5.1: beyond this place there be dragons | Paulette Claire Turcotte — new poetry & hybrid, mixed media art
our lady of sorrows has entered the building. (excerpt)
after love the terrible divide. today I am dancing in a whirlwind. I have blood under my fingernails. dance, lady, dance. grief is blind. dance naked, dance long.
madly the idols break free from their prison and drop into the world.
I fell against the glass, the mirror, the light, the moon, the window, the kiss. I washed his face with my tears.
we break like tinder I said. there are no glass idols. where I come from glass shatters on contact.
the picket fence was her undoing. she never recovered. her remains are/were impaled like jesus coyote on the cross. we were hotwired for an uprising.
I frequented those ruins by day, by night I clung to my prayers, reciting rosaries against the nightmares that appeared more and more frequently.
those days I wrote stories about madness that had taken us all, and the voices that plagued me by night and by day, forgotten stories that I buried deep in the recesses of my mind, calling the God to save me and promising anything in return. my life. If you want my life—around that time I was juggling ideas and words to encompass a state of living hell. I stopped around that time I began to paint faces that came to me automatically from a few marks on the canvas to fully found persons who were my advocates to the underworld when I had begun to understand through my dreams. my companions were the endless hordes encased in dust, wandering in and out of the wreckage. and my dreams came in greys and blacks, charred around the edges fraying testimonials to an obsolescent God. let bygones be what they are.
I wait. beguiled as I am by the impenetrable light of your eyes, the consolation of the infinite dream dark as it is, in this garden of mutilated flowers.
dream ghosts lingered in the room
after I awoke, like lovers after a storm,
an intimate absence folds me into your reverie,
I conjured you up.
I hold no grudges.
the ocean doesn’t belong to anyone.
wake me broken wake me holy
broken forms of anarchy.
broken and besieged.
where is the mercy in that.
sing to the common man.
my father’s cross.
death is a cross.
an unholy measure.
we always turned left.
un-seen. un-sought. un-redeemed.
the howling wind invented language.
the cello is a lonely instrument.
gone. worlds in/formation. a prayer wall.
my painted faces grew wild and furious,
the ragman’s daughter singing the white-skin blues.
IN TIME OF PLAGUES (excerpt)
when we were young, deathless and wild, held our secrets close
to the bone, you nailed me to the wall with your promises,
what is a revolution, you cried, what is a war that I cannot fight?
your trembling Joan of Arc tongue bonded to the fire,
an oracle of the end times,
an apocalyptic dawn still waiting for a resurrection,
and now the plague dogs are gnawing at our bones.
we make our pact with life.
I dedicate this to my morning ghosts.
at some point we’ll all be legends, she says.
he says, mother I am still weeping.
when the night dropped into my arms,
when the streets teemed with silence,
when the howling dogs fractured my story,
when the backwards exterminators unlisted history,
forging lies into stone, the beak doctors
were stitching the plague into the tapestry of the world.
the howling dogs of pestilence have settled for a bone.
and I was up all night, reading glyphs by starlight,
holding onto the stars with both hands.
isn’t it what comes back to you when you put your hands together
and scream into them, I said?
I never liked the finale, a sort of double-cross, she said,
your unfinished stories that stretch for miles but never end,
your endless tales of war and mayhem,
I am tired of your meanderings of poverty, she said,
dragging me through the mud and the tears of crimes past,
one foot into eternity and the other clinging to your bit of wreckage,
I’m tired of it all, and she wrote letters to the Prime Minister
and never mailed them. I knew a lady once, who wrote letters to the dead.
the sea is dark and ominous, but the weather report says sun,
I’m not a fan of sun I’d rather have rain and storms,
something to pit my strength against, I fade and die
in the sun and its garish noon time vulgarity. a tasteless show and tell,
too bright, too loud, and dazzles with a false bravado.
she told me the sun was on the horizon and I was glad to escape,
the letters were an ecological disaster, she added,
words and words that reeked of anarchy,
if you eat your own words, you’ll go blind, I said.
I kept painting hazardous pictures of the plague gods
and the menace of fascists slogans and guns, down with fascists,
she wrote in the margins in black ink, and poured holy water over them,
her way of counting the dead, creating prayer walls for their souls to pass through.
the body holds onto its stubborn dreams
wrapped in fire, a living place that hell forgot,
and she was alarmed at the sound of her own voice
chanting spells and shouting obscenities while the plague gods
watched our heroics from above, waiting for their chance to ride again,
like the barbarian brought to life in some antediluvian reincarnation recovery,
the Holy Ghost is a water bird. what’s in a name, anyway?
some of us busied ourselves in a sea of infinite questions,
while the grief birds carried our prayers to heaven, forgave our vulgarities.
the shadows were longest just before sundown
and then the morning ghosts prepare for another dawn.
it won’t end until the beak doctors finish stitching the plague into the history of the world,
and I am alone with my own mad kind.
I remember the kisses of your mouth like it was yesterday.
I have nothing, I have nothing, I have nothing, I have nothing, a kind of defection from love, divine apostacy, I am a country divided, the poor root gone missing.
cut from the fold.
cut from the fold. I hone my skills. I am from elsewhere. not here.
what blasphemy rules hells? I run from you, hide,
find solace in the beloved surround.
my solitude is a god, a mother, a lover, a sphinx, a partial eclipse, a circus of divine clowns,
a memory board. a swamp dreaming its own cathedral of monkeys,
I want life, to pull words out of the shadows, corners of obscure dreams,
I want life, to speak in colours and hues as words slip over my tongue and into the world.
I want the dawn’s first breath, to stand with the cowl still holding the flesh away from the light, the flash of divine intervention, a decree. the first breath.
awakening or dying? the speak.
who defines intention, longing, the shape and sounds of love? want? desire? who decides? I’m cold. the desert reeks of stories.
I have nothing, except these few bruised lines.
I am painting in the faces of the children who will inhabit the earth, we can’t get enough of them, she says. if I die, I want you to take good care of every one of them.
all new poetry ©2022
hybrid, mixed media art:
My poetry is born out of my love affair with words and my passion for charged play and exploration of the hidden, the mystery at work beneath our consciousness. My poetry has grown out of a sense of social outrage, an immense love of this creature world, wild nature, and out of my own journey through madness and grace. It has grown out of a precious relationship with love and death and hope. If my work has a calling, it is to give form and character to the unseen and unheard, the shadows, the untouchables, the unredeemed–and to stretch the boundaries between madness and sanity as well as between the banal and the mystical in an attempt to restore our quaking humanity.
I am presently interested in producing works to acknowledge the potential of language to access deeper states of mind, to reframe experience, to explore the boundaries between genres and poetic form–while holding to the creative poetic species as a measure and gauge.
links to more poetry, chapbook and full-length book of poetry (that can be purchased), a review of What the Dead Want by Krysia Jopek, Paulette Claire Turcotte’s Avant-Garde ZINE, and Facebook group
Paulette Claire Turcotte is a Canadian author, visionary, and outsider poet and artist. Her work has been published in numerous presses in print and online. She is editor of Banned Poetry, cdris/ARTS Press, co-founder of Split Quotation Press, a founding member of the Pacific Festival of the Book, Curator of the ZINE Alternative & Modern Arts and Review and AVANT-GARDE poetry ZINE. She has been recipient of the ANTHOS Poetry prize and a Canada Council grant for short story writing. As well as two non-fiction books, she has published three chapbooks of poetry with her visual art, a full-length collection of poems, What the Dead Want (Ekstasis Editions, 2019) and two poetry chapbooks, The Silence in the Centre of Bone (SAMARHANOR Press Editions, 2019) and SAID OR said (Trainwreck Press, 2020). She has a forthcoming memoir as well as a new poetry collection, Incantations and Holy Spells (poems for apocalyptic times).
She utilizes mixed media, paint, charcoal, ink, and constant experimentation with images in her visual art to build layers and text in paintings, sketches, sculpture, multi-media prints, and mixed-media art. She’s influenced by her connections to the natural world, her love of wild nature, ancestral connections in dreams, and by many years of Jungian studies and analysis. She works instinctually, honouring the flow of material from the unconscious and the images that emerge.
She is presently exploring the dynamic in word and image in various forms from digital works and prints, to working with mixed media in fabric and collage. Her latest hybrid artworks and prints are the result of years of combining techniques and experiments in painting and drawing.165