Another Poem After César Vallejo

By Suzanne Lummis

Featured Image: Utah, Utah Lake; artist unknown 1898

I will die in a freight elevator between the fifth
and sixth floor, on a weekend, or perhaps a Monday
following the end of Daylight Savings. Yes,
it will be a Monday following the end of Daylight Savings,
because now, as I write these lines, I’m cranky,
as though cheated of an hour’s sleep.

It will be a day of rain, the same quality of rain,
the same aguacera that carried off César Vallejo,
though I won’t be outside to enjoy it—
passing with my umbrella beneath canopies of shops,
little fruit markets—I’ll be stuck in some freight elevator.

Suzanne Lummis is dead,
and already a newsman is composing a short item,
getting her age wrong and where she grew up.
Already she has been fed to the fires
in some fine commercial establishment,
with a name like Death 4 Less.

Suzanne Lummis is dead, but now—today—
as she writes these words, her feelings seem locked
in a chamber she can’t find her way down to, spiral by spiral,
can’t key her way into.
When the poet wrote “César Vallejo is dead,”
how did he make himself stop?

She wants to go on reproducing the phrase,
like a child consigned to stay after school
until she’s covered the blackboard with white chalk,
till exhaustion drives her into her bones, till amazement
bursts in her skull—and she understands.

Suzanne Lummis was a 2018/19 COLA (City of Los Angeles) fellow and used the endowment to create 70 (mostly) 180-character stanzas, Tweets from Hell. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, The Antioch Review, Hotel Amerika, Plume on-line and the print anthology, The New Yorker, and in three Knopf anthologies, Poems of the American West, Monster Verse, and Killer Verse—in the Vers Noir section. She’s the writer and host of They Write by Night. Her twitter account is @LummisofLA.

Originally published in NOR 7

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