Aunt Joan, Saint Joan?
What did you see in that open field that made you fight?
My family claims a root in you, do I not
see saints, hear visions at twelve,
chase dragons at fifteen? What do I demand
from a name, the Fleur-de-Lys, French crown emblem –
Do I trace my line to you, to your brothers who dragged
the Lys from France, to Protestant England, dispersed
to Canada, India, South Africa, New Zealand
hauling the motto Spero – I hope. What should I
make of martyrs and saints; women who wage
war in men's armor burned at the stake, our family
history of queering gender, religion, ethnicity.
It prickles my skin to imagine
people praying to you as a saint, my ancient aunt,
church trials, the clergy court grilling you –
How odd inheritance. Your female relatives retained
your family's name. Will me
your faith in the open field, your fearlessness under fire.
LynleyShimat Lys who is on the poetry track of the Queens College MFA in Creative Writing and Literary Translation, comes from Berkeley, California, and returns to New York after five years in the Middle East studying and working in Jerusalem. Lynley has a B.A. in Comparative Literature (Hebrew, Russian, English) from UC Berkeley and an MA in Middle Eastern Studies (Palestinian Poetry) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Lynley's current interests include contemporary African-American women poets, intersections between Israeli and Palestinian poems of place, and plays in verse.
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