This Magazine

Progressive politics, ideas & culture

May-June 2011

This45 Poetry: Lynn Crosbie on Three Poems by Paule Kelly-Rhéaume

Paule Kelly-Rhéaume

Introduction by Lynn Crosbie

Paule—a lovely soft-spoken young woman who will, in a surprisingly steely way, make sure you pronounce her name properly (“Powle”)—is a former student of mine, attending OCAD University. Dreamy-eyed and quiet, she made herself known to me by her presence, which is formidable; then, subsequently, by the written work she submitted. First, there were essays: meticulous, academically stringent endeavours, grappling with the great possibility: creative criticality. And vice versa: the poems she would later workshop in a different class were forged with analytical intelligence; with structural shrewdness; and filled with great, big ideas. If Kelly-Rhéaume were an image in her own poetry, she would be an opalescent cloud bursting with warm, hard rain. She would be an angel, riding a bus across the county, sharing her sandwich with the lonely boy beside her. A wolf, playing a cello. She made me cry in front of everyone, and this was a poem about a monkey!

Lynn Crosbie Then: This Magazine Editor at large and cultural columnist, mid-’90s. Now: Writer, Globe and Mail cultural critic. Instructor at OCAD University.

Three Poems by Paule Kelly-Rhéaume

Backseat Cigarette

Backseat cigarette wheeler
my extended fingers and pink nails drifting in and out
to my right
lipstick passed between us
shimmer in the dark
nothing but love and fire and cold cans of soda resting on our lap
we were flying into exhaust that night in the car
down the interstate
to the icy black town covered in sweat
and paper gel licked to the side
and raincoats and fire alarms head butts and what else.
Hippos in contrast to tripped out faces
who are we and who knows
when we are all standing like this
face to face
elbow to elbow
too many strangers’ bodies weaving in and out
looking for another
slipped away
they slip away don’t they
move from sight.

Last Night I Lay in Bed Thinking

Last night I lay in bed thinking, And what does the world smell like? Then I turned over onto my side, with great difficulty. Stacked pins were needling my stomach like a porcupine’s, raw and delicate skin at the same time. I couldn’t walk for the ache.

I pulled myself out of bed and shuffled my feet to the end of the hallway, peered up at the moon through the glass, she was triple.

I was bent over from the waist, not wanting to sit down on the floor, the unclean bathroom floor. But I did anyway, eventually, because who can stand there pulled into a half, looking at the flat tiles, wanting deeply to bend more, bend the head into the knees, crumble from the shoulders, lie face flat on the ceramic beige. I could have lain there, until morning came and a girl walked in, alarmed at seeing somebody on the ground, angel wings spread.

If ever I get the chance to do this all again, I will put my cheek on the floor first thing, to hear the cool water draining, to listen to your voice, faraway, uncle of sweet moon rivers.

High Octane

High octane, low octane. Midnight blue in between.

I guess they always say it’s going to end this way. The taste of melting salt.

I guess this is the way it comes together, shapeless.

I wonder about those lily-white shoes, the ones set near the doorway, shining bright.

I wonder about escalating walls curbed inward, and what of dusk travelling over them and never escaping the darkness.

I think of these melon-bites already inhaled and their quick flash venom crawling between my bones, infecting the sinews of my pounding heart.

I remember the many faces I have come to know, and how dark their eyes are, or the smell of their skin: bright orange fire, bamboo milk with dust. All of you traitors.

I think less of me and more of the siphoned blood mixed with mercury running down over my eyelids. There is only a face left. The rest is nothing. The face stays, stagnates the mind. The face I could swallow inward, dissolve. Lost lost lost, my vain companion, voyager until death, trooper, patriot, I have won you over but now we must part.

All this and less of you.

Paule Kelly-Rhéaume is 22 and lives in Montreal and Toronto, alternating between home and OCAD. She is studying video art and filmmaking. She also writes at night.
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