Suzanne Lummis







Woman with Apple





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

towards 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.

(Hint: 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 Looks

and Moves On, did you imagine

I’d reveal myself to you?




Death Rings Marilyn Monroe



On initial reports that she was found

clutching a phone receiver


He was like all the others,

a heavy breather,

but when he called nothing rang.

She touched the receiver to her ear

and heard something like

Hold me


Let go.

She thought of telephone lines

crossing he city to the bruised

back streets where litter

drifts on the pavement,

old men shuffle to bed

in fourth-class hotels.

she imagined the last

bar closed, the drunks

snoring in their only shoes,

but one man pressed

into a phone booth.

The night struck him

like a tuning fork but

he makes no sound

now, dangling from this wire

to a star.


She imagined her body sunk

towards sleep,

the mystery

of an unhooked phone,

the way it purrs.


Then she noticed her own phone,

how it had changed.

All ten numbers read zero.


Baring a satin sheet,

she lay down,


the dark mouth at her ear—

her way out,


his way in.




A Train Runs Over Me

(The lost poem)



That’s right, a train runs over me, or rather

knocks me deftly towards some bright,

undisciplined flowers, where I lie like a sleeper.

Oh fabulous, the perfect Pre-Raphaelite

death that I dreamed of.

Look how one arm has fallen so naturally

cradling my head, and one hand lies

open as if conferring a benediction.

I, Ophelia of the 8:10 Santa Fe freight.

I, Lady of Shalott, came stepping, down,

down the pearly, chaste and winding stairs

of my chalet to love Lancelot then

a train ran over me.

(Well, it knocked me to the side of the track.)

But—look how beautiful I am among the wild flowers.

Yes. Wild. Flowers.

Grumpy and Sneezy and five other men

come up weeping, « Alas Snow White,

oh fabulous poet, now cracks an immortal heart. »

I sit up suddenly, « Oh I die Horatio,

the potent poison quite over comes my spirit. »

And a dwarf says puzzled, « But my name’s Sleepy,

and it’s not poison, you got run down by a train. »

I die again and the seven little men howl with grief.

Now who will love us? Who will sweep

our cottage by the glen? Who will take care of us now? »

Then they scamper off to write my biography

which will make them rich.

Next, word of my passing reaches LA.

It’s like Paris upon the death of Victor Hugo,

the whole City mourns. Liquor stores, video rentals,

electronic shops, even the franchises close.

The signs say, Gone to the processional.

Soon the killer is identified. Not the true engineer,

but the slimly talented editor of a fatted journal.

For years he had tried to crush me, and finally

he hi-jacked that train.

Days pass and now the several dwarves,

who had become disillusioned reunite.

They rush to downtown, « We’ve seen her,

they cry, « she is resurrected!  » « What!? »

cries the population of LA.—

« That bitch faked her death!? »

But there are no further sightings.

Several promoters must cancel

their hopes for a postmortem tour. Because

I am profoundly, consummately, passionately



Because a train ran over me.

An old fashion one, with a smoking car.

And this, Providence, is the death I require.

Not the stupid, ignominious one

you have planned for me—the ridiculous mishap

on the Hollywood freeway, or me lying for days

in a rundown rental among stacks of newspapers,

cardboard egg trays, some cats,

till I’m found by a census taker.

Instead it will be as I specify.

I am walking beneath a yellow umbrella

in this falling of light,

sweet rain.

An engine rumbles, steams

from the train sheds of Kansas City.

By the time it reaches me it’s a runaway,

a locomotive heaving out steam, passengers

begging for mercy.

The engineer throws the weight of all he believes

on the breaks and prays that whatever luck

is owed him be delivered.

The impact is like the collision of two worlds,

the explosion of a life. And now

I leap, astonished as a student dancer,

towards that wound-deep,

red and wild flower.

If only I could think of its name.







« Death Rings Marilyn Monroe » first published in In Danger (California Poetry Series/Heyday Books)

« Woman with Apple » first published in the anthology Ekphrastia Gone Wild: Poems Inspired by Art (Ain’t Got No Press)

Rachael McCampbell’s painting has the same title as the poem « Woman With Apple. »

Rachael McCampbell is a noted teacher and artist based in Tennessee whose work has been inspired by the peeling walls in Tuscany.












Suzanne Lummis is an influential teacher, arts advocate, poet and writer in Los Angeles, the literary co-ordinator of Lummis Day: The Festival of Northeast Los Angeles (which the founders named for her grandfather), and the Director of the Los Angeles Poetry Festival, which now produces large individual events in the City.  She teaches several levels of poetry through The UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and was the 2017 Institute for the Study of Los Angeles visiting scholar for Occidental College.  Her most recent poetry collection, Open 24 Hours received the Blue Lynx Poetry Award, and individual poems have appeared in The New Ohio Review, Plume, The Antioch Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Hotel America, Ploughshares and The New Yorker.  Her essays on the film noir and the poem noir have appeared in Malpais Review and The Los Angeles Review of Books


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