Let her speak, the priest said.
A rabbi was called for fear that her words were old testimony,
then an Imam and Bhikkhuni, to hedge all bets,
and together in grace, they exhorted, Let the girl speak! 

A crowd gathered and took up the refrain,
What do we want? To hear. When do we want it? Now!
And as the throng grew, hearsay of bread
and ecstasy circulated, the youthful crowd rejoiced.

Denied by the horde, the girl’s mother staggered
onto the makeshift stage, and into the microphone,
denied all charges, bringing the stony mob to its feet,
fists in the air, shouting in unison: Truth to power! 

The girl faltered, standing apart, naked and shivering,
resigned to friendless sorrow. She belonged to no one.
Her tongue was not their tongue. Why make such a fuss
over her?

She had turned in a brilliant essay in Religion 201,
a denial not of God, but of humans, and was accused
by her professor of heresy. She accepted the charge
and the sentence. Her neck strained to embrace the noose.


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