National Poetry Month Day 2: Denise Duhamel’s Noah and Joan

For day two of National Poetry Month, I’d like to share a poem by Denise Duhamel. I first read Duhamel’s Two and Two and Kinky during my first year of college. I took a Contemporary American Poetry course that I was probably quite ill-prepared for. While it was a struggle, I really enjoyed it, and found quite a few poets that I still love to this day.

Kinky is probably my favorite of Duhamel’s books. It’s a perfect mix of quirky and philosophical, but the poems don’t stand alone quite as well as some of her other works. The poem “Noah and Joan” is the first in her book Two and Two, which I also love. I encourage people to read both. I’m hoping to purchase Duhamel’s most recent book, Kaching, someday soon so that I can get caught up on her work.

Noah and Joan

It’s not that I’m proud of the fact
that twenty percent of Americans believe
that Noah (of Noah’s Ark) was married
to Joan of Arc. It’s true. I’ll admit it—
Americans are pretty dumb and forgetful
when it comes to history. And they’re notorious
for interpreting the Bible to suit themselves.
You don’t have to tell me we can’t spell anymore—
Ark or Arc, it’s all the same to us.

But think about it, just a second, timeline aside,
it’s not such an awful mistake. The real Noah’s missus
was never even given a name. She was sort of milquetoasty,
a shadowy figure lugging sacks of oats up a plank.
I mean, Joan could have helped Noah
build that ark
in her sensible slacks and hiking boots. She was good with swords
and, presumably, power tools. I think Noah and Joan
might have been a good match, visionaries
once mistaken for flood-obsessed and heretic.

Never mind France wasn’t France yet—
all the continents probably blended together,
one big mush. Those Bible days would have been
good for Joan, those early times when premonitions
were common, when animals popped up
out of nowhere, when people were getting cured
left and right. Instead of battles and prisons
and iron cages, Joan could have cruised
the Mediterranean, wherever the flood waters took that ark.

And Noah would have felt more like Dr. Doolittle,
a supportive Joan saying, “Let’s not waste any time!
Hand over those boat blueprints, honey!”
All that sawing and hammering would have helped
calm her nightmares of mean kings and crowns,
a nasty futuristic place called England.
She’d convince Noah to become vegetarian.
She’d live to be much older than 19, those parakeets
and antelope leaping about her like children.


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