Suzanne Lummis' poetry appears in the current issue of Alehouse and is forthcoming in The New Ohio Review.
She teaches through the UCLA Extension Writers' Program, where she's developed several special focus workshops, including those exploring the persona poem and the poem noir. In 2009 she was among the 45 writers selected by the National Endowment for the Arts to represent literary Los Angeles at the Guadalajara International Book Fair, which last year explored the history and arts of Los Angeles. The year before she journeyed to the heart of California culture, or agriculture—to Fresno—to celebrate Philip Levine's 80th birthday, along with other graduates of the FSU program. Her book, In Danger, was published by Heyday Books/Roundhouse Press.
IN WHICH MISS VICTORIANA GOES TO THE PICTURES
AND THEY FILL HER HEAD WITH NOTIONS
“I was thinking about that dame upstairs
and how she’d looked at me. And I wanted
to see her again, close, without that silly
staircase between us.”
- Voice of Walter Neff in Double Indemnity
Sir, if I may be frank, even bold,
perhaps rash, I’d like to see you again
without that grand piano between us—
the silly one with its carved curlicues,
enamel inlay, its painted panel legs
displaying their affection
for the 19th Century.
And the piano player also—again, forgive
this lapse of discretion. … No, no,
I don’t mean I wish to see him as well.
I long to see you without him between us,
the grand piano player, whose “ivory hands
on the ivory keys strayed in a fitful fantasy”.
(Thank you dear Mr. Wilde). Well—
perhaps I would like to see him again,
but let’s not think on that now. Now
I desire (did I just confess desire?)
to see you again without even
the music between us. Without—sir, yes,
yes, you read my meaning, my purpose
and, I dare say, my lips—without even
note of the concerto
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?
Photo Courtesy of Heather Wynters