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What Feeds Us

ISBN: 10-1893239578

By: Diane Lockward
Review by: Moira Richards

January 2009

What Feeds Us is covered with a luscious picture of fruits and slices of ripe golden peach (artwork by Brian Rumbolo), and it opens with an introductory poem that brings the reader to where the narrator’s life is as she begins her tales,

In my story, Eve walked out of the Garden,
unencumbered by Adam
and carrying only the apple.
She didn’t know where she was going,
but she knew she’d need something to eat.
(“What Feeds Us”)

In the collection we wander with this Eve through her many reminiscences and we share too, in her feasts. We are invited to devour blueberries, "strands of blue pearls," about which she exhorts,

Be a glutton and stuff in a handful, your tongue,
lips, chin dyed blue, as if feasting on indigo. (“Blueberry”)

We watch voyeurlike, perhaps enviously, as she and a mate, "like lovers trying positions," revel sensuously in pasta dish

... It was never spaghetti
between us, not cappellini, nor farfalle,
vermicelli, pappardelle, fettucini, perciatelli
or even tagliarini. Linguini ...

...
...witnessed our slurping, pulling, and
sucking, our unraveling and raveling, chins
glistening ...

(“Linguini”)

Read that aloud and taste how delicious just the sounds are in your mouth. And the reader might be forgiven for succumbing, bee-like to the richnesses of flavours, scents and sensations in these pages because Lockward so seductively, takes any one small thought and expands, teases it out into a rich meal of wit and association. As for instance, in this small excerpt from an entire page devoted to green,

Thence to the lime for it is a tart
fruit and hangs from trees without
causing any woman to fall.

and later,

Green the colour of money, sound
of some other woman’s voice.
and before long,

... now I conjure

potions to send to my lover – to turn him green,
the color of contagion, burn him in bile ...

(“Meditation in Green”)

The reader realises soon that not for nothing do fat yellow and black bees crawl over the fruit on the cover of Lockward’s book. In a poem entitled, “Invective Against the Bumblebee” a mother rails at the "Fat-assed insect!" that, mistaking her baby son for a flower, stings him to tears." She curses the bee in an aria-like crescendo starting with, "Henceforth may flowers refuse to open for you" to "May farmers douse your wings with pesticide and more, and yet more." And there are other bee poems in the collection to season the rich poems and to remind us of the stings we risk when we enjoy and devour the food of life. In “Showdown with the King Bee” the King Bee explains to the narrator why he is able to torment her, to spoil her enjoyments before even he has stung or not - "I choose you / because you are afraid."

But eventually a lover, “The Bee Charmer”, manages to convince the narrator that the beauty and pollen of life’s roses are worth the risk of an occasional sting. And perhaps the bees inside and out of this book are also a reminder of the relative joy of being able to feel pain. I say this because interspersed through the collection of poems of gusto and the sating of voracious appetites are poems of numbing loss. One of these entitled “The Gift” is a poem about the Christmas present in a box of "a boy, seventeen. / He’s your new son. // the Prodigal Boy Kit // Quite a handsome boy, don’t you think? // ...won’t ever turn / eighteen. He’ll last forever.// This boy won’t break." And another, “After the Ice Storm My Son Does Not Come Home” is a poem I couldn’t do justice to with only an excerpt.

This is a volume of poetry to savour like chocolates on the tongue, a reminder to relish the small and transitory good things of life.

 

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