They will ask what her burden was, this Arc of the Covenant you pressed to her shoulders like your Father pressing the vintage of his wrath, grinding stars down to wine, oh Michael. Long after she is dust bread of dead, and her ashes are cast out to the four corners of the universe, each black hole fed a bit of her blood, and you wonder, why am I, the Prince of Heaven, such a shit poet, and why can I not capture the elusiveness of my star girl, whose heart I shoved my burning fist into and twisted until she belonged to me?
Michael, you have had an eternity to practice your poetry, but you still soliloquize like the Devil, your prose is purple, and your madrigal cannot be captured by baby’s breath or widow’s sighs or a million angels dancing on the head of her cotillion school hairpin.
So foolish in love are angels, and the first time around, your girl died in fire, so perhaps you will be gentler this time. This is what you think when she is born, a quick one hour labor, to mundane parents, in a mundane neighborhood, but really it is the seat of the power of the world, bubbling with pagan magic you would like to snuff out in their heresy. You remember driving your burning sword through the hearts of the false gods, and your daughter, she will go astray from Christendom, will run away from High Church screaming, into the arms of the gods of the earth and waters, and her songs are heathen and miraculous in witchery.
This time, Joan is just misled, just plain Jane, plain Joan, blonde hair not pageboy but long, and as she is cradled in her crib, you play her angel songs in Hebrew on your guitar, Michael before me, Gabriel behind me, Raphael to my left, Uriel to my right, by the grace of God.
The first Joan you tested, this Joan you bathe in pleasure. Every girl is a Joan, a Maid of Orleans, and every woman is long-suffering for some cause or another. She is just a young girl, and so you cherish and spoil her, barely in the sixth grade, and though she mistakes your reprimands for hate, you love her dearly.
You feed this Joan silver pears and the flesh of a cormorant. The flesh of a dove. Your flesh. She doesn’t remember what magical bird in her mythology books bled for its young as it pecked its breast (was it the almighty albatross?), but as you are plucking your feathers and sauteeing your wings (they grow back, there is no shame in feeding your little martyr your providence) in a light white wine with a tad bit of olive oil and rosemary, she asks you, Michael, each time I eat you, am I becoming divine?
You will tell her she already is, more holy than even you, for the youth are this country America’s beating red white and blue heart. She eats the gristle and fat of your meat, and she becomes lit with holy fire.
I want to be President some day, she says at thirteen in civics class, and you stifle a laugh as you sit on her right shoulder, miniature, invisible. Hers is the path of magic and moonlight, of madness and mental wards and that holy bastion of academia, and she will mother your line, matriarch of your legacy, for you have not had children before, but the children of the Prince of Heaven are Messiahs, and in this Age of the Internet, of Germs, Guns, and Glory, the heathen, wicked masses are in desperate need of saviors. So much that they come from the womb of a witch, the breast of a black hearted nonbeliever. Her black heart is not her fault, Scapegoats are Eve and Yeshua and Mary Magdalene, Cain and Azazel and Lucifer, holy and unholy in turn, and you suffer too for the masses, carrying the weight of the prayers and despairs of saint and sinner alike.
Your teeth are not teeth but blades, your wings are revolving mysteries of scripture stitched together by the prayers of billions, pages upon page of white down shredded with syllables, and your skin is manna, no wait, it’s a metaphor, no wait, your body is the Lion of Judah, and you are musk and muscle and wicked, jagged claws. When she goes to her first high school dance, you are nothing of the fierce Beast of God, nothing of the Divine Prince of Life, no, you squeeze yourself into a mundane vessel, a Walker, the angels call us, those that take human form, and you lead Joan in a slow dance to some late 2000s croon, and you marvel at how much you hate pop music. All music is of the Lord, but then again, a billion of your believers think music is a sin, Mikhail, so there is that. Cat Stevens wrote the best music of the 20th century, but then he found Allah (blessed be your Father’s name), called himself Yusuf Islam, and fell into the silence of the radiant Deep.
Your Joan, she sings along to the saccharine bland pop number, about bubblegum kisses and lip gloss like stars, and it’s a soc hop, didn’t you know, Michael, so shuck off your shoes, she says. You have on sneakers, different from your usual leather sandals (you had a hard time upgrading your fashion over the millenia), so next on the high school DJ’s list is Build Me Up Buttercup, and you find yourself carrying Joan out of the sweaty gym and up into the mist of the Milky Way in your fractal speed of light arms, silly of being a young man, all might of the majestic multitudes and heart of bloody stars.
Where are we? she asks, timid but yet brave, and she is so tiny in your palm, microscopic, a womb and tomb, a vessel for the Lord, a vassal and lady knight who will slay with not sword as long ago in her first iteration, but this time with ink of a pen, her black blood like your book wings, and you are hair of flames and eyes of supernovas and mouth of molten lava, thousand armed, or is it million or billion or trillion or quadrillion armed – oh, you give up counting, what matter is endless infinity? – and she is dancing in your palm, like that song you like by Elton John, and she is laughing as quetzalcoatls and dragons swim the radiance of fantasy realms by, and boats of space pirates and corsairs or aliens skim the waters of space, and you say, This is the most remote place in the Multiverse, where the sea of space and time and chaos collude in channels and swells, where whales that span galaxies fall to form new life a million times over, and it is a place I have dreamed of taking you, Joan. You are fourteen, you are no longer a girl, and I am sick of waiting.
Your void mouth is burning. Your blade teeth are crying ichor. Your nostrils flare with plasma, and you lean down to kiss her, forcing yourself to her size, to hold her in your arms in human size whilst you are also holding the multiverse upon multiverses in your palms, and Joan meets your lips with a shy fluttering, but you want to taste her blood, so you bite her lip, and she is iron and decaying telomeres, but also the grit of matyrdom, the Kingdom of Christ, but you are Christ, so really you are tasting yourself. What is love but to see yourself reflected in a different iteration back through something so precious to you, she is your own limb? Joan is the Ark, the one to carry all life to the harbors of New Jerusalem after you have drunk your fill of Apocalyptic Fury, at least, that was your plan.
Kissing her, you think, maybe I can give Earth, give this backwater planet, another million years, and we can have a million children in between, for you have always wanted children, and we can have a million of her lives and high school dances and songs of silence and buttercups in between, and a million first kisses?
Michael, you keep putting off the inevitable, but you are a creature of passion, so you set the Doomsday Clock back once more, and Joan is none the wiser.
Burning her at the stake broke your heart, and you have been trying to make it up to her ever since.
You have heard that girls like flowers.
You will bring her some roses, you will create for her a new bloom that combines the color of dreams with the smell of blue, you will name her and curse her and scream regret as she dies.
She always dies, you never die, and you envy her.
For every millionth beginning, the Kali Yuga demands a new Golden Age, the Year of the Crow and White Buffalo Woman come calling, Ragnarok passes and Liefrahser and Lief summon Necessity, and fuck, she is speaking in tongues, trying to teach you cadence, rhythm, and metaphor, but you wrote psalms, and you planted gardens, and this teenage Joan is a fiery spit of rebellious rage, as all teenagers are, and now she is sixteen, and she is writing. Always writing. Bad poetry, good poetry, stories about her enemy, stories about her lover, but often, she mixes up the two.
You read her stories and offer no critique, only praise. The Devil is the Poet, the Angel is the Proofreader, and Heaven has no Edit button, for the Word is Law.
That’s a fancy way of saying she has a long way to go before she can lead the Crusade with her keyboard. A keyboard warrior. She only recently retired writing quizzes and fanfiction, and she adores vampires and fairies, and for however much you blatantly thrust Christendom in her face, she runs off to throw spears with Athena and parties underage at bars with Loki. Joan was always a girl of the fields, a shepherdess, and to be pagan is to be a backwater farmer, a country, nature-bound creature of passion, and was not Krishna Gopal? Krishna is much more your speed than Shiva, but Krishna has much more experience with girls than you, so you ask him over wine, my dear blue friend, what did you do with the women of the fields?
I had a thousand brides, my brother. All the cowherds were mine. You cannot own a woman, just like I Krishna, I Vishnu, do not own Lakshmi, cannot tame Radha, women are wild, she created you, did Joan not? A fiery peasant girl who dreamed of an angel of flame.
You swill your wine, but the taste is bitter at the thought you cannot own this girl, cannot claim her, so you spit it out onto the ground and brier roses grow from the soil of Purgatory.
I will have her, every inch of her will know my Love, my Life, and in the end, I will save her from herself. I have claimed her. She is God’s, and I am God, so she is Mine. Through her, I will save All.
Krishna laughs. You angels, always dealing in heaven and hellfire and ultimatums. Michael, can you ever take a night off? Perhaps watch Aishywarya Rai’s movies and learn the heart of a woman.
I am genderless, Krishna. I do not understand women. Angels have no conception of man or woman, only want, and I want Joan.
Krishna shrugs and his mouth is a swan. Then make love to her, woo her, write her poetry.
I am not a good poet, I created her to be the poetic one. That is my new campaign idea – the written word as conquest.
Writers always turn on their muses, Michael. Look at the Mahabharata. You think I intended for that mess and beauty? It happened organically, just as love does.
Have the rest of the wine, Krishna. I am preoccupied.
Michael flies to the Outer Rim. There are many Outer Rims. He is a million armed, a trillion armed, a quintillion – never mind. He writes infinite poems with his infinite arms, trying to capture his emotions for Joan.
They all turn up trite as shit.
He balls each flaming Hebrew poem into his infinite fists and tosses them into the Void.
I will have to think of something else.
Joan is eighteen, and it is moving day at college. Michael crams his body into a sophomore philosophy major and helps her move boxes of makeup. Why do girls have so much makeup? Michael never knows.
I love you, Joan, he says as they sit on her old dorm bed. She got a single room, no roommate, the better to concentrate on her vampire stories. She is still in the genre stage.
I know, I love you too, Joan says, taking Michael’s flesh but not flesh hand, for a Walker’s body is a metaphor.
He traces her jaw. He threads his fingers through her hair. He speaks her name in a million alien languages. He sings to her. He is good at singing. He sings Wide World by Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens is the surefire way to win her over. Her favorite movie is Harold and Maude, after all.
Come with me, he says, stepping out of his human body and into formlessness, into allegory, into nightmare and fallacy and a thousand broken promises and a body of tears.
Joan is frightened. Why are you sad?
Because you are a witch. Because you are my poem, but I cannot write poetry. Because I love you.
He scoops her up into his mouth and swallows her whole. Joan is etched in his heart, in his bloodstream, and he spits her back out wet blonde hair into the lap of the throne of God. It is his throne. God is Him, and Michael is Christ, and that is Heresy, but that is the Truth of Things. For he is the closest to God, after all, humans can fathom. And that tells a thousand tales.
I do not think that is how humans make love? Michael ponders.
No, that was a shamanic death rebirth cannibalism thing, Joan laughs, dancing in one, only one, of his palms, his infinite hands, but it is his favorite hand because she is in it. Be the albatross, dear Michael. Blood from the heart.
He stabs himself with his flaming sword, and his blood flows gold and she swims through it. She drinks the sea of him, and he enters her stomach, and then he swims through her blood, into her lungs, and she is choking on his feathers and gore. They dance as bones alone, then become skyscrapers in December in Manhattan, and suddenly they are a pair of wolves.
They mix and match, red and blue, cat and dog, X and O, cross and nail. They are still dancing when finally, she tires, and bares her sex, but really it is her heart, but really it is her seeds, and he seeks home in such a tiny abode, such a fraction of a molecule to one as mighty as him, and he eats her pomegranate with a tongue of silver, and he kisses and fucks and bleeds with her, but really they are on a pyre, alight, and the flames are ink, and Michael is trapped in her pen.
Sweet Joan, you will be the Daughter of Zion, the Watchtower, the Heavenly Kingdom, the Mother of All Nations and Matriarch of Israel. All because you are my poem.
He breathes the words into her brain.
She laughs. I am wild, and I am witch, and I am the quivering flame and rushing wind, and all I will be is your girl.
That leads to greater things. We have destiny, obligations, duty. Your Word is the Word of God, Joan.
Then you are my greatest work, Michael. God bless the day I created you.
Father bless the day I created you, sweet Joan.
The pyre of Michael incinerates Joan’s Ark. The Covenant’s birth water flood water breaks, and the world is drowned, but you would never know it, for all it causes is a single raindrop from that far off in the burgeoning hideaway of infinity, and a butterfly wing flaps, and thus girls are God, and God is just a girl.