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Suzanne Lummis' most recent book, In Danger, was a selection of the California Poetry Series, published by Roundhouse Press/Heyday Books. Her work appears in the Knoph Everyman anthology Poems of the American West edited by Robert Mezey; Poetry as Purpose: Poetry of the Western States, published by The Autry Museum of Western Heritage with Sun & Moon Press; PoetryDaily: 366 Poems from the World's Most Popular Website, and California Poetry from the Gold Rush to the Present edited by Dana Gioia, Chryss Yost and Jack Hicks. In the summer of 2002 she wrote the lyrics for a children's musical production of "Twelfth Night" produced by the ETC Theater company in Beverly Hills and La Joya. Her own two plays "October 22, 4004 B.C., Saturday" and "Night Owls," have been produced in Washington State and Houston Texas as well as Los Angeles at The Cast Theater, where they received Drama-Logue Awards in 1987 and '89. Her text-based performance troupe "Nearly Fatal Women" has performed at The Knitting Factory in New York, Knox College, Beyond Baroque in Los Angeles and various other colleges. She is the present and founding Director of the Los Angeles Poetry Festival, which now produces a festival every second year, and literary coordinator of the Arroyo Arts Collective project "Poetry in the Windows"in Highland Park. She was principal editor of Grand Passion: The Poetry of Los Angeles and Beyond, a publication of the LAPF organization. 

Handwash -Palermo, 1955

Those steep raked steps
were stone and dropped
below the street. The white
dark down there
was clean. Strong armed
women heaved the lumps
of sheets. Hell
didn't smoke, it steamed.
My mother took
my hand and coaxed, "What's wrong?"
The streets smelled like sea
and garlic, potted blooms.
The windowsills were painted
red and blue. I loved
the surface world.
Down there -damp flesh and iron,
iron slabs. When cloth
was pressed it hissed. Shapes
of air burst up, so fierce,
so unrehearsed. Down there
muscled arms made clothes
too hot to wear. They'd make me
flat and lambent like the moon.
I dug in my feet, hung on,
but I was aimed, anyway, straight
toward the unknown. Who knew then?
My mother worried, "Susie,
what is wrong?" then took
the laundry down alone.

 

Fever 104

My skin shimmers like a mirage.
My mind puzzled by heat
is shaping an odd world, as from clay.
Its thin gravity keeps letting me drift.
In all this silvery warmth
I radiate, like a gypsy or orphan,
with an extraterrestrial light.

In another century,
I would have been considered divine
or dangerous, surrounded by incense
and smoldering roses.
Here, someone shakes a bottle
of benign tear-like pastels and offers me
one tablet. But I incinerate whatever I touch.
Already the nurses
wintery outlines are starting to give.

Their hands are snow water
and cannot hold me. "Come back! "they say,
for now I am rising,
blowing like smoke past Mars,

Pluto. And now I've shot through
stars, and that bank of hot light 
the ceiling of space.

And now I am almost there. My own
white heat rises to meet it: the fire

of heaven.

2004 Suzanne Lummis


 

 


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