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Celeste Augé – When I grow up

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing May 2021

Celeste Augé is the author of Skip Diving (Salmon Poetry, 2014), The Essential Guide to Flight (Salmon Poetry, 2009) and the collection of short stories Fireproof and Other Stories (Doire Press, 2012). Her new collection of poetry, I Imagine Myself, will be published later in 2021. World Literature Today wrote that ‘In her debut collection of short fiction, Augé creates poignant and accurate outlines of women and their places in the world’, and their review of Skip Diving claimed: ‘Celeste Augé’s poems are commendable for their care, deep thought, and intellectual ambition’. Her writing has been widely published in literary journals and she has given readings at festivals, libraries and pubs, as well as chairing various literary events. She lives in Connemara, in the West of Ireland.


When I Grow Up

When I grow up I want to be a cat lady.
I want to take care of the neighbourhood cats,
slink along with them, anticipate their moods,
then ignore them. We’ll thrive on sardines and toast.

I want to rescue dozens of cats,
care for them, have them perch on my shoulder
while I’m trying to cook, or weigh down my keyboard
as I type. I want to talk to cats — variously

named Wollstonecraft and Pankhurst and Steinem.
Judge all you want, but I’d rather be eccentric.
Dye their fur electric pink. Actually, when I grow up,
never mind cat lady, I want to be a cat.

I want to fall into that deep slumber and wake up,
feline stretch, lift my paws out straight, one by one,
slowly, indifferent. Alone as I please,
hunting for warmth or sport or food.

I will no longer care who reads my next book,
I will sway through every room doing exactly
what every cat is supposed to do,
in exactly the way every cat does.

Even with my superior balance I will not gloat.
I will hunt dreams at midnight,
I will survive in the wilds of my own imagination.
I’m a cat now and there is no hurry.


Growth Spurt

My teenage son is outgrowing his own body,
muscles stretched beyond capacity —
he pops his meniscus
from the safety cup of his knee
swinging his legs out of bed.
Outgrowing me, outgrowing safety.
Outgrowing my illusion
that I could ever keep him safe.
Bursting us out of my handmade cocoon, unfurling limbs
then folding them back into the driver’s seat
of his own made-up life, he drives off
and grinds the gears. And I don’t even
shout after him,
Clutch in fully!
Okay I do but he doesn’t hear me
or he pretends not to.
He doesn’t realise he is driving off
with my fears, my love, my prayers
my genetic material
my conditioning
my relief
expanding space
(space opens up in his wake) —
look back, no don’t look back —
each of us becoming
miles,
ideas,
away.


How Are You?

Fine.
That’s what we’re supposed to say, anyway.
We have osteoarthritis or undiagnosed Lyme disease or
chronic fatigue or ME or MS or ankylosing spondylitis
or asthma or acute allergies or hormonal deficiencies
or unidentified pains in our lower legs
or the lurgy or the hair ache or the bottle ache
or man flu, we’re in the horrors or in a heap
or we have gambling addictions or clinical depression
or a chronic aversion to backchat chitchat chinwags gabfests
or we have migraines or fibromyalgia or we’re mitred
with the sinuses or we have endometriosis
or we have arrhythmias or we suffer from broken hearts.
Sometimes we need to sleep too much,
rest more, we get cranky for no obvious reason, sometimes
we’re not happy to see you and it’s not because of you,
it’s the DTs or the fatigue or the dizziness or the pains
in our bones, and other times we’re happy to see you.
In that case, it’s definitely you. Sometimes we haven’t
gotten out of the house in weeks, sometimes we just need
to laugh.
On the outside, we look perfect. Two eyes,
one nose, two left feet. Normal, or at least the same as most people.
A typical human creature. Like most people —
we have to lie to get by.
I’m fine.


Midlife

Midlife feels like a pair of old strimmers
dragged out of the shed in spring,
neither working properly, one starts
but stalls as soon as it touches a weed,
the other won’t even splutter
to life twenty strokes later.


© Celeste Augé