Ice Skating with Joan of Arc

“And I encourage my students. I say:
‘You know, you could go ice skating with Joan of Arc.’”
-Billy Collins

If you’ve decided to skate with a saint
Then you should surely go with Joan of Arc.

I don’t say this because The Maiden dons
The bright tiaras, sequin-studded suits,
And skin-toned fishnets of the dancers found
In flashy places like the Ice Capades,

The Fabulous Ice Capades, coming soon
To your hometown. Tickets are on sale now.

No, Joan prefers men’s clothes, sackcloth sometimes,
Or body armor and a comely horse,
As life and strife and circumstance require.

And don’t go skating with Saint Joan because
You think she’ll sail along all smiles and grace,
A Rockette of the ice, her ordered dance
The language of joyful innocence
Leavened with the authority of sex.
No, no. That’s not our Joan of Arc, it’s not.

Our Virgin Warrior of God attacks
The ice with the fierce appetite of wolves.
One-hundred wolves. Or ninety, anyway.
I do not mean to overstate my claim.

No, here’s why you should skate with Joan of Arc:
She’s so much better than the other saints.

And by a lot.

St. Francis is the patron of the poor,
But on the ice his dreams distract his thoughts.
The frocked unguided missile flies around
And knocks the frail and aged off their feet.

Augustine understands how skating works,
But when he skates he labors on his past;
His strides are burdened with the weight of guilt;
His stilted figure pecks around the rink.

And poor St. Lucy. Never skate with her.
She skates with her eyes borne upon a dish–
A challenge even for the blessed of God.
The sight of it makes skaters flee the ice.

No, if you would go skating, Joan’s the one;
Her fierce and reckless heart is what you need
If you would spend your life atop thin blades
That slide along a sheen of stiffened glass.
As she did, always. And as we do, too.

Recent Posts