SUSAN MILLAR DUMARS
Walker Evans’ Girl Leaning on Wire Fence
He came by here on a Sunday,
a nothing doing day –
wore glasses big and square
and full of cloud.
I never seen his eyes.
Said hello real easy, like a man
selling something. I’m Mr. Evans.
Can I take your picture?
I looked around to see
who he was talking to.
I saw our shed with the caved in roof
like a goblin’s smile,
the low-bent grass in our backyard
trying not to mind the lack of rain.
Them trashcans, striped with sun,
pretending to shine. Saw our wire fence,
my fingers laced tight into it,
his camera just on the other side.
Queer thing, a box with an eye.
Gladys down the drug store says
I look like Bette Davis. I puff
my lips, make witchy eyes
into the bathroom mirror.
But Daddy says Gladys
should get her eyes examined.
Mr. Evans told me not to smile
or look at the camera.
So I stared a ways down the road
and didn’t think of nothing
but the cold sneaking up my skirt
and them smokestacks in the distance.
I heard a click-click.
After he left, it was real quiet
like I was the last person left
in the world, and I wondered
was it just a joke?
Or did he really
take my picture?
(Inspired by Girl Leaning on Wire Fence in Yard, Vicinity Bethlehem, Pennsylvania – 1935 by Walker Evans. The photograph now belongs to San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art).
The Grand Hotel
The mirror-top table is a full moon,
sepia lit over black waves beating;
pebbled beach where we walked
together, noticed how the tides
have worn our corners smooth.
Then back here
to the hotel bar. The chandelier
a floating wreath of light
reflected in the table. The ceiling so high
it could be a second sky. We sit,
use our whole chairs, sit well in.
The young waiter
brings your tea as if he’s been wanting
all day to do it. Silver pot with a lid
like a Kaiser’s helmet, its handle half
a heart. Your hands are so certain –
gesture, pour, gesture.
with these hands, am safe
in their company; I’m given
a vodka martini. The ritual
of wet fire.
Two fat olives on a stick.
Chakra points on a spine,
belly and heart, both full.
For once I’ll believe my reflection,
believe that I’m here,
and belong here. With you.
Your lumberjack stripes, dark
tangled hair. The waiter
brings us shortbread, wanting to please us.
But we have enough. Whatever
the waves do to us,
we are enough.
Susan Millar DuMars has published five poetry collections with Salmon Poetry; the most recent, Naked: New and Selected Poems, in 2019. Naked has been featured in The Irish Times and Poetry Ireland Review and at the Poetry Flash readings in California. Susan and her husband have coordinated the Over the Edge readings series in Galway, Ireland since 2003.