Paulette Turcotte



my beloved is a field of grass,
a tree in Iran.
history scratched into a stone.

I was a vine,
I was a root.

the vine, the root, I bless.
I bless the muck,
the clay, your hands,
your lines, your blood,
your ink. the hidden marks,
the clock.

bending over me is my history,
beckoning covertly, gathering bones,
blocking my escape.

betrays me,
ambushes me,
keeps me from summoning other gods.

is my lightning rod,
my soul’s occupation,
collapses over me like a spent lover,
like an old dog humping a shoe.

in an extravagance of virtue,
my history upbraids me,
hangs me up with my sins pressed to my forehead

the cruel fates arrive, curious as old women.
welcome the shadows, the deserted lives of us all.
we die in dreams, but wake intact.
what is death?
your mortal wound?

choose your own end,
at the very least, come naked
come clean,
your wound is the national harvest.
your wound is the door.

I eat.
I sleep.
I talk to apparitions.
visions. listeners. the Virgin Mary.
these were the lost years, cold years.
one winter in Halifax. several in Ottawa.

I thought I had come to the North Pole.
I am in a prison in Iran,
what is democracy.
no eyes, no ears. certain death.
I am betrayed. this is genocide.
I cannot move.

there was a year of change, the calling,
the blood, the virgin Mary, again.
to the lost generations.
the tree that remembers.
I have carving tools.
I have clocks. Time.
I write letters.

there is no time.
I take deep, rough breaths.
I have trouble walking.
my teeth have come loose.
I struggle.
I speak.
I shake.
I am kept in a box.

I have eyes in the back of my head.
I see from many angles.
I am not blind, nor deaf.

death is an entity. I have memories of dreams.
the dissidents are in the streets at dawn
and chant their prayers from the roof tops all night.

tell them their dreams are their salvation.
tell them I have kept their stories,
gathering them like fragile eggs.

how is this day different?
my past is not the past.
I am hanging from the tree that remembers.
I write our names into the book of fire.

I am tempted.
the rope broke twice.
the book was red.
I desire you.
I am aroused,
awkwardly so.
my thoughts are cumbersome.
my position is unbearable.

my heart is bruised from what I know.

I am sentenced to death, I am ill-prepared.
the points of departure are thin and unthinkable,
I write to exist.
my death is a grandmother,
an unadorned deity.

the anatomy of a banished heart.
the anatomy of a heart.
the body remains. my heart, my will.
I bless the house, the garden,
I lie in green fields, in deep green moss,
at the roots of trees.

I exist, my heart,
my love, the tree of life
frames us. we cannot hide.

there are calamities,
there is the fire, heartbreak,
the game, the hereafter.
the here and now.
who am I? who sustains me?
what fire? what game?
I exist in the words that follow one another
into the future.
I have taken the name of the Lord in vain. I confess. I lied, I cheated. I killed.
I am five years old for God’s sake! I am confessing the sins of the future. I have no sins.
I receive absolution.

who could sustain us.
to the point of no return,
we are the people. the will.
the mishaps.
the fire.
by tomorrow’s account
we have already arrived.

where was I.
text forward, the oracle
we attempt to locate ourselves
in a field of vision.

the only sound is a knife
scraping away the swathe of prayers
we prayed, for all souls late to the feast.

is time a slit in the world,
an unbridled horse,
a river you cannot comprehend?
is time an invisible text
written into the earth
with a bone?

my love—yesterday
I was afraid,
someone is spinning the prayer wheel
too near to my head. we are standing
on hallowed ground.
I am hanging from a tree in Iran.

death is time refusing to pass,
I have loved life well.
death you are merciless.
you are made of stone.

blood flows out from the wound in my heart,
spilling onto the ground.
my position is unbearable.
I lie under the tree that remembers.

our surprised God leans over the horizon of the brave new weeping world.
tender is love in its first flush.

my beloved is a word,
is a garden, a forest,
a cup of pure water.

what do you know?
what do you see?
all are martyrs,
has anyone heard?
we sleep under the tree that remembers.



The Ecstasy of St. Teresa

I have been exposed,
my desire to hold you has hastened my demise,
a saint who has lost her way,
a scrap of the holy host flicked out of the chalice by mistake,
a dream leaking into the world.

(all night I wear sackcloth, paint my face with ashes
offer prayers to appease God)

from the moment I rise until I return to my bed,
I search for you in the territories of the heart.

my soul is a naked drunk
leaning way out into the world
just for one glimpse of your face.

I am liquefied sun,
a shameless moth
in its ungodly hour,

a burnt offering among the flowers.


who has seen this ordeal of mine?
I am alone here,
everyone has gone.

I could tell you the secrets of the world by now.
I am wearing them across my breast bone.
if you don’t believe me, place your hand here
and touch the rough ridges where the knife blade crippled me.

all manner of things, creatures, birds, gnats
and things that crawled up onto the shore while I slept,
poured into the crevices the knife made,
coagulating the blood and the surrounding scar tissue.

it’s winter. I take consolation
from the songs of the winter birds that just arrived here.
their consolation is for my ears alone.
everyone has gone.


Foymount 1987

Life does not damn me here
neither does it pardon,

days open with the winter sun from the east
and close with blizzards tight as shrouds,

somewhere in between,
my tight-lipped soul
bargains for its own rites of entry,

and the artist acquiesces
to the mountain God,
who rages like a lost ancestor
among the ruins,

and I flee from sleep
and some forbidden dream,

while inconsolable winds
hammer through openings

too small for entry.

Foymount continued 2008

I write letters to you and never send them,
while nightmares stake out my dreams,
and by day I ponder the state of the woodpile,
no one is about and the snow falls in heaps around the door,
(such serenity when pictured on postcards)

the bears have been asleep now for two months or more,
and the letters are just lines in the margins,

my thoughts fester, add new dimensions
measured by non-existent borders,
(winter and I have become one)
and painting is just a fiction,
the oils don’t warm up fast enough,
the pipes are frozen and I melt snow for water,
and head out to the woodpile on snow shoes,

survival is a monumental task
for exiles.

(from CHINATOWN) the Café

the café was jam-packed with creative types,
some holdovers from days when we were all politically motivated
and left-leaning,
the new poets, hunched over their laptops,
tap out their unspoiled verses arranged on a vertical screen—
a word here, a line there…

…though nowadays, we drink lattes with breakfast,
watch the damp streets through the café windows
considering our fates,
or study the stock markets in the daily newspaper,
like enthusiastic saints in search of a new Gothic print
in some New Age shop, hoping for redemption.

wisdom comes with age,
(no shouting and clapping please,)
now we want mercy,
forget justice.

we still have our daydreams
and theories that would bend a few ears,
uneasy arguments banking on consecrated grounds,
in some distant incarnation.

the streets still look the same.


© Paulette C. Turcotte 2009

Interview with Paulette Turcotte