And the War is Never Over
1. They are burning Joan. They are always burning Joan; there's always a pyre ready for a woman who believes, who acts, who commands— even at rest, you can see a flicker in their eyes like flames, ready to consume. They kindle between beats of your heart. 2. My sword has grown heavy. My sword has grown heavy, and I have at some point abandoned my shield— better moving faster than blocking, and I can take the hit, I can I always can. I've taken hits for all of us for years; haven't I? Gets blurry sometimes. I can't remember life before the sword. Or before the fire. I grow weary, shield-sister, shield-brother, and can find no rest. 3. They burn us. We kindle, we burn, we char, we howl— we do not know if we will rise phoenix-like until it's over. Every time, we enter blind. 4. Some essential part of me has burned, has passed through flames uncounted— self-preservation, perhaps, or sleep, or memory— calcified, crumbling in my fist. Chalk-bone-dust to spiral up my arms. This is my armor now. 5. I howl in my sleep, sometimes. I dream of fire. I am a burnt offering, a sacrifice, reviving, jolting back to the war— no rest. 6. My sword is my home. The pyre is my home. The war is my home, and the war is never over. I will end alone, with no one to count my scars. 7. Or we may yet prevail. We may prevail, and I may walk home, hundreds of miles home, to hearth and farm and people who knew me before the sword. I may grow out my hair and sleep beneath a tree and tell stories; and every story will end "and here I am, still singing."
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