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“I’m Driving to Fresno (And I don’t care who knows it)”, “Noir Confession—with Evasions”, and “Noir Stanzas: Pieces of Advice, after Viewing…”

I’m Driving to Fresno (And I don’t care who knows it)


The One-Ten to the Five then
up Ninety-Nine, Famosa,
Dinuba, past silos filled—
the signposts swear—with milk,
California milk. So much milk! So much
green, greens, jewel greens, edibles,
wearables, and those ones so new
they squeak. They almost

squeak out some words. Greens
bound over the earth, drip from trees,
an abundance, a goodness,
because rain—
the rains came! And those clouds—no,
not ordinary clouds, great, swallowing,
beastly things you could not drive through.
In such vapor, you’d vaporize. Like I said,

I’m heading to Fresno and don’t care who knows it.
After the long drought, dry winters
followed by dry springs, aching
trees, roots weeping (some scientists
say that they weep), now wild,
disorganized flowers, and that road sign:
Cheese Factory. Many Cheeses.
If you can’t find your cheese here

we don’t have it. Mango Ice Mallow,
Storm Water Lotus… I’m making
these up—names of flowers, new
colors. Cadillac Rose Plant, Blue
Ink Pot. Like I’m trying to tell you,
to confess, to put you on notice—
I’m in a good mood
and no one can tell me I’m not.


Noir Confession—with Evasions


This story I’m about to tell?
It’s not true, and that’s the straight-up

truth. Except for some parts that are—so,
I lied.

This friend, she
needed a hardpack of L&Ms,

a gun that wouldn’t jam, and a man that’s
you know, like, you know—strong jaw,

broad shoulders, with brains as tough
as he looked but in the right way, and

Why not? She could use a good laugh.

O.K., so now we’re in real time, present
tense, the Now of It Ain’t Over Yet.

He feels her gaze on him—
the way neon light looks at a shiny car.

The way a dislodged gem stares at the hard moon.

He doesn’t want to get involved, he just
wants. The crime is as good as committed.

And now for the pluperfect past (so needy
and imperfect)—she

had needed to bankroll her life, a life
that had not been going to be cheap.

It was all about something, something. But
this Something kept slipping away, like a dream—

you know, the way those small atoms,
the dream’s, break apart and re-enter

the atomic age? She needed to finance
these words, and—like the mugs say—

words like hers don’t come cheap.

Sex like being pushed from a high
window. I made that up. Like it?

How much?

Half-moon, quarter-moon… Came then
The Night of No Moon. It cameth. But,

really, you want the truth?
Crime or no crime, caught or slipped

outta there, running like raggedy water,
there’s no escaping the moon.

Obviously, it worked out.
Clearly, it all went wrong.


Noir Stanzas: Pieces of Advice, after Viewing…


Kiss Me Deadly


Don’t crack the chest of devouring light—
it will bite through bone, meat, hand that frees it.
Hell blown open blows a shrieking medley.


Why do you think it’s called Kiss Me Deadly?
He treats women like sh—Guess! (Rhymes with “it.”)
Don’t kiss a jerk named Hammer, first name Mike.


Night and the City


Quit working all the angles—you’re one piss-poor angler.
Your scams, ruses, that greyhound racetrack thing? Up in smoke.
And now? Control of wrestling in all of London town.


When they drop you in the Thames you’ll be too dead to drown.
Grifter, you staked your life on a promissory note,
and forgot that rule: don’t cross guys called The Strangler.


L.A. Confidential


Racketeering, murder—no one’s cracking down.
The cop or robber, who’s the biggest thug?
Let’s keep the answer L.A. Confidential.


Hard to live up to your full potential
when your liver’s pierced by a well-aimed slug.
Stay home, dreamers, dream in your measly town.

Suzanne Lummis has poems in "Ploughshares," "Spillway," "The Antioch Review," "The American Journal of Poetry," "Hotel Amerika," "Plume," "The New Yorker," and three Knopf “Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets” anthologies: "Poems of the American West," "Killer Verse," and "Monster Verse." Her last collection, "Open 24 Hours," received the Blue Lynx Poetry Prize and was published by Lynx House Press.

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The Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation Distinguished Speakers Series Presents An Evening with Zadie Smith: Zadie Smith Interviewed by Geoff Dyer

by Zadie Smith, Geoff Dyer


Child of Immigrants

by Jia-Rui Cook