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 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.
Reviewed by Moira Richards
Causes Diane Lockward Supports
The Frost Place
The Innocence Project