Suzanne Lummis is the 2018/19 COLA (City of Los Angeles) award winner and fellow. The honor comes with an endowment to create a new body of work, which she will debut at an event at Grand Performances downtown in June.  Her collections include In Danger and Open 24 Hours, and her poems have appeared in noted literary journals across the country and in The New Yorker.  She has taught for over 25 years for the UCLA Extension Writers Program, is a founding member of the performance troupe Nearly Fatal Women, and the series editor for The Pacific Coast Poetry Series/Beyond Baroque Books. The Los Angeles Time named the anthology she edited Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond one of the Ten Best Books of 2015. produces her web series They Write by Night, which explores film noir and poets influenced by that imagery, sensibility and those themes.    Her poetry can be found on-line at Plume, The American Journal of Poetry, Ghost Town, and Levure littéraire among other good literary web magazines. Her piece “We Have Got to Get Out of L.A.” appears in the current New Ohio Review.  However, she’s not goin’ anywhere.



i.  a.m.

It’s easy: open your eyes then lie
as if clubbed by some outmoded weapon,
a blackjack.
Your body feels huge like a bloodhound’s,
or some awful gift bestowed by an in-law.
Why get up?  You’ve done it all
already—mailed hundreds of letters, met
for lunch, over coffee, at meetings, driven
every freeway west of Vegas, north
of Escondido.
You’ve had ideas, fevers, brainstorms, silly
affairs. No wonder you can’t rise—stoned,
pebbled, like this by your dinky past.
And then there’s that future back-firing
into each day, and bucking your plans.
It’s best to stay put, sleep.  Consider:
they say if one inch of those weighty, packed-
hard stars, Black Holes, landed on Earth
it would fall through the world. You figure
it would still not fall so far as you.

ii.  p.m.

Now your fretful body starts getting ideas.
Rush out and invent a new misdemeanor!
Collect names from restroom walls
then call everyone for a good time!
Of course you can’t sleep—you’ve shrunk.
You’re pinballs propelled through a course
where everything’s flashing.
With one blanket you’re hot, with none
you’re cold. Now you’re too big again!
You toss and turn like the throes of history.
You shouldn’t lie here, anyway, stupid
like this, when you have errands to run—missions!
You should rush out and found a better religion,
or locate the thumbprint that will nail the killer,
or burst into a burning two-bedroom rental
and emerge with the toddler and her
Sear’s photo portrait.  How can you sleep?!
Out there, people pour down boulevards, famished,
love-drunk, their animal genius leaving swathes
of atomized light.  But you? 
You are that creature your life is wasted on,
the one who thrashes angrily all night
on the mattress, frightening the cats.

 pubished in Onthebus



For Ted Schmitt (1940 – 1990)
and many others

I pass this number
in my phone book, the seven everyday
digits a sequence I won’t dial
anymore –

like passing a house abandoned but
filled with echoing
rooms that were lived in. Till

If I called I would hear
…what? A buzzing like a station
shut down for the night,
the TV screen filled with

Or has the phone line snapped
overhead, the late messages
heading for a long

No good asking like a child
why do people die?  I

but in a room where a man’s
things have been folded and packed
as if to follow him on the next train

a phone rings,
rings, and there is no

From Blood Whispers, ed. by Terry Wolverton

The Not Sonnets

i. blood

I never liked onions, the one time
I cut them it’s for you and straight
off the knife goes for the bone.
It’s as if I’ve struck gold, oil,
a nerve. My hand
fills with such heart-felt color.
I can no longer read
the future on this palm, but here
is a valentine that won’t quit, ink
to write a thousand poems
no one will read
or letter that comes back
No Such Resident.

ii. smoke

I remember everything: the precise
outlook of the stars, at a nearby
table, a smoking cigarette, ticking
watch. (I lie about the watch,
the cigarette, but not the smoking,
ticking.) Love, when
I looked in your eyes I glimpsed
plundered cities, heard cries.
But that was then.
These days I tell my students
never say “I remember”.
You’re writing the poem, aren’t you?
Of course you remember.

iii. chocolate

end at the wall—otherwise
the room is in perfect order.
Who cleaned up after himself removing
all signs of struggle? There’s a mystery
at the heart of this poem I don’t understand.
What, did you take me for the victim?  
I’m the detective seeking a clue, the line missing
or stolen: Line That Would Explain Everything.
But there is only this title hinting
at darkness or sweetness, ways
to lose one’s way or just
be lost.

published in The Southern Poetry Review

Pink (Refusal to Look Through Rose Colored Glasses)
Never use the color pink in a poem
— Attributed to Ann Stanford 

i.  Against

No primroses!
Nothing prim, only erotic
unstoppable flora with colors
that jangle like a sprung alarm,
flowers of hothouse and heatstroke,
out of control like heady gossip.
No twilight, no temperate glow!
Turn on the spotlight, floodlight, write
in the illumination of a burning house.
No babies!
No big, pale inexperienced babies!
No birthday cakes!
Celebrate with six altar candles
in the ribs of a roast sow.
Forsake bubble gum!
Chew nothing but bits of blown
tire from a vehicle
that careened off the road.
Reject Pepto Bismol! Deny pigs!
No ribbons and bows!
Anything’s better – a noose
for hanging is better!
Beware hair curlers of pink foam.
They’ll cushion your head from
the point of that unrestful dream.
Beware the mild rose soaps
in a gift pack –
            nothing comes clean.


ii. In Defense

But Pink— the sound
you have to make, like the clip
of purse-size sheers, precise.
The prick of pin, the point,
it draws a harder color
out, one drop. You see, there’s ink.
To write. One word. Too light?
It darkens as it dries. It costs
a bit, extracts
its pinhead price, not much but
 – you know –words add up. 

published in Poetry International

Directive to Los Angeles

Don’t move east, Quake Queen—
not even a few feet.  Don’t slide

open in daylight, in public places.  Strike
           a bargain with Earth—hey, you know
       how to close deals.      

L.A., comfort our failed careers.  Budge faster
our 6 p.m. autos stuck to the One-Ten.

On the Eastside keep secret your
     secret places—staircase
              of crushed shells, the old
                                                    ostrich farm. 
Don’t let the Westsiders know. 

             your stub-toed river a bit,

Write your own poem, Big Girl,
without using the word
Do that thing you do,
           at night—let your erased past
               ghost dance down your neon streets. 

And you know neon, L.A.—you breathe it—
gasoline that stared into mid-day light. 

published in Alehouse 


Suzanne Lummis at Moonday Poetry

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Moonday Poetry 2004

Moonday Poetry 2006



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