Suzanne Lummis has been an iconic presence in Los Angeles Poetry for almost 3 decades and is responsible for innovating the cross genre now referred to as “poetry noir”, being an instrumental creative force behind the citywide, multi-arts series “Night and the City: L.A. Noir in Poetry, Fiction and Film.”
Behind the podium, onstage and off, she is easy and full of the lighter take on most things. Lummis is an educator, having taught poetry at UCLA Extension since 1991, and is the kind of educator any poet or writer would feel blessed to have been mentored in any capacity by Lummis in their formative literary education. Her own poetry never misses a beat as you will read in the following works.
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The Perfect Man
For the men who’ve asked me,
“Why isn’t there a perfect man
in any of your plays?”
There is only one of him.
He’s like the last-of-its-kind
and shipped back to the zoo.
has never been captured, only
by the mirror which captures
his image, speaks
the same reassurance:
you are the fairest…
He sighs and straightness his tie.
It’s terrible being a myth.
Why can’t he do goofy
ordinary things —
cruise down boulevards,
be in a play?
and moves through his rooms,
fields of light, their curious
absence of shadow.
Why can we not find him?
very late, when the women
of this earth lie asleep,
he sighs, then packs up his costumes:
the formal wear, leather jacket,
the ski gear of a down-hill racer…
He’s obliged to break into our dreams.
Now he will begin his long run,
through cities and provinces, from
sleek condominiums to the Highway’s
last chance hotels.
It’s a delicate task
If we wake we might catch
the tapping of his small
silvery hammer, its ping
We might think we hear
for a moment,. just
as it vanishes, the sledge
of some convict, some far away
prisoner, crazy to get out.
From The Broken Rules series
It’s a crime story she’s in:
betrayal and larceny, few clues.
Someone stole what she lived for,
then made off like a thief in the night or high noon. What shall she
slip a heel on each foot and set out,
making a snapping sound as she steps.
The man she loves smiles
from the drugstore’s rack
of magazines, just in.
Looks like he’s wrapped his movie,
dropped his wife on a Frisian Island
and is flying his girlfriend to St. Tropez.
The men who love her finger coins
in the stale linings of their front
pockets and whimper “What’s your name?”
The job she wanted went
to the man who tells the truth
from one side of his mouth, lies
from the other: a bilingual.
The job she got lets her
answer the questioning phone all day.
Her disappointment has appetite,
gravity. Fall in, you’ll be crunched
thin as Fettuccine. Watch out for her,
this woman, there is more than one.
That woman with you, for instance,
checking herself in the mirror
to see where she stands–
she’s innocent so far, but someone
will disappoint her.
Even now you’re beginning to.
Even now you’re in danger.
(From In Danger Roundhouse Press/Heyday Books)
Suzanne Lummis: Poetry
Copyright © 2001 The Cortland Review
WOMAN AND APPLE
– on a painting by Rachael McCampbell
Viewer, I may seem exposed
but this story belongs to me. Look
to the Northeast, those coppery
brushstrokes, how they hint
at shadow and flesh, bent knee, foot
peddling forward—Man who Exits
the Scene as if pulled
toward what happens next.
But he’s not the same man who arrived
from some whereabouts, blinking
in the changed light, straining
to decipher my form;
he’s been re-configured, re-thought.
And something took place here, beyond
the frame of your knowing.
Note that my face conveys history,
the roil of slow-turning secrets,
while his form means only departure.
My feet languish in the spill
of heated snow, warmed-up rain,
five degrees cooler than my skin.
This means something.
You regard yourself as intelligent—
explain it to yourself.
And you’ve mastered a bit of French:
Ceci n’est pas une pipe.
So of course there’s no apple,
just the bare, see-through idea
of apple. But did you know it’s a herring
(and slippery), a false lead?
In fact I’m dreaming of another fruit.
(Think autumn, crimson. It does not peel.)
Meanwhile, in a painting nearby,
something’s stopped—the small pump,
weight of a tongue tip, in a bird’s chest.
The body falls, wing over
wing, searing a line through the air
only a bird’s eye could see.
Dressed One, One Who Nods
and Moves On, did you imagine
I’d reveal myself to you?
– Suzanne Lummis: Poetry
Copyright © 2013
“Woman and Apple”, first appeared in first appeared on Connotation Press,