelle, the soldier-shepherdess, Saint Joan of Arc!

Joan enters. She is wearing a plain white shirt and pants, and her feet are bare. Her hair is out of her face. She carries a sheath without a sword.

JOAN. Even here, even now, I can still feel the fire licking my feet. I can still smell the scent of my own skin, beginning to char. I have never been to Hell; no, when I died, I went straight up, and Saint Peter himself came to meet me. He and kissed my brow and called me sister, and I rested. Healing is a long process, and even now, some five hundred-odd years on, I still am not healed. I have never been to Hell, though I would like someday to descend, and walk among the suffering, and speak to them, and touch their hands, but for now the very idea of the flames licking at the damned still scares me too much.

A moment, silence. Joan’s hands are still.

JOAN. I spend my days in a pool of water, willow branches skimming the surface. The water is clean and cool, and when I float on my back and look up into the sky, I can see the stars wheeling overhead.

She approaches the bench and sits down.

BAILIFF. Name?

JOAN. Joan d’Arc.

EL-FAYOUMY. Miss Joan, I mean, Lady Joan, I — Saint Joan, my lady, incomparably fair and innocent, most beautiful and beatific of women, I mean —

JOAN. Please. Joan is fine.

EL-FAYOUMY. Yes. Thank you.

He dabs his forehead with a handkerchief.

EL-FAYOUMY. Joan, most in the medieval through the modern canon would agree that few, if any, have been so brave and suffered so much as you.

CUNNINGHAM. Objection! This isn’t even a question!

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD. Sustained. El-Fayoumy, please ask Saint Joan actual questions.

EL-FAYOUMY. Yes, of course. My deepest most sincere apologies to those who I hold in nothing but the highest of esteem.

El-Fayoumy turns back to Joan.

EL-FAYOUMY. Joan, would you agree that few, if any, saints have suffered as much as you?

JOAN. Suffering is relative. I bore all that I could: some could not have born as much as me, others possibly far more.

EL-FAYOUMY. And yet, despite your suffering and the vitriol and the imprisonment and the hatred and the rape and the death, you were able to stay a good person, is this not true?

JOAN. I stayed myself. Goodness, like anything else, is relative.

El-Fayoumy clenches his fists.

EL-FAYOUMY. Saint Joan, will you admit that you are a good person?!

Joan stands and approaches El-Fayoumy.

JOAN. I killed men, men who believed in the same god as me. And I helped put a man on a throne who killed more men who still believed in the same god. And then I was killed, and there was a wide agreement that I was a heretic and a nonbeliever and that I had defied the word of God by dressing as a man and cutting my hair.

She pauses, touching her hand to El-Fayoumy’s face. He flinches away from her.

JOAN. And then later, after I had been killed by men who believed in the same god as me, I was declared a saint. So tell me, El-Fayoumy, who was right? Who has the authority to decide whether I am a good person?

She turns towards Judge Littlefield.

JOAN. I killed in the name of God, and I was killed in the name of God. Who can —

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD. Saint Joan, please get back on the bench so that this trial may resume, or leave!

Joan nods and returns to the bench. El-Fayoumy coughs and straightens his jacket.

EL-FAYOUMY. Joan, do you believe that a person should be defined by the goodness of their actions?

JOAN. How do you define a person?

EL-FAYOUMY. Please answer the question.

JOAN. I define people by what they first do when they wake up, by the callouses on their hands, by the way that they love those around them and by the way that they hate.

EL-FAYOUMY. So you agree, then, that there are good and bad people?

JOAN. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nobody is bad, just as nobody is good.

EL-FAYOUMY. You believe that nobody is bad? What about Hitler? What about Brock Turner? What about the Cardinal of Winchester? For fuck’s sake, what about Judas?

JOAN. Goodness and badness are relative. I want to love everybody, even those who have hurt me or others.

EL-FAYOUMY. Saint Joan, do you believe that Judas Iscariot is a bad person?

Joan looks at Judas. There is silence.

JOAN. I think that I love him.

EL-FAYOUMY. No further questions, your Honor.

He moves away.

JOAN. Most saints know each other. In the Kingdom of Heaven we are the closest things to celebrities — well, other than the few celebrities who are there. I don’t know the rest of them — I tend to shy away from crowds, and for all our mutual canonization I am still a poor teenager who barely knew how to write her own name when she died.

A pause.

JOAN. I met the Cardinal of Winchester, one day. Saint Peter brought him to see me — I do not know if he lives in Heaven or Hell, but he came to see me while I was sitting underwater. I saw him and the hatred I felt him left my body. I did not speak to him for fear that hate would come back, but when Saint Peter led him away from me I felt no joy to see him go.

Another pause.

JOAN. I do not love him, just as I do not love the man who set me on fire. But I do not hate them. Hatred is too heavy a burden, even amongst all those I have borne.

Cunningham approaches the bench.

CUNNINGHAM. Saint Joan, firstly, one woman to another —

JOAN. No.

CUNNINGHAM. No?

JOAN. I am not a woman.

CUNNINGHAM. Ah. My deepest apologies. As one person to another, I would like to extend my apologies for the pain you have been forced to experience.

JOAN. Thank you.

CUNNINGHAM. You said earlier that you believe nobody is truly evil, correct?

JOAN. Yes.

CUNNINGHAM. The prosecution brought up a selection of people who have committed variously horrible actions. You believe none of them are evil?

JOAN. All of them committed various actions, with varying degrees of awareness of the good or evil of their actions. It is not my place to say whether any of them were good or bad.

CUNNINGHAM. So, then, by your own logic, Judas Iscariot is not an evil person?

JOAN. That’s right.

CUNNINGHAM. Do you believe that Judas Iscariot committed an evil action?

JOAN. I am not him. I cannot know what he thought. I do not know what he believed to be right.

CUNNINGHAM. Joan, what do you know of love?

JOAN. I have loved only God with everything in me, mon coeur et mon âme. And I have felt only the love of God, purest and highest above all.

CUNNINGHAM. Do you believe that people can do horrible things in the name of love?

JOAN. Men have killed their wives and children rather than let them be captured by the enemy. People have beaten, savagely, their lovers, and kissed their wounds after. The Cardinal who sentenced me to death believed that God loved him and abhorred me, and so I had to die.

CUNNINGHAM. So Judas could have betrayed the Son of God out of love?

JOAN. I was never touched with love. I was beaten and raped, I felt the blood of dead men on my cheeks, but I was never touched with love. My love of God is my only love, but it is remote. I love God so desperately and I have never truly met Her. God has never walked before me. I imagine that I would do anything to protect God if She came before me in the body of a man.

CUNNINGHAM. So you think that Judas loved Jesus?

JOAN. Who did not? Matthew and Luke loved Jesus, Paul, certainly, and Simon, and Mary Magdalene, and Pontius Pilate to some extent, and though they did not know it, the soldiers that led him to his death probably loved him, in one way or another.

CUNNINGHAM. Joan, what do you believe Judas deserves?

Joan stands from behind the bench. Judge Littlefield sighs loudly.

Joan approaches Judas and kneels before him to look up into his face. She stays for a moment before turning and walking back to the bench.

JOAN. Judas and I are too similar for me to be impartial about this. He has forgotten what it feels like to be loved. The love of God still wraps around his shoulders, but the weight of his sorrow and his shame is too intense for him. He has forgotten what love feels like.

CUNNINGHAM. Thank you, Saint Joan, but what does he deserve?

JOAN. Did I deserve to die? Did Jesus? Did any of the men I killed? What anybody deserves is irrelevant. What they have received and what they should receive is all.

CUNNINGHAM. Thank you. Do you have anything else to add?

JOAN. There were men who followed me, who saw me as a sword of God, and who snuck into my tent at night to try and defile me. There were men who followed me, who saw me as a sword of God, who would never touch me, but who would sink their blades into the flesh of men who loved God too. Those who professed to love me have caused me some of the greatest wounds, and those who have truly loved me, I never knew. There is no truth to the world, no rules, no hard and fast. I cannot tell you if this man — she gestures to Judas — deserves salvation or damnation.

She stands, as if to leave. Her hand hovers over the empty sheath at her side.

JOAN. I love the Son of God, as does Judas. I can feel it in the air around him. I am dead, as is Judas. Were our deaths deserved? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Such is the nature of the world. I am not healed yet from the wounds my life gave me. I may never be healed. But at least I have begun.

CUNNINGHAM. Your Honor, no further questions.

Joan exits.

JUDGE LITTLEFIELD. Next witness!