Suzanne Lummis

Double Indemnity/The Second Shot

this is for you—that second shot
I couldn’t make myself pull
the trigger for. Re-
wind. The show’s nearing
its final credits, and
you’re slumped on the wall, soft
and sweet, with a fresh bullet hole
in your department store suit.
You look like nobody’s
angel, yet the word fallen
makes a sudden sighing
noise in my head.
And that cold place in me—smear
of methane on some wet,
black street headed toward
the dead-end of town—night-blooms
a somnolent flame.
For you Walter. I’m telling you
stroke by stroke straight down the line
like we promised.
Next, I make my last big
mistake, remember? I confess
I can’t finish you off.
I tell the reason why.
You pull me close and I feel,
just before the chilly
know-how of your .45 touches
my heart,
trust. Goodbye, Baby.
Walter, what is it to kill?
You’re dead and even now
you don’t get it.
Even now you don’t know me.
Listen: I looked up, glimpsed
through your reflecting eye
the flat earth, the sudden
dropping sea. In a gully of wind
I sailed off the edge of the world.

Let them call me spider woman,
femme fatale, as if they know
anything—boys and their babes, stuffed
with milk duds, cozy in their mid-row seats.
Rewind. Again and again I grow too
dangerous for your type of guy
to let me get out alive. I fall in love.

“Double Indemnity” first published in
Killer Verse Poems of Murder and Mayhem, ed. Kurt Brown (Knopf)


As writer, poet and influential teacher with the UCLA Extension Writers programSuzanne 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.