My parents gave me the name of an angel
because I have a mission to accomplish.
I paint leaves that turn into flames
shreds of flesh
insects hiding behind a jungle of eyes
the devil’s face –
I talk to trees: they tell me stories
of nearby wars and gory lullabies.
I make my own colours:
ox blood from the butcher’s for red,
mud from the pond’s shore for ochre.
I steal turpentine from my employers
and the wax of church candles to fix pigments.
The Virgin Mary will forgive me this sin.
I sing hymns to her when I paint.
They call my work naïve or primitive
like the Douanier Rousseau’s
but I’m not a simpleton.
My art dealer says the texture
of my paintings is unravelled.
1 The painter Séraphine Louis, known as Séraphine de Senlis (1864-1942).
Julie Irigaray is a French Basque poet living in the UK. Her poems have appeared in Magma; Stand; Shearsman and Mslexia, among others. She was shortlisted for The White Review Poet’s Prize 2019, selected as one of the 50 Best New British and Irish Poets 2018 (Eyewear Publishing), and won second prize in the 2018 Winchester Writers’ Festival Poetry Competition. She is doing a PhD on Sylvia Plath and England at the University of Huddersfield.