Diane Lockward


Matisse, Open Window

Temptation by Water

—after The Open Window, by Henri Matisse

Beyond the frame, a woman stands before
the open window—two shutters pulled inside
frame the sea beyond, so three-dimensional
she could wade into it and board a blue-hulled
boat, ride the waves of color—vermillion, jade,
gold, a slash of violet—could tread the razzle
of light on water, and here and there a splash
of black, like shadows foreboding something
she cannot name.

She floats inside the frame,
like Alice free-falling down the hole, enters this
other world, leaves her work on the windowsill,
her terracotta pots of red blossoms, drifts towards
the simulation of clouds, turquoise horizon, the sea
like liquid emeralds, a kind of paradise, not one
human in sight, not one person she can name.
Temptation by Water (Wind Publications 2010)

You Offer Lychee to Your American Friends

—for Belle Yang

In the gilded bowl your mother sent from China,
you arrange two pounds of lychee—
strawberry-red, rose-colored, amber-yellow,
all aromatic and heart-shaped,
a bowlful of edible jewels.

You place one in your palm, pinch
the peel, and release the aphrodisiac, lift
the fleshy aril from the seed, roll it
like a luscious grape across your tongue,
then squish.

Your new friends try the lychee,
and spit it out, this favorite fruit of Asian women—
and Yang Yuhuan,
the Emperor’s favorite concubine, kept by her bed
such a bowl of desire.

These American women want chocolate—
milk, dark, and bittersweet.
And now you wrinkle your nose.

Belle, your fruit is delicious but chocolate, too,
and because I want to mediate this cultural divide,
I offer you chocolate, hold it out as a soldier does
to a child in the streets of a foreign land.

Here, smell the melted butter, hint of vanilla,
boiling sugar. Learn to love what is decadent,
what grows in other gardens.
Breathe the ghost of cacao tree.
Imagine the thick syrup and the bright red cherry
tucked like a gemstone inside.
Temptation by Water (Wind Publications 2010)

The Fruitful Woman

Today I dress for you
in scarlet. I am
a tomato, plump
and luscious. I pulsate
with seeds.

Today I clothe myself
in yellow. I am
a peach, succulent
and ripe.

For you, I swathe myself
in gold—all melons, oranges,
tangerines, nectarines.

I am a garden of earthly delights.

I am the apple
you would fall for
a thousand times.

I am the apricot you would die for.

I am all strawberries,
blueberries, raspberries,
and cherries, all these and more.

Today I am royal for you.
I dress in a gown
of purple plum.

Come, lift me out of my skin.
Eve’s Red Dress (Wind Publications, 2003)

The Summer He Left

The lawn filled with dandelions.
Because weeds meant he was gone,
she thought they were beautiful,
a blanket of gold over the green.
Because weeds on grass meant
he wasn’t coming back, she was not
afraid. The whole world turned
yellow. No longer cowering
behind the mountain, the sun rose
like Lazarus and warmed the earth.
Marigolds bloomed in the garden.
Sunflowers sprung up like born-again
Christians—lemon lilies, goldenrod,
buttercups, and coreopsis. Bees, dizzy
with temptation of yellow, buzzed
in their velvet tutus. Tiger swallowtails
flapped wings, slow-motion applause.
Goldfinches, orioles, warblers,
not missing blue, jazzed the trees.
At night, the sky streaked with topaz.
The stars, those little cowards, crept out
of their hiding places. Orion lit up
the dark. K-ROCK blared golden oldies,
and she danced to the Yellow Rose
of Texas
and Tie a Yellow Ribbon,
danced like some wild thing,
her straw-colored hair whirling in circles,
the miller’s daughter at the wheel,
all around her yellow spinning out gold,
and more gold, not fool’s gold, but real.
What Feeds Us (Wind Publications, 2006)

Diane LockwardDiane 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. 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 and works as a poet-in-the-schools for both the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

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