A follow–up to her 2014 chapbook, Camille Verité, Jennifer Lagier's new collection, Camille Abroad, continues the adventures of the libidinous femme fatale, but in the new book, Camille feels "Time's winged chariot hurrying near." We might have seen this coming; some of the poems toward the end of the first collection — "Camille Morphs to Crone," "So Long as it Comes Easy" among them — reveal a Camille keenly aware of the aging process. But mostly we see her in this first collection as in the irreverent "Next Ex–Husband Interviews":
Older trophy wives,
now gone to menopause,
glare as she flirts with their men.
Camille could have her pick
of international millionaires,
celebrity movie stars, local players.
As they examine each sleek, classic model,
she adjusts her tight tee shirt, licks her wet lips.
Camille is something of a predator, a big cat toying with her prey. But in Camille Abroad Camille is the one "gone to menopause," and this takes some attitude adjustment. The first poem, "Sparring with Beatnik Ghosts," gives us a sense of time passing, with its reference to "ghosts," though she is still the toast of the show, as the aging, over–the–hill poet naturally gravitates toward her at the reading to which she has gone, having dressed for the part — eyeliner, nail polish, cleavage, leggings, the accoutrements of seduction.
The title is kind of a pun. Camille is still, and always has been, a "broad," as we see from even the first poem, but her restlessness catches up with her and after the third poem, "Same Old Movie," whose very title gives us a sense of her impatience, her anxiety, Camille literally goes abroad, fleeing the home scene for a European adventure. The next dozen poems take place in Spain, in travel, and she is rejuvenated as a player on her own. In "Plaza de Major," Lagier writes,
She is still discovering who she is,
what she can achieve, wants to learn
other languages, savor
alternative continents, cultures.
And again in "Beach Esplanade," we see the predatory cat stretch and flex her paws:
From her café table abutting the esplanade,
she sips potent espresso, watches joggers,
a shirtless rollerblader with muscular legs,
and sighs at the sight of his rippling abs.
But the sojourn comes to an end and soon she is back in California, at the scene of the crime, and in poems like "Sliced Like Pie" and "Shot to Hell" we see Camille looking at herself with a sort of dread. "So Much Has Gone" begins: "Camille contemplates a gray pubic hair." She looks at herself critically in a full–length mirror, "belly and breasts beginning to sag."
She knows who she is,
what she wants out of life...
And here we come to the third, most important sense of "abroad." She is abroad, afoot, a colossus astride the world. Camille is "out there." She knows who she is. How many of us can truly say that? Camille does not apologize. She may have her regrets, feel an inherent anger at the cruelties of age ("No Way Out," ""So Much Has Gone," "Sadly Sane," "Don't Lament Lost Youth," "Each Night Counts," "AARP Booty Call" are some of the titles implicit with rage), but she's not going down without a fight! She will not go gentle into that good night. The penultimate poem in the collection, "Raging Grannies," ends with Camille defiant:
takes her cause to the streets,
stops traffic as she shouts,
"Get your Rosaries Off Our Ovaries!"
And the final poem, "Camille at the Medicare Workshop," concludes with the saucy, impertinent Camille we've admired through two collections now:
Blows off this workshop.
Sneaks out the back door.
Fires up a big doobie