Contemporary Irish Women Poets, How Words Play, Maps, Nomadics

‘Leda Revised’ and other poems by Celeste Augé

Ode

More happy love! more happy, happy love!
Forever warm and still to be enjoy’d…’

—JOHN KEATS, Ode on a Grecian Urn
 
You lie across my thighs as I write,
my bone-warming hot water bottle,
pure latex, guaranteed to delight the most
discriminating women, mottle their thighs
as they lie deep in their beds, pretending
this rubber sack of warm water
could never replace their lover.
 
The women of Ireland drive with you
across their laps, hand-knit covers
helping to keep you warm. More love,
the patterns passed down from
mothers and grandmothers, still enjoyed.
They knit covers for each new bottle,
battle the cold, inside and out.
 
Every woman remembers her first.
I was twelve, three hours after landing
in Ireland, in Granny’s front bedroom.
You are the best invention after
hot water on tap, and when old age hits
and you warm through rheumatism—
not period pains—I hope to bits
I will have more to hug than my hottle
(Granny’s word for hot water bottle).
 

Women Improve With the Years

 
after Yeats
 
I am worn out with diets—
those rain-worn, concrete goddesses
among the skinny streets.
All winter long I look at magazines
and try out each new fad
I find in each new book.
Pretending: I am a future beauty, too.
But I’m pleased with myself,
to have the power of all four limbs,
eyes that can read the headlines, a body
that has grown a baby, loved on a whim.
Women improve with the years;
I switch on the light, don’t mind
who sees my stretch marks. If we meet
at my burning age, watch out! I grow
ludic in the rain—a diet-worn, fleshy
goddess at play among the shops.
 

Leda Revised

 
There’re worse things than being fucked by a swan.
Try going in—a young woman, full of life—
to give birth to your firstborn—that perfect
fleshy egg. Sim-fizz-ee-otomy. I’ve learnt how to say it,
properly. A slice here, a slice there, my pelvis opens up.
The next day a young nurse teaches me to walk.
Instead of nursing my crying baby I had to learn
to walk again. A big egg, they said, much later. Too big.
Our Lady of Lourdes was worried that if they did one
they’d end up doing ten C-sections on me.
As if my husband wouldn’t keep his hands off me—
and not a condom allowed within these holy shores.
They must have pictured me pregnant for decades.
Like I could let him near me again. Pain too strong
to let me hold my baby, even. Waddling everywhere.
Fuckin Zeus. Him and his big shoulders.
 

Always Sligo Rovers

 
for Shea and Sam
 
The ancestors at Garavogue Villas
don’t care that we can’t pay the rent.
Their stone circle is still here, disguised
as a roundabout. Lichen covers the stones.
In the middle, the Blessed Virgin Mary—
in an all-white strip—protects the ancestors,
prays over them, right on the spot
where their bones used to lie.
Their 5,000-year-old tomb is gone.
Parked cars hide the touchline
where we used to play kerbs. Sometimes,
late at night, I pass Whitewash Mary,
always praying, always quiet,
that half smile playing around her lips,
her curves dimly lit by streetlights—
lone mother of the night—and I want
to kick the stray football to her, shout:
‘Get up to it, Mary, nod it back!’
 
At the Showgrounds, the mountains surround us,
ancestors everywhere—on Knocknarea,
Keelogboy, the Ballygawley Hills, Ben Bulben.
The sky is thick with ancestors—
there isn’t too far you can go in this town
without someone knowing what you’re up to.
Bohs are in with a chance but we’ve got Joseph Ndo
who brings a kind of stillness to every
pass of the ball, as though he’s surrounded
by a different type of air, the ancestors at his feet.
And sometimes when it’s a good night
in the Showgrounds and no one
has cursed the result, that same kind
of force field hovers right around the grounds,
around the signs for Tohers and Jako,
energy conjured up by the ancestors—
who else could it be?—watching over us.
 
A minute’s silence for the ancestors, for their protection,
everyone up on their feet, a minute’s silence for any help
the ancestors might give tonight, the night when
Rovers line out against Bohs, the night when Uncle S
brings his newly-fatherless nephew to see his first match
in the Showgrounds, when Googe brings his future wife
to see what she’s letting herself in for, when
Seamus brings his young son to the only place on earth
where he will be allowed to swear loudly
at each lost tackle, wrong penalty,
missed chance, the ancestors watching over them,
that blessed moment before the whistle blows,
a moment’s silence, please,

and we remember

our pasts, our people returned to us for tonight—
as though their spirits could come back to earth,
touch down right there on the pitch.
 

Friday

 
Today is Friday and I’m out of metaphors—
the wind howling though the trees outside
is just the wind that knocks down the wheelie bin
which is just a bin blown over that scatters
egg cartons, yoghurt pots and plastic bottles
over the gravel stones outside my house
that are simply stones (though a lot of them)
and my house is a house, rectangular,
white, four walls and a roof, nothing more.
This pen I hold writes only words—
blue words. As in the colour blue.
 
Somewhere else a five-year-old boy picks up
a fragment of a cluster bomb (where it might
be windy, too)—they aren’t metaphors either
(neither the boy nor the bomb).
My own son is with my neighbour,
(somewhere out there in a black Ford)
both of them flesh and bone, representing
themselves (their best and their worst selves).
I sit here and I mean nothing more than
woman sitting on a couch on a Friday afternoon
writing and waiting.
 

Gym Poem #1

 
Tracksuit
 
My muscles and tendons stitch along my bones
like a comfortable tracksuit that knows the shape of me,
my life, the limited shapes of the work I do.
 
These poems from Skip Diving (Salmon Poetry, 2014) are © Celeste Augé

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).

The World Literature Review said that “Celeste Augé’s poems are commendable for their care, deep thought, and intellectual ambition”, while the Anna Livia Review said that “Fireproof is a remarkably strong debut into the world of short stories and will begin to build what is undoubtedly going to be a strong readership for the author”.

Celeste’s poetry has been shortlisted for a Hennessy Award and she received a Literature Bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland to write Skip Diving. In 2011, she won the Cúirt New Writing Prize for fiction. She lives in Connemara, in the West of Ireland.

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