Saint Joan to Queen Guinevere--Some Advice on Burning

”And if it so fall that there be no knight [to defend her] at that day, then must my queen
be burnt, and there she shall be ready to have her judgement.”

- Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur

Know, at the end, that even virginity would not
have saved you. Nor piousness, nor victory in battle.
To these men, frail in their stoicism, you mean nothing

beyond your symbolismyou are breasts and a belly
turned on the spit of their ritual. You have no body
but the bodies you build for them, your lungs a bellows

to forge their maybe-sons in your seeded dark. Make them
no apologies. Let trouble rise from your skin like sparks.
When we return, once and future sister, on a river of gold-

tongued flame, these men will be less than ashes.
Take your good eyes off of heaven. Look down
from the womb of the pyre, and laugh.

EMILY ROSE COLE is the author of Love & a Loaded Gun, a chapbook of persona poems in the voices of women. Her work has appeared in American Life in Poetry, Best New Poets 2018, and River Styx, among others. She is a PhD candidate at the University of Cincinnati.