In Temptation by Water, Diane Lockward "calculates the sum of her griefs" with a vigorous and mature poetic eye. Whether mourning the loss of a lover’s touch or celebrating steam rising from the slit of a baked potato, Lockward embraces life’s luscious, naked flaws and ecstatic turns, surrendering to desire and what’s left in "the wreckage of absence."
             — Dorianne Laux

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Sample Poem 

Seventh-Grade Science Project

I ran in a field of wildflowers,
          waving a butterfly net, three
                       yards of gauzy fabric stitched

                       to the looped rim of a hanger
          stapled to a broom handle.
By summertime my father

had already left with his
          beautiful mistress. Mother
                       stayed inside and loafed, said

                       she could not watch my tiny
          murders. The field held lemon
lilies, daylilies aflame in orange

and red, buttercups, purple
          clover, and wild roses with
                       thorns that cut my arms.

                       I caught a black swallowtail,
          monarch, fritillary and mourning
cloak, a painted lady. I learned

how to sneak up on a butterfly,
          its long tubular tongue uncoiled
                       inside a flower, and pinch the

                       folded wings between my thumb
          and index finger. I dropped each 

hostage onto a wad of Clorox-

soaked cotton inside the kill jar.
          I observed the flutter of wings,
                       the wiggling thorax, and when

                       the wiggling stopped, I placed
          the butterfly on a felt mounting
board. I stuck a straight pin

precisely into the center
          of the thorax and eased
                       the wings apart. Broken

                       wings or missing antennae
          would lose points. I prepared a
data label for each butterfly—name,

date of capture, location—then slid
          the bodies inside a shadow box.
                       The pin-pricked fingers, wasp

                       stings, and blood on my arms
          were what I paid for my first
A in science. All that summer 

I ran like something wild and left
          my multi-colored fingerprints 

                       on everything I touched.

                —first published in Harvard Review
                —featured on Poetry Daily 8.1.08

“How Is a Shell Like Regret?”   
                    —Colette Inez

For years you believe the ocean’s inside the shell,
swear you hear the water’s swoosh and moan,
as if the shell remembers,
until some scientific killjoy explains
the ear’s construction, how enclosure and compression
create an echo chamber within your head.
The sound you hear—pulsation of your blood, he says.
Years later that too is proven wrong. Not water, not blood,
but ambient noise, wavelengths, a mix of frequencies,
exciting the conch’s resonant air.

The first shell floats in a salty pool at your feet,
squirmy sea snail long gone, house vacated.
Small fish squiggle in and out.
Every wish you ever wished upon a star,
every miracle you prayed hard for,
every time you went down on your knees and begged God,
every dream that didn’t come true,
each huckster, pettifogger, every trickster
and flimflam artist who ever sucked you in.
All illusion of ocean.

Inside that shell, the sound of regret, relentless as any ocean.
It pounds the shore, rises and falls, surges and pulls,
turns over, slides back out again, and keeps on coming.
Heart-shaped, the conch rests in your hand,
hard to fingernail’s tap and touch,
shatters if dropped.
Pink at the lip, pearlescent, like skin burned and scarred.

You gather one, another and another, collect them
on windowsills until the house is full.
Sometimes at night you hear a chorus of them singing
through the hard shell of your grief, singing its own song,
so bitter and so sweet.

                    —first published in Valparaiso Poetry Review

                    —rpt. Alhambra Poetry Calendar 2010
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