Dominique Bernier-Cormier (he/him) is a Québécois/Acadian poet writing in both French and English. His first book, Correspondent, was published by Goose Lane Editions in 2018 and was longlisted for the Raymond Souster Award. He is at work on a second book of poetry.
“According to family lore, if my ancestor hadn’t escaped the Deportation of the Acadians by sneaking out of his jail cell dressed as a woman, we’d be living in Louisiana. In May, 2019, my father and I spent two weeks travelling across that state, exploring this parallel Cajun reality.
‘Fatherland’ is based on an artwork I encountered there, Young Life (1994) by Bo Bartlett. Everything in the painting seemed so confident to me, so still and permanent and elemental. I felt a strong contrast between this defiant — borderline arrogant — stillness and the speed at which Louisiana landscapes and lifestyles are changing due to rising sea-levels. The museum label mentioned that Barnett had hidden a dandelion seed and deer fur in the paint. That painter, that painting, and everyone in it seemed to have control over nature, as material and space, and I wondered how that might be changing.”
Clean fall sky, a deer
strapped to the roof of the seafoam
pick-up. Spotless white T, polaroid
wind in her dark hair, her palm on his
stomach, leaning and still. Riffle on hip,
21 years old: chrome, sunlight, dirt.
The shadows so confident in their shadow-
ness. Young tree stumps
and in the corner a kid in a red sweater
rehearsing the future with his face,
shutting it. The label tells me
the artist mixed deer fur into the paint,
hid a dandelion seed and an unnamed
insect under the canvas, and what am I
supposed to think? Will it feel poetic too
when the sea hides small parts of us
under its skin? Pick-up, riffle, kid.
I know how you want this to end:
the seed under the painting blooming,
green shoot piercing the hunter’s chest,
symbolic revenge, sweet wreck.
I’m sorry. Driving to the museum,
we passed a man in a field going over
fresh tree stumps with a white
brush. The best way to stop a thing
from growing, he told us, is to paint it.