Suzanne Lummis: "The Perfect Man" & Three More Poems
Suzanne Lummis has poems forthcoming in the debut issue of an ambitious new literary magazine edited by Christopher Buckley, Miramar, in Solo Novo published by Glenna Luschei, and a defining essay and special feature on the Poem Noir for New Mexico’s Malpais Review, for which she is the California correspondent.
The Perfect Man
(A Nursery Story)
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 that captures
his image, speaks
the same reassurance:
you are the fairest . . .
He sighs and, from habit,
straightens his tie, though
already it marks the shortest
distance between two points.
It’s terrible being a myth.
Why can’t he do goofy
cruise down boulevards,
be in a play?
through his rooms,
those spaces clean
as deep space but stuffed
with pure light.
Why can’t he be bad?
He fires a cigarette, lets it droop
from his lips with a roguish
nonchalance. No ash
falls from its tip.
No smoke rises.
Two men wheeling their stuff pull
past and I catch I’ve given up trying
with her, it’s fruital. The airport hums
delayed and grounded planes.
It’s like when all the thwarted
ambitions of our lives sprout fruit, aromatic,
thick, and—Shoot!—we’re back
in the Garden of so-called Eden again,
this time at the Tree of
You Ain’t Goin’ Anywhere.
We devour the syrupy, noggin
shapes—smack! Now we’re crammed
with those sugars and stuffed
in our windowless seats—sticky
and fat. But how can a plane lift
from the runway with us in its hull? It’ll
quit trying. We’re stuck and it’s fruital.
It’s a crime story she’s in:
betrayal and larceny, few clues.
Someone stole what she lived for,
made off like a thief in the night
or high noon. What shall she do?
This: slide a heel on each foot
and set out, snapping at each step.
The man she loves smiles
from the drug store’s rack
of magazines, just in.
Looks like he’s wrapped his move,
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,
stretched 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.
Hurrying Toward the Present
“No past tense permitted”
– Kay Boyle from A Poem for Samuel Beckett
Darlings, this may be the only
great escape we ever make:
start dropping your past
behind you—seeds, kernels
to be pecked up by scavengers.
You won’t find your way back.
Or try this: package it,
mark it Was. Leave it in a locker
at the Greyhound Bus station.
Leave the door ajar. Let
a thief inherit it. You can bet
it’ll dog him like it dogged you.
Step smack-flat into
the blasting present,
your heart asserting Now-Now.
You feel neither the pain
left behind, nor what waits
tapping its hard foot
And now, stand up the future!
Let it go on pacing and cursing
as it peers towards your whereabouts,
and the cat’s eye gleam
of its watch calculates
the lateness of the hour.
Cultural Weekly is proud to premiere this version of ‘The Perfect Man’ (an earlier version appeared in Solo) and ‘Fruital.’ ‘Femme Fatale’ first appeared in Solo, and ‘Hurrying Toward The Present’ first appeared in The Cider Press Review.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Suzanne Lummis, noted practitioner and exponent of NOIR POETRY, unpacks a genre infused with the ethos of mid-20th Century hard-boiled fiction and crime movies, presenting examples from poets both living and “quite dead.” An influential teacher through the UCLA Extension Writers' Program and co-founder of the Los Angeles Poetry Festival, Lummis produced a 2011 city-wide, 25-event series, “Night in the City: L.A. Noir Poetry, Fiction and Film.” Her 2012 essay “The Poem Noir — Too Dark to Be Depressed” (Malpais Review, Vol. 3, No. 3) is essential reading on the subject. Lummis was awarded a 2018/19 C.O.L.A. (City of Los Angeles) fellowship to create a series of new poems. Her most recent collection is Open 24 Hours (Lynx House Press). Her poems have appeared in three Knopf "Everyman's Poetry" anthologies, including Killer Verse: Poems of Murder and Mayhem, and in The Antioch Review, New Ohio Review, Plume, The American Journal of Poetry and The New Yorker. She edited the anthology "Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond" (Pacific Coast Poetry Series/Beyond Baroque Books) named one of the Ten Best Books of 2015 in the Los Angeles Times. (Photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher)