Monday, August 27, 2012

#48: Two Poems by Diane Lockward

~This poem previously appeared in Folio (2001)

Feeding Habits

At Ecco-la, my husband orders a bottle
   of Louis Jadot chardonnay. While he studies
the menu, I glance across the room.   A young
  couple waits at the bar, drinking
beer. The guy leans over and kisses his girl,
   a short sweet kiss, like an hors d'oeuvre,
then a long kiss, their arms wrapped
   around  each other, his fingers  caught
in the strands of her hair. My husband and I
   debate appetizers and entrees. They feast
on each other. By the time the waiter returns
   to take our orders, I'm  practically starving.
Soon he sets before me a plate
   of scallops, shrimp, and arugula, tossed
in scampi sauce, and nestled on a bed
   of linguini. They're kissing again. She nestles
her head against  his chest. He strokes
   the skin of her arm. I pop a scallop
into my mouth, savor the succulent flesh, then fork
   a shrimp, pass it to my husband. He offers a bite
of portobello mushroom stuffed
   with king crab, seasoned with herbs and a hint
of lemon. We consume and consume.
   Across the room an ear is nibbled,
cheeks  and neck devoured. I beg my husband
   for dessert. He holds up his hand to say
he's had enough for one night. I seduce him
   into chocolate mousse pie with a layer
of meringue, order charlotte russe for myself.
   With the recklessness of Sybarites,
we fill our mouths with ladyfingers, whipped cream,
   and chocolate curls. Nothing, nothing ever tasted
this good. As the couple is led to their table,
   my husband and I head for home, still licking
our lips, our tongues searching for crumbs.


 ~This poem previously appeared in Rattapallax (2000)

Losing the Blues

Stuck in traffic  and lost
without  you, I see it on a bumper sticker:
Wild women don't  get the blues. Swerving

off the highway, I pull up to a neon
martini glass, order a shot of tequila. I suck
salt with a lemon wedge, slip

on a red satin dress, nail taps to my spikes, fasten
              castanets  to my thumbs. I eat rare meat
                             and all seven layers of a devil's food cake.

I hardly remember your name.

                  flows through  my veins. I'm  every color on the palette
but blue. I'm so hot I'm cool. I spit
                              in the street, and men swoon

when I do it. No more jazz for me, no rhythm
                  and blues, no gospel, no country, no soul. I'm  all
rock 'n' roll. I hang out

with gangsters, play the ponies, and encourage
                  my urges. I'm  no shade of blue—
no sky, no periwinkle, sapphire, or indigo.

                                          I'll never again be royal for you.

                                          I'm  cerise, vermilion, scarlet,
                              ruby, crimson, fuchsia, magenta,
                  and flame. I could burn
the hands off a man.



We poets are multi-taskers. We are never just dining or driving; we are also gathering material for poems. “Feeding Habits” came out of a dining experience. To celebrate an anniversary several years ago, my husband and I went out to a nice restaurant for dinner. We sat in a raised area where I could easily look down onto the bar area. What the poem describes is pretty much what happened. My husband, whose back was to the scene I was observing, was engaged with the menu so he did not see the young couple kissing and touching each other. I couldn't stop watching. It struck me as very sweet, but it also made me a bit sad for the good old days of our passionate youth. Days later I was still observing the scene, but now in my head. I became sort of obsessed by the contrast in the different ways of feeding our love. That metaphor became the heart of the poem. When the poem approached close to done, I began to work on form. I wanted a form that would reflect the content. My hope is that the alternating indented lines capture the back and forth of the speaker's gaze and attention.
            “Losing the Blues” illustrates the importance of keeping your eyes on the car in front of you. One day while driving along, I saw a bumper sticker on the car ahead of me: "Wild women don't get the blues." I immediately fell in love with the line. I believe it's from a song, but I didn't know that at the time. Nevertheless, the line replayed itself over and over. It struck me as a prescription against sadness and as a directive for how to live. Initially, the quotation was used as an epigraph, but eventually I put it into the poem. I invented a speaker, a broken-hearted woman whose lover has dumped her. I placed her at the steering wheel and let her act on the prescription. I love poems with colors and this one seemed to beg for them. Again, I wanted the form to reflect content, so the early stanzas are tight, but the poem opens up as the woman begins to get wild and claim her own power. I wanted the poem to dance and shake its hips.

Diane Lockward is the author of three poetry books, most recently, Temptation by Water. Her previous books are What Feeds Us, which received the 2006 Quentin R. Howard Poetry Prize, and Eve's Red Dress. She is also the author of two chapbooks, Against Perfection and Greatest Hits: 1997-2010. Her poems have been included in such anthologies as Poetry Daily: 360 Poems from the World's Most Popular Poetry Website and Garrison Keillor's Good Poems for Hard Times, and have been published in such journals as Harvard Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner. Her work has also been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer's Almanac. She lives in northern New Jersey.

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