The Coldest Beer in Town
So it states, that sign—point blank. And
in the dark, what a light it beams above
the shop, straight through the unlettered,
civic night. The Coldest Beer in Town.
But not all three point eight million citizens
know this, so now, in the metropolitan
noon, the rich man savors a brew (imported
from the former Republic of Wham)
that’s malty, creamy, but not quite coldest.
Doesn’t it pester him deep down,
like a night bug pinging against 40 watts,
he’s always connoisseur of the runner-up.
And the working girl, breaking twelve thirty
to one, studies the froth in her glass till it’s gone—
L.A.’s ninth coldest foam.
The poor man shifting from foot to foot
this far side of town, eyes the smooth, rolled
windows of a passing van, then a Saab, then
lifts his blood temperature can. And me?
On the third hottest May 12th since—who knows?
—I walk the mile to Highland Park Liquor
and pick up two of those. “Coldest”? Cold there.
By the time I get home—they just warm
up my thirst. Oh well, I’m still Second Best Loser.
Bukowski takes First. But I’m Two—
that’s one hell of a feat. Two Loser? Damn straight.
Big city, this town. Competition? Girlfriend,
just look around.
First published in San Pedro River Review, Fall 2016
As writer, poet and influential teacher with the UCLA Extension Writers program, Suzanne Lummis is among the best-known figures in the Los Angeles literary community. She was among the principal avatars of the Los Angeles and Long Beach based movement of the 90s, Stand-up Poetry, and, through her poems and essays, is associated with the Poem Noir, a sensibility influenced by the dark themes, chiseled beauty and striking dialogue of the black and white crime movies of the 40s and 50s. Her poems have appeared in The Hudson Review, Antioch Review, Ploughshares, New Ohio Review, Plume, The American Journal of Poetry and The New Yorker. Her most recent collection, Open 24 Hours, won the Blue Poetry Prize and was published by Lynx House Press. Suzanne edited Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond (Pacific Coast Poetry Series/Beyond Baroque Books), one The Los Angeles Times’ Ten Best Books of 2015.