by Suzanne Lummis

“I was thinking about that dame upstairs
and how she’d looked at me. And I wanted
to see her again, close, without that silly
staircase between us.”
– Voice of Walter Neff in Double Indemnity

Sir, if I may be frank, even bold,
perhaps rash, I’d like to see you again
without that grand piano between us—
the silly one with its carved curlicues,
enamel inlay, its painted panel legs
displaying their affection
for the 19th Century.

And the piano player also—again, forgive
this lapse of discretion. … No, no,
I don’t mean I wish to see him as well.
I long to see you without him between us,
the grand piano player, whose “ivory hands
on the ivory keys strayed in a fitful fantasy”.
(Thank you dear Mr. Wilde). Well—

perhaps I would like to see him again,
but let’s not think on that now. Now
I desire (did I just confess desire?)
to see you again without even
the music between us. Without—sir, yes,
yes, you read my meaning, my purpose
and, I dare say, my lips—without even
that last
lithe, trembling
note of the concerto
between us.

IMAGE: Still from Double Indemnity starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray (1944)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  In 2013, Suzanne Lummis won the Blue Lynx Poetry Award—her collection Open 24 Hours will be released by Lynx House Press in 2014. Her poems have appeared in noted literary journals across the country and in such anthologies as California Poetry from the Gold Rush to the Present, the Knopf “Everman’s Poetry Library” anthologies, Poems of the American West, Poems of Murder and Mayhem. Her definitive essay on the poem noir appeared in New Mexico’s Malpais Review, for which she is California Correspondent, and in 2011 her organization, The Los Angeles Poetry Festival, produced a 25-event citywide series, Night and the City: L.A. Noir in Poetry, Fiction and Film. She is co-editor of Beyond Baroque’s new imprint, The Pacific Coast Poetry Series, which will publish an important new anthology of Los Angeles area poets in 2014. She performs with the serio-comic performance troupe Nearly Fatal Women and teaches for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, and for other colleges and arts organizations. Visit her at

Author photo by Penelope Torribio. Visit the photographer at