Deviating from the Bibliothèque Nationale’s original record, our newly transubstantiated Joan is lying on flagstones in the shape of a cross. Her body is too many voices. It’s amassed too many jeers from too many tormentors. It’s caught in the middle of a slow dissolve and she is kneeling before herself. Her soul is one divine intervention too many. I watch her lapping from a small stoup on all fours. I watch her brandish her perspiring head like an aspergillum. And when a surgeon enters the cell dressed like a blacksmith, I watch that too. I watch him operate with hammers. I see her body collapse. I see three soldiers insert a long straw between her legs and take turns to inflate her. Hear how they consider her equivocally gendered. How in reply she says how God has stood before her, and how the God she saw was trans, and how her sky is full of thirteen moons. She says, ‘At home I am called all the imagined saints.’ She says, ‘Here I am called possessed by the Devil.’ And the perceived blasphemy of her surgically reassigned Almighty upends the incels. And they turn green. And they turn greener. And they cover their ears. And she says, ‘I was born this child of nineteen, with short hair, dressed in boys’ clothes. I was born versed in the art of indecency. I was born martyred and full of tears. I was born inaudible to myself. My head crowned in thorns, in straw, in men made of straw. And I feel your odium but I bring you pity, for nobody loves the English, not even God, not even the English. Oh and tell me,’ she says, ‘do I have hair on my head? Did God shave me a tonsure right through to the brain? Do I have wings?’ And she curtsies for the court, bends over, offers the judges her judas. And they cannot help themselves as they cross-examine her colon. And a prelate in the prolapse is witness to a vision—of the crowning head of our Father so ignominiously reborn. And all the mendicant friars cannot force her into a gown. For she will not obscure the shameful costume of her body until the shame itself has gone. Until her being is no longer cosmetic, no longer insincere, no longer heresy. And to me? Me: sat genuflecting before all transfigured daughters of God. When I can’t even decide what socks to wear. When I’m in this heavenly light pulling worms out my ears. When I’m standing on tiptoe getting closer to God. And they feed her wafer to a dog. Until out the other end… and still all she can taste is the Eucharist. And she’ll cross herself, she says, until it draws blood. Until the judges warn her: ‘Raise your eyes to heaven again and we’ll cut them out.’ That if she doesn’t hold her tongue they’ll stick it with a fork. For how dare you be pretty and childlike and illiterate and destined for paradise. How dare you hum the absolution. How dare you eavesdrop on the salvation of your soul. Wherever her visions come from the torture chamber will cure them. And so she counts her broken fingers and they are as many as the days since her last confession. And she takes the Sacrament in increments, in punches to the face, in threats to drown her in the Seine. She dreams she drinks the eyes of God from every chalice, that her vanity is less tear-stained than her soul, her prayers less divine than her madness. She refuses again to foam at the mouth. O sancta simplicitas! And then they bleed her and the Y is upside down, like a middle finger. And they watch her sob in her sleep. But the witch is gone! Because she’s sharpening her nails on the flat stones of graves. Because she’s caking her face in consecrated mud. She’s blood-letting poisoned toads, and binding missals with their backs. She’s advancing on Rouen in Guerlain nails and glitter mesh Louboutin spikes. And so giddy is she in her expiated skin that she does not hear the inquisitor’s peroration: how this apostate is dancing with dancing bears, how she’s contorting with contortionists, and singing litanies with infidels, this idolatress, this monster, this agent of perverted Mass. And yet is man not too small a morsel to cover with so many kisses? And are our death beds not water beds? And do we not fill them from a holy spring? As our ascetics get fat. As our delusions become real. As our states of grace become ever more inelegant. Our glory infirm. And because all interrogations must conclude, it concludes. Albeit with some apophatic biology for a coda. Albeit inconclusively. And what foul irony to arrive at the stake for the abjuration of a phallus. And to burn there an exemplar for the intricacies of man. What ignominy! What comedy! What a voice thereafter calling for Jesus and screaming like a kettle whistle. The flames sounding like a prayer. Like the twelve articles of the Creed. Like a billion bifurcated tongues stuck to a hot plate. And the screen now her face, pressed flat against the window of heaven, struggling to breathe. And so she dies again. And so her body burns again. And so the executioner rakes the ashes and does not find her again. When even the heart is gone. Because it never came back. Because it remains in the river where it lives like a fish. Where it cannot be incinerated. Where God cannot see it. Where the hyenas cannot eat it. Where its chambers shun the light from any sky of any number of different moons.


Gary J. Shipley is the author of ten or so books, most recently 30 Fake Beheadings (Spork), Warewolff! (Hexus), and The Unyielding (Eraserhead). He has published in numerous magazines, journals, anthologies and academic journals. His monograph on Baudrillard is forthcoming from Anthem Press. More information can be found at Thek Prosthetics.