St Joan of Now Act IV

St Joan Of Now
A play in five acts by Mike Lesser

Rouen Market square.
 Joan Giles and a crowd come for the burning. Soldiers. Priests.


Joan was nineteen when she was murdered. The average age of American military fatalities in Vietnam was also nineteen. War is a widespread form of child abuse. In war the old revenge themselves on the young for the energy, hopefulness and beauty which time stolen from them.


Of course there must be more to it than that. For instance, the Burgundians reputedly sold Joan to the English for 10,000 gold francs. At that time this was a Prince’s ransom. Joan was simultaneously the most expensive agricultural labourer and the most expensive fire-wood that the world would ever see. Such is the way of nations; we know it well. Sadly we are not so familiar with the logic of the miracle.

There is nothing special about the rise of Joan, her victories, her end and her subsequent reputation, she is just an ordinary everyday miracle. If it were not the miracle, the flowers of the dream, the world would long ago have imploded under the pressure of humanities self-hatred.

Newsperson A guard, moved to pity ties a microphone to a pole, holds it through the smoke and flame.

Joan When we come …

When we come to our senses,

This chaos

That we come to,

This multi-coloured blizzard,

This turbulence of sensation,

Is the Holy Ghost:

Both shared

Yet unique in everyone.

I am

At the hinge point,

Nothing moves.

Only the air moves

And the shadows of the brown weeds

Swept round their stalks

And round the soldier’s boots.

Only the sound of the wind,

The applause of ascending doves

And chickens laughing.

At the hinge point

The details are irrelevant.

I remember once

Holding a broken shard of crystal to my eye,

Fascinated by the power

Of the faceted lens

To sift the fear

From the miraculous

Rainbow-fringed world

It revealed.

Feeling the tugging

Of the invisible

Stitches holding me in the shape of my life

I realised that I was

A version of myself,

A single figure from

A library of images,

Any one of which would,

With the slightest effort of will,

Become real.

I understood that,


When I put the crystal down,

This perfect world

Would vanish

But would not cease to exist.

I saw that within my mind anything could be known.

Ran to tell.


Remembering only

That there was something about the world,

Something personal,

Which gives it completeness.

How is it possible

To remember forgetting

So clearly?

Gilles In the wind,

In the square,

At the hinge,

The first ordinary person

In the world

Is burning.

This is the beginning of modern time.

A time with its own appetites,


Colours, supporters, ambitions,

Triumphs and humiliations;

Its own history.

Modern time is not neutral:

It has a side of its own.

This is the time that conquered space,

Realised illusion,

And marketed imagination

As an infinite source of unspoilt dimensions.

This is a time that connects what it distances

A time which has a geometry of its own.

From now on things will talk louder than words.

Not just the gun’s thunder but a flood of

Made mouths will dumb

Merely human tongues in the frantic roar

Of their impoverishing hymns.

Women Chorus In our daze,

Men Chorus In our daze,

Women Chorus In a railway train,

Men Chorus A car,

Women Chorus Aeroplane or cart,

Men Chorus On a bridge,

Women Chorus On foot,

Newsperson Or in Rouen Market Square,

In the place of public burning,

Gilles The groping heart of fear and cruelty

Licks with blind tongues

At a blazing shadow


By the shadow of a chain.

Chorus At noon in the hot sun

In the square

The side of the cathedral

Rises up incandescent.

From their thrones

The stone prophets cry —

Prophets We were alive before we died.

1st Prophet We sailed time’s skin.

2nd Prophet We ploughed our shallow furrow

1st Prophet Across the bone and muscle

3rd Prophet Of a sea which knows more of

Consequence’s architecture

2nd Prophet Than we dared suspect.

1st Prophet A sea which knows more of us

Than we dare know

Prophets (together) Of ourselves.

1st Prophet At our best …

2nd Prophet At our best,

3rd Prophet Transparent,

Prophets Redeemed,

1st Prophet Perfectly what we were

2nd Prophet Our hearts still lacked teeth

3rd Prophet To gnaw into the sinews of time

1st Prophet Deeper than our shallow keel’s

Casual furrow.

2nd Prophet We have become

Prophets (successively, in canon)

Whispers, whispers, whispers,

1st Prophet In the hot limestone cliff.

2nd Prophet Our truth


1st Prophet Announcing,

1st & 2nd Prophets Announcing,

Prophets (together) Announcing …


Chorus (to JOAN) Your deology’s wrong

Newsperson Of course, you’re right —

You’re right except you’ve got the problem inside out,

Or back to front, or (hesitates) inside out.

Whichever way,

But wrong.

You’re right, of course, you’re right;

It’s not surprising

Things have got a little mixed up in your mind.

What these trained eyes can see

Is that we have a problem with our ideology.

Joan Here

At the hinge

Truth is local,


Miracle beats truth.

I remember

The completely perfectly synchronised

All togetherness

Of the world’s chain shroud.

The strength and the perfect terror

Of the urgent lies

That bind us.

The loss and pain in the making

Of the illusion

Of strength and weakness,

Gilles And the loss and pain in the breaking of it.

Joan I am glad

Joan & Gilles That none of my different parts

Know how to feel the same.

Joan The idea of the knower and the being known

Travelling opposite directions

Is neither straightforward nor pretty.

It makes, of life, a mirror maze.

Easy to walk into.


The mirrors make twins

And the twins make twins.

It gets crowded.

You get lonely.


Bouncing off the plate glass,

Trying to learn to recognise reflections.

Newsperson Sounds like a small sacrifice for progress

Women Chorus Which makes everything better

And better,

Men Chorus Which improves the future

Gilles So nothing can stand against progress?

Newsperson Usually we improve things we already have

But for the future —

Chorus For the future

Newsperson    For the future

We are willing to make an exception.

For the future

We are prepared to sacrifice everything.

All Did.

Gilles They are waiting for you.

Joan. Yes, I think so.

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