the poetry that matters

Paulette C Turcotte

Paulette C Turcotte has been involved with the arts community for more than 40 years as a painter and writer. In 1985, she cofounded a small publishing press, Split Quotation with Jorge Etcheverry in Ottawa.

Paulette’s work has appeared in a variety of Canadian magazines and periodicals such as Quarry, Anthos, Vox Feminarum, Room of One’s Own, Synchronicity, Waves and a Tree Anthology edited by Heather Ferguson, Ottawa, including her book of experimental prose poetry, The Book of Marecha. She has been assistant editor of Vox Feminarum and has been one of the organizers of the Pacific Festival of the Book since its inception. Paulette is the featured poet in the winter edition of The Tower Journal, 2009/10. Her long poem, The Mysterium of Godde will appear in Omega 8 in 2010.

Paulette has done numerous readings over the years including Salmon Arm Gallery, Tree and Orion in Ottawa and VAC and others in Victoria. In 2005-06, Paulette was “House Poet” for Serious Coffee House weekly open stage with James Kasper MC, Cadboro Bay Rd.

Paulette lives on Vancouver Island where she writes, paints, teaches dreamwork and spends time by the ocean.

 “The dead have become ever more distinct forms as the Voices of the Unanswered, Unresolved, and Unredeemed… It was then that I ceased to belong to myself alone, ceased to have the right to do so. From then on my life belonged to the generality.” C.G. Jung

“The wound connects me to the suffering of innocents everywhere. The personal is archetypal.”  Shaun McNiff

In the feminine way of knowing, women are giving shape to things, speaking and telling one another of invisible worlds. Sometimes borderland dwellers, we move back and forth between worlds and time, speaking of the existence of another stratum, the secret enclosures where unfolding life is protected, dreamlike worlds where we live and prophecy and tend life’s mysteries.
Paulette Claire Turcotte

fragments from

Part 1
I. You.
we carry our secrets with us
wherever we walk.
the dead under our feet
claim us         
for their own rites
of safe passage.
for each day we live
there are a thousand days of mourning
for the dead.

we are shell shocked in the land of conflict,
children scream,
their mothers’ milk has gone sour.
their bones are brittle,
they cannot stand.

will we crouch this way forever?

these children must dance.
the flames looked like men dancing.
who made the fire? who danced?
where are the children?

these children must dance.

3. dream
(so new we were, like young gods,
our wings working the coastal wind
wonderful is my love
wonderful is my love
wonderful is my love)

he says, I am afraid of your beauty.
I say, I am afraid of death.
but the heart goes on beating
year after year.
my darling, why wait any longer?
our boat has filled up with water.

I am dying.
I step across,
a cross,
in a fraction of a pause,
the question is
did we exist
before time was?

(sound of sighing
love as an emanation)

love is audible.
she found him weeping in the garden.

(you love me.
I am a figment of your imagination.
we have no more words to feed each other.
you love me.)

my heart dropped like a stone
another face appeared
what he had shaped was a kind of departure. 
and it took me in the heart.
what do you want?
(I spoke to the face that had appeared.)
you said you would never leave me.
I am adrift now,
in this framework of your heart.

I am sick in the country of Babel.

my death, where is the event? I heard it was a long way off.
it isn’t, he said, it’s just around the corner.
take a left at the top of the hill,
and keep on going.

I write.
words appear, disappear.

I am forsaken in the country of Babel,
my family of flight, of fight, of light
death stalks me,
comes to my door,
the door.
who calls?

I am sick,
my bowels are blocked,
there is no ink in my pen.

there is nothing left of that woman
I used to be,
but a night full of unrelinquished dreams
and a handful of bones.

indulge yourself, feast on my stories,
they are like bread,
you said you wanted to assist the broken.

when time was evoked, I could not dream,
there was nothing to back me up,
no one to hold me in arms.
I hid.

7b. to dream…
I was lifted up
into the opaque air.
why are you weeping?

my fractured soul remembers
each cell breathing
its own fate,
I see faces,
dreams, vague and translucent.

I weep for the death of every cell.

what did you dream last night?
it was all there.

words words

now voices
and a bedlam of sounds,
my dreams walking around on the outside,
mingling with the real events. imagine.

imagine everything under the sun,
the whole world
laying claim to you
all in a moment,
imagine each cell in your body
uttering words,

what it sees,
what it intends,
what it wants in the world,
how it lives,
how it dies,

all speak at once,
life is stirred behind life,
sound behind sound,

a lexicon of forbidden words
steals into the world

and from the voices,
there is no rest.
I was eclipsed, shattered, broken.

I grieve for the dead
who are between breaths.

Baby is restless tonight.
Baby is inconsolable.
Baby keeps me awake all night.
I search for her in the corridors,
I think I hear her tapping on the walls.

it is wise to take into account
the origins of shadows.

love leads to crucifixion,
the heart beats to the same rhythm as the universe,
death and birth are one.
it’s not too late. forgive our sins of omission,

the saints have been stripped naked today.
is God still weeping in the garden?

I take quick sharp breaths
as I name the secrets of my living.
my throat is parched.
I speak in whispers.

9. (death speak 2)
I am looking for the rest of my life
on the back of the photograph.
a chorus of faulty language coils on my tongue.
in a world gone flat,
what is the utility of words?

in any case, I have forgotten how to speak.
the root of the family tree is upended
there is a higher love beneath these roots.

time moves backwards,
ties are broken,
dreams unlived,
babies torn from my womb
as if they had never lived.
it is the day before.
you ask, how will it end?
but it had only just begun!

watch out.
we have marks
where the bear’s claw
grazed our necks.

another day has arrived
life is a deeper shade of red
does that stir you?
awaken some tender seed?
or is it too late for that?

your love is cruel and beautiful,
in its familiarity with death.

we were taken,
we will assemble with everyone
in the city,
I was there after the storm.
is it a game?
is it for merit?
is it the shades?
the edge of the world?
why not go now?

a woman stares wide-eyed
haunted, afraid
gestures, tries to speak,
tries to write words on paper
taps them out in Morse code
on her forearm.

it is too dangerous for words, she says.

Baby has gone silent.
I do not breathe.
I am being in death.

I took my manuscripts to the altar
at night while you slept,

there is water everywhere,
I look through the crack in the world
and see the dead who have gathered.

I burn the manuscripts.

Hic est enim corpus meum.

I offer them up to the world
I mark my forehead with ash.

foreign words inhabit my mouth,
my tongue,
my throat, my larynx
and before that—which mind?
I am disowned.
I am owned,
I am the one hearing the scattering of words,
the scat of words, scat, scatology, scatological, scatter, eschatology, scavenged.
I cannot move,
Oh Mother, Oh Father.

we walk here, trailing diamonds.

feel them on your tongue,
say after me,
I am the word, the song, the story,
I speak.

I am the speak. say it loudly.

I walk in light,
my dreams walk,

it is the beginning of new language.

I take what is given,
I breathe life into everything.

I say, I write in the pure-white snow.
so be it,
write anywhere you want.

words keep pouring out.
the speaker is me.
I say,
I am the resurrection,
I am my mother’s city,
I am the river running through it.

Part 2.

I hear voices,
I have conversations with God,
I stumble.
I weep.
where is my walking stick?

I can’t see
I can’t walk
I can’t breathe

it is late.
what is the day?
what is the hour?
what is this place?

I want to live and breathe,
what sins? what lies?
where is my salvation?

I watch my dreams for signs of change.
there is a blind woman with a sacred bird on her head.

she walks in slow motion,
she tends to the dreams,
one side of her face is emerald green.
she sees everything.
I gave birth to her on canvas,
I grew wings,

 a face.

it happened this way,
I swear,
in a profusion of sound,
a woman has a dream
clear and full of promise.

the mothership braces for the hit.

the shoals, the sparkling water, I have never been stronger.
dear who? where shall I begin? the world? this is my story.

I welcome you.
I slip beneath the skin of the earth.

my beloved is the dark
and the dark says
open me, peel me, like ripe fruit,
like a grape,
said, I am your life, your wine,
sing me, drink me, get drunk on me.

sing me to the dying.

(the darkness is my cloak
is my playground,
is my home,
my mother,
my paradise.)
my lover.

who is singing that song you just heard?
this is the music of my death.

the light still hurts my eyes.

how the old women found the dark

someone has stolen the shadows
we scream in dread across an abyss,
locking out the night, the stars,
locking out sleep,
locking out death.

the shadows have hidden inside everything.
behind that mountain,
underneath that rotting log,
between the covers of a closed book.

the darkness lies in the rich soil beneath the skin of the earth.
nestles in the cave of my heart.

who has put out the fire in our eyes?
whoever it is, they have no business here.

old women keen and mourn.
tie their hair in braids.
they walk backwards through the town
carrying candles.
if they walk far enough they will arrive
at the moments before dawn.

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