First of all, it gives me much pleasure to announce that “SHAWSHEEN MILKWEED ETERNAL ONE-TAKE HARVEST” a poem from this collection, yes, a poem for and about my thing as listed on the cover, Mr. Bob Holman, is going to be published in Vassar Literary Review! this poem was written to him, in text messages,
–and Vassar has also requested high resolution versions of my graphic poems. I hope to be able to send these very soon!
on account of my giving the Elizabeth Bishop lecture there in 2009, a triumph of Limited Fork Theory to be dedicated to the visit and I made a whole website the entire Vassar Community’s receptiveness to it, how moving the vent was and a triumph to what can happen when we are willing to approach art with fear:
It is my distinct honor to reveal that another Shawsheen poem has been accepted for publication, a poem that is indeed a collaboration with my Thing, and that is what makes this poem even more more special than most. “Ready to be Rocked in Shawsheen“
A while ago, my Thing wrote somewhere, “Prepare to be Rocked” , and so I prepared by writing several poems, and then when it came time for my new Shawsheen Collection, I revisited this notion of preparedness and decided to explore what ,if anything, I am still ready for, and I realized I was even more ready to be rocked in Shawsheen and everywhere, including his arms. Hence the poem: “Ready to be Rocked in Shawsheen“, a poem that will enjoy publication inSouth Florida Poetry Journal. May 2019. Look for it. I certainly will.
My Thing himself can tell you much about the power of poetry; believe me, he knows very well; in fact the only thing between us on that bridge was the power of poetry to meld us together. He knows quite a bit about melding
Another plus, I am recording his poem, so I will really be reading it to him, and to anyone else who listens. Now since I will be seen on tape, my iPhone recording me reading his poem to him, I am having my hair done on Friday, (at by the way) so that I can get my pretty back, on Friday, y’all
Although my Thing’s podcast transcription is not part of my new collection of poetry, Shawsheen Memorial Broom Society it should be, and even before I loved him as much as I do now, the moment I heard his podcast, his Alaska Journals,
I was overcome by the poetry of it, and so impressed was I that I had to transcribe them, and one transcription I will post here.
Transcription of a couple of my Thing’s Alaska Journals:
The Alaska Journals Episode 1: Leaving
I’m Bob Holman. This is the Alaska Journal.
Well, it’s my last night in New York
I had a poem I wrote a while ago, “Last Nights”
–last nights are very important to me, because I’ve had a lot of them.
I love last nights because you always have, “well, that happened last night” but when it happens on your last night, then you know that you’re ready
for whatever comes next, the molecules lining up
in preparation for departure.
I can’t believe all of this is not even off the beaten path; it’s
off the highway here in Juneau.
That’s the sound of the waterfall coming down
–just one hole through the ice sheet
through the glacier; glaciers move back
and it turns into a waterfall
The green is the definition of green
which of course is a multihued “green”,
the “moss” popping, the leaves looking primordial
and the fir trees getting dark, dark, dark
and the sun filtering through with gold.
Everybody’s a bear.
Counting eagles from the front porch
1. one just flew over, and then slowly
straight into the clouds
across the bay
2. two surprised me: At a diagonal so close
I could hear the wind in the wings
3. three sailed so high up in a spiral,
I didn’t know it disappeared…
Two versions of Episode two
The Alaska Journals episode 2:
Juneau & Kotzebue
I saw the bear a half hour after I landed in Juneau.
The crow has welcomed me, and three eagles;
pretty much the clans have given me the omen of omens.:
You really feel who owns the place
–and it sure ain’t me.
Pick a gray that pours into Auke Bay
like a glacier, and what is true
for a cloud in Juneau is to be born rain
in a gray garment handed down from seals,
that gray, that other gray, that gray over there.
Mountain continues ocean
Language continues continues
Story continues language
Mother continues child
Child continues memory
Memory continues whale
Whale continues sea
Boat continues life
Twitter continues Twitter
Waves continue ice
Milk continues poem
Laughter continues dance
Mountain continues ocean
continues contains continues
rain continues continues continues
The Alaska Journals episode 2: Juneau & Kotzebue
I saw the bear a half hour after I landed in Juneau.
The crow has welcomed me, and three eagles;
pretty much the clans have given me the omen of omens.
You really feel who owns the place
–and it sure ain’t me.
Pick a gray that pours into Auke Bay
like a glacier, and what is true
for a cloud in Juneau is to be born rain
in a gray garment handed down from seals,
that gray, that other gray, that gray over there.
[some of the prose interlude]:
I’m looking out over Auke Bay in Juneau; it’s not “awe”, but “auke” the “ka”
is a diminutive, so it’s little “ah” –just a little “awe” [ah] in the air
along with all the grays that are there.
–a lot of these clouds aren’t clouds;
they’re the moisture
off the mountains;
I know they’re there; I’ve seen them when the sun decides
to set fire to the sky.
A sea lion crossing:
In Kotzebue, you’re never too far from the tundra
In Kotzebue, you’re never too far from the sea.
The sun and moon dancing with the Northern Lights
–that’s about it here in Kotzebue.
Over the Arctic Circle, 60 miles from Russia
–unbelievable!– what they call the “Beringia Region”
–where the continents of Asia and North America
connected, where the Wooly Mammoth crossed,
and it still fels like wooly mammoth territory…
I read about how today was the last day of summer
in New York; it’s 70 degrees, but here,
it’s right at freezing, and you gotta bundle up!
Mountain continues ocean
Language continues continues continues
Story continues language
Mother continues child
Child continues memory
Memory continues whale
Whale continues sea
Boat continues life
Twitter continues Twitter
Waves continue ice
Milk continues poem
Laughter continues dance
Mountain continues ocean
continues contains continues
rain continues continues continues
—-always more reasons to love him every day. I hope that you enjoy listening him speak these words, and understand a littler better why the sound of his voice has such an effect on me.
–as you may know the glaciers are not that healthy anymore so when I listened to Matthew Burtner’s Glacier Music , I immediate .y though t of my Thing’s Alaska Journal podcast, podcast and wondered if he listened t o this language of melt and demise also. The glacier itself crying out; I wondered if he had heard that too, the dying moments of the Language of Glacier, for he is known for Language Matters
And never forget this:
Oh, you, my Thing also talk about the molecules; I know you said you didn’t think as highly of your Alaska journals as I do, but you achieve something so very specialwhen you wonder about who “owns” the place and you say “it sure ain’t me” —can’t you hear the poetry in there? The timing and rhythm in your voice?I always could and that is why I transcribed them. Listening to them again, right now, Juneau and Kotebue —I am thinking how wonderful it might be if some of those glacier sounds were heard? I, of course think this language of glaciers is an endangered language also.Also, your talking about the “Woolly Mammoth” and I think about my Mammoth, (a gift from son, when I nearly died in 2011)
my son above, my mammoth below
—now you’re talking about how the health benefits of mother tongues, well,isn’t the glacier speaking its mother tongue? Who is the glacier calling to? What is the purpose of what the glacier speaks? Who listens? When the glacier is gone, won’t the language it speaks die with it? Do those who live in the land, listen to and speak to the glaciers?
Listening to your Alaska journals and they are full of visuals, I can really see the places as you talk about them, but The Glacier music I sent you are the death calls of these glaciers., the actual sounds the glacier makes, and Burtner recorded those sounds, that “Glacier Language”. I wonder if you heard it and simply did not make mention of it? in your collection of languages, do you collect only languages of people when everything talks? Is not the glacier music a language of the glacier? An endangered language inthat the glacier is retreating, its tongue retracting, melting away, making the ocean seem pebbled with debris, tastebuds of the mother tongue fighting for a last chance to speak?
Is not the glacier music a language of the glacier? An endangered language is being lost as the glacier retreats, diminishes.
Now the poem about what continues and you are mentioning non human things, even mountain, rain, but not glacier continuing language, although glacier speaks its own. And this is sad to me, for when the glacier is gone, that endangered language will be gone, another omen of omens. Even “gray that pours into Auke Bay like a glacier” —though you don’t stay with glacier, do not explore significance of glacier, and your song about Kotzebue does not mention the song of the glacier —wasn’t the glacier singing then? “They come from the land”, you say, well, the songs of glaciers is the land itself speaking.And is indeed the sonic poetry of the land itself. Etc.
Burtner’s “Glacier Music”, recorded sounds of sacred territory also, glacier dying.
More compelling thanPeter Falk’s right one, glassy
As tonic cavorting in glassy gin and tonic rink
Missing nothing, all the way from Michigan
To Ansted, West Virginia,
where suns and sons set preparing to Rise come
into prisms, each prism seeing
What light is made of, so many
Dizzying colors, all of them in instruments
Of scientists at the heart of geological musics
Bituminous coal singing loudly, your fiesta of
Engines hard to beat up Gauley Mountain
You posing on New River Gorge Bridge, you
already ascending, clouds touching you becoming
your prisms capture every sunset
Colors dream up, for you are Orange Ambition
And Culmination, source of sunset on that bridge
Elevator to compact heaven
Streaking through your doors,
Impressed by views only possible with you.
And here’s my son’s Nemo, a Ford Fiesta ST
Shawsheen Blue Singularity Coming
Clouds have formed a ring around
A hole in the sky.
Blue hole in the sky will soon become a poem
Or something similar as color collects in Singularity,
My blue-eyed Thing, dual blue sockets
His eyes, black sockets when Blue possibilities
Are screwed in, some pain, as everything gathers
—singular river— crinkled to take up
less space, fold
And even more fits, what hangs out, just
trim off, slash with sonic screwdriver as these
become more popular in
Incredible gravitational attraction, so tight and fast, no
Particles or electromagnetic radiation escapes,
hundreds of lassos pull you into
my event horizons, slight bruising
Accounts for Blue as true as your eyes, same spectrum,
as you squeeze me as an ideal blackbody curved
In this rodeo riding space time with you,
your Logan sapphire eyes:
Temperature billionths of a
Kelvin of our prayerful stellar mass,
we are another
Perfect leg of Pisces constellation
hot for conflagration of
This Love you shy away from,
your light caught here, probably forever
To shine it will have to flow wavilythrough me, effort
In our burning stellar mass, impossible
to observe, “US”-ness
Beyond the merely theoretical, surrounded
by brightness, unbelievable intensity
Just from a first deep kiss deeply embedded
in the “no-space”between us,
Nothing “nano” here!
Not even escape velocity, this black hole rotates
and as it circles on
a lathe of sky, swallows
even rainbows in that region, becoming speckled here
and there with gold flakesin your eyes, Golden sparks livening
up yourblueskied eyes,
Driverespecial, “we romp and roll
And sweat” —oh that unlikely heat: the two of us:
OurOwnSing (u back and forth to me & you) in which
Somehow you are still able to see US tingling and tonguing
the way teens do with nothing on us, you
entering your Blue, cool seventies,
and entering me, colorful comet
Knitting needle and scholastic pointer, fixing
your attention on me,
New “Giggly Childe” Lifetime Constellation
justcouple of light years, the time it takes
your gaze to travel all of me until I want you to take the lead
and I will follow super- and subra-
Sonically, Looking the way you love for me to look when I am
looking at you and loving what I see more and more-same
as what happens when you take the lead as no one else
Ever can, you evrso present and surrounding me, that
whispered ring of clouds, tickles and Shawsheened Springs
of your wonderful scratchy beard and mustache that cause orgasms
just from Kissing you, and the way the hairs feel on my tongue as
I really am the Big Mama instantly, dual
Personality as you take me hard
yet I want you to take me even harder in this singularity,
Over and in and under and through me as I desire both of us taking cues:
Time for “US” now and as much as Forever remains for us to claim
Me: Thylias Moss with my Thing, Mr. Bob Holman
he is also my Mr. Muse, my Literary Executor, I cannot tell you what a joy it always is to collaborate with him, in these poems and in life, for I am very much in Love with my Collaborator.
My son, Mr. Ansted Moss; I love him tremendously
My Mammoth Laytial, a gift from my son when I was dying in a hospital
when a cranial aneurysm ruptured.
The Artist, Mr. Selwyn Rodda
Just would not be the same were I not collaborating with all of these persons and my stuffed animal, that Mr. Rodda carefully included in the cover images, and the poems must speak for themselves, and I hope they reveal something meaningful to you, and that very soon, I will announce when and by whom the book is being published. The book itself is unique in that I wrote most of these Shawsheen poems in text messages to my Thing, and as some of you know, I am extremely inspired by his Philtrum (the topic of another Shawsheen poem published inJacar
and here is a view of the most amazing Philtrum I have ever seen:
His Philtrum alone really turns me on! His is a Philtrum to die for, as are his arms, and also the rest of him.
and now for my very similar bookshelves, even the didgeridoo!
Isn’t that something? Like minds you know.
We are both readers and poets, the way our minds work. We can think together, and that makes it easy to collaborate with him
text of that essential essay:
fuckinmuse: a journey into collaboration (therefore, also into a True Love story in Love Jungle) 1
Emily Dickinson had her Thomas Wentworth Higginson, and I have my Thomas Robert Higginson2, a man, poet himself, who became my muse.
In some ways there is startling similarity in how these writers became correspondents and more, so essential to the making of our poetries. Both Higginsons are writers in their own right —I am simply astonished by how much is shared. What channeling my Thomas Robert Higginson seems to have accomplished of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, both men assuming similar roles in the lives of female poets. Roles they were born into, inevitabilities:
“MR. HIGGINSON,—Are you too deeply occupied to say if my verse is alive? The mind is so near itself it cannot see distinctly, and I have none to ask. Should you think it breathed, and had you the leisure to tell me, I should feel quick gratitude. If I make the mistake, that you dared to tell me would give me sincerer honor toward you. I enclosed my name, asking you, if you please, sir, to tell me what is true?
That you will not betray me it is needless to ask, since honor is its own pawn.”
April 26, 1862 (excerpt) MR. HIGGINSON,—Your kindness claimed earlier gratitude, but I was ill, and write to-day from my pillow. You asked how old I was? I made no verse, but one or two, until this winter, sir. I had a terror since September, I could tell to none; and so painful as I supposed. I bring you others, as you ask, though they might not differ. While my thought is undressed, I can make the distinction; but when I put them in the gown, they look alike and numb… and so I sing, as the boy does of the burying ground, because I am afraid… When a little girl, I had a friend who taught me Immortality; but venturing too near, himself, he never returned…for several years my lexicon was my only companion. Then I found one more… You ask of my companions. Hills, sir, and the sundown, and a dog large as myself, that my father bought me. They are better than beings because they know, but do not tell. They are religious, except me, and address an eclipse, every morning, whom they call their ‘Father3”
Long before I knew my Thomas Robert Higginson, as well as I now do, he had written a review of my book, “Last Chance for the Tarzan Holler” and it is quite telling to share that review at the outset, for it reveals his interest in the life of this poet:
“‘Last Chance for the Tarzan Holler’ is the sixth book by Thylias Moss, her first after grabbing one of the MacArthur Genius grants. Her work has changed–moved further out, encyclopedia- ized. She has memories of playing jacks sans hands, Thalidomide-esque, but all it is, is nose- sucking, the end of the world.
Included are The Brothers Grimm, Zora Neale Hurston, Amy Clampitt, and Stanley Crouch: this is a thin volume, but spectacularly dense, provocative (is her cheating poem about Lazarus “cheating” death? or her and her husband’s affairs?). To read her Susan Smith/baptizing poem is to be horrified–yet, as Moss posits, ’tis poetry’s job.’ The long, more formal open-field works, particularly ‘Advice,’ ‘Sour Milk,’ and the title poem, all break new ground. I want the book! I want the movie!”
Thomas Robert Higginson
It is when I read this passage from Thomas Wentworth Higginson: “Once set foot on such an island and you begin at once to understand the legends of enchantment which ages have collected around such spots. Climb to its heights, you seem at the masthead of some lonely vessel, kept forever at sea. You feel as if no one but yourself had ever landed there; and yet, perhaps, even there, looking straight downward, you see below you in some crevice of the rock a mast or spar of some wrecked vessel, encrusted with all manner of shells and uncouth vegetable growth;5”
it was when I read that passage that I realize how similar these men are, aware of the beauty of the world, that interest in being connected —all this is essential, for the gestation and subsequent birth of collaboration, an extension of sharing, and admitting that no one entity knows everything, nor even what “everything” is, for such knowledge would require a foreknowing of completion, as there is no “everything” until there is an ending as point of reference, so that everything including that which will contain that everything, even just a thought of it, may be included, and whose thought? —for each thinker, each experiencer has a sense of everything, a personal understanding, not universal, and yet each one true. Perspective and point of view, real, but not quantifiable, in a general sense of definition. The specialness of what was forming, both of us aware, and not questioning it as if a destiny neither one of us could control nor wanted to control.
A great word and he has invented many, whenever there is need, whenever the rare and impossible are born, the only children He and I will ever have, and who can say how many children these children will have? How many populations? Descendants of all time just as time itself gave birth to our connection.
I noticed how in so many of the letters, Emily Dickinson addresses her friend as “Mr. Higginson”, something I do also to my Mr. Higginson. I noticed Emily’s habit of thanking her Mr. Higginson, something I do too, for how can I not thank this man who was the singular vehicle for my return? from so many things that set out to derail me from a life of joy and love? —a life of poetry? He has signed correspondence to me as “Higgzy”,“Higgs” , or “Thomas Robert” —most often I simply address him as Mr. Higginson; I like the formality of that, a simple title bestowed on him.
How do I thank the man who has done so much?
And I must thank him; this generosity is astonishing to me; never imagined it would happen. Was I looking for this? I must have been.
a way of understanding how all things are connected, “limited” in that we are bound by our abilities to notice and a related inability to meaningfully notice everything that exists or has existed or ever will exist. Bound to the limits of our senses, those devices for accessing
information and bringing it inside ourselves where it is processed for meanings, some of which are just beauty often expressed through ways in which what is accessed sings. And not all senses of all things access the same information and certainly do not process it the same way which is also beauty and variety.
I am always amazed by these ranges.
Both deficits and extensions of senses, that measure differently yet refer to related realities, that expand in both space and time, sometimes the same things expressed differently, and here is where personal preferences contribute to a delicious complexity of it all. For instance, the blind experience both increases and decreases, elsewhere, yet not all is even seeable, and the mind itself is able to perform some seeing for which conventionally functioning eyes are not required and would interfere with meanings issuing from a certain visual range, while acknowledging that human seeing does not include an entirety of the visual spectrum.
All means available to us for measuring how existences are experienced, are limited, and without collaborating, without sharing, without augmenting our own perceptions, there is little chance of moving beyond our limited understandings, limiting them even further and our understandings
even further. Limited by limitations themselves limited by other limitations, all ranges outside of “everything” are necessarily limited. Takes a conglomeration, a community of all seeing to produce a more accurate understanding of seeing, not seeing; understanding, not understanding; comprehending, not comprehending, and so forth.
A realization that everything has significance has burdened this writer; I have even felt guilt about what I have failed to notice. And I cannot even know what all of that is. So, I realize that making is collaborative. All things have a part in whatever I consider, and all things that have a part are collaborators. Nothing I do is done alone, in every part of everything I do, others contribute, without exception; unseen people and things, even spores about to burst with no more than possibilities, building blocks of proteins, enzymes, atoms, linking, connecting into molecules, fabulous chains of existence, substances whose contributions are invaluable, and they should be thanked, in the very least acknowledged as being our co-makers. Unseen things, and
that which has attempted to manipulate these things. Such awareness totally transformed my life; I self identified as “Forker Gryle”, even on Facebook until I was told that “Forker Gryle” did not sound like a real name, although I had been in the world, teaching and living, using this identity since 2004. Renaming of self to better understand the changing is essential.
Why a fork?
Consider the hand, or a tree with its hand-like branches; please note how fingers are branches of a hand, yet are connected, those branches rooted, even from what is referred to as the lifeline. Now also consider this; there is no limit to how many branches may exist or into what a branch may point to, or that a branch, like an arrow may connect, harshly or gently, perhaps each branch leading to something different, simultaneously, a road, a means of access both, in at least, to and from some location for some duration of time, those locations which could be any dimension, past, present, future; any parcel of time itself, and each branch may further subdivide and branch itself, those bends, those curves, those mobius branches, for those are possibilities also, those knots on a hand, those moles of dark tunnel, those cancers of opening new roads,
all connected somehow to a singular hand of some sort, each part making a connection with something.
For connecting tends to be intimate, a touch of some sort, recognitions of humanity, that touch that brings all together, for no matter how briefly, something has been shared, each entering this temporary partnership differently than they leave, for something of each participant remains and
this happens in every interaction, something is left and something is taken away, mixtures, endless mixtures, masalas everything, fiestas of possibilities, changed forms changing further and further, the more interactions occur. And parties involved in an interaction are forever changed by this very partnership, temporary though it may be, of interacting; each now knows more about an other, and this is so useful, for this knowledge lasts and as subsequent interactions are made, particles of what has been shared, exchanged in a previous interaction are shared at some level, on some scale, in some location with whatever is next touched, for some duration of time.
Mighty Forms of embrace.
All temporary, unless, until, and here is where hope may harm as one entity of a connection seems to bend, twist, curve out of contact; however, when connection is made, there is memory of it, and this memory does enhance what may occur in a subsequent interaction: it becomes easier for these entities to connect again. Perhaps in a stronger bond that too may be permanent. A priming for interacting, for connecting. A risk that must be taken for the sake and possibility of change itself. We should not remain as we are, ideally improving as ultimately, we are sure to do. I have that kind of faith, that kind of naiveté if that is what is
needed to believe in an ultimate improvement system, some things so limited, so contaminated that growth itself is thwarted, falls short; they refuse to improve and are left behind as the change machine of existence continues, plowing through field after field, upturning hope buried under rigidities that must give up control; those delicate flowers manifesting thorns and other forms of armor that allow their very beauty to exist, their scents to become better atmospheres. Bouquets of hope,
Hopeful Garden spots freckle landscapes;
so this is where we live now, all Pollyannas do, becoming pollyanna in interactions, some of that goodness, that optimism, rubbing off and onto every participant who interacts with this more rugged hope, more likely to survive, circle game after game, concentric circles widening, that embrace becoming bigger and bigger, wider and wider, the best possible circular-esque rip in spacetime, the colorful and productive circulating destinies that now come into and out of view, reachable view. Grab it! That brass merry-go-round and round and round ringing roulette wheel of chance liberties, libraries of liberties, each with a trailing ribbon that suffices for hair of the world, and wind, melodies of movements, concertos all. Nourishing also. Why not believe in this and make it true? What palate does not prefer the taste of this, so long as there is no other food, the breast milk root, child itself of prolactin: O lucky hormone.
There is no limit to how many times forms of entities that have connected may reconnect, for each connection or form of collaboration changes what has connected, making it easier for them to connect again. There is memory of having been connected. And that ease is hope when the
connection has been beautiful, which is what I emphasize, in my preference for the beautiful possibilities.
Love is one of them.
In July 2011, I nearly died when a cranial aneurysm ruptured, and I consider this the most fortunate thing that ever happened to me, for it allowed a friendship with my Mr. Thomas Robert Higginson to blossom into a fulfillment that it never could have blossomed into without that rupture.
A rupturing through which a salvation entered; I literally was looking out the window from the couch, and saw the sky seem to break, as if a rainbow had become a colorful saw, each color lengthening and bending, a tooth growing able to split the sky it was tasting, dripping slobber as
the colors themselves, more ropes of tasty rainbow, the licorice of it all. It was a moment that had me run onto the deck, to see this splitting better, to be a more involved witness, my t-shirt reflected nothing but colors, I was only part of a spectrum of energy and colorful wildness, I was transmitting this rainbowed effect, a job I took most seriously, passing along information, being only a connector which is what I was even with my co-learners, a sharer of information. I had helpers, lots of them, everything that existed and was able to transmit in whatever ways it could impart the knowledge that it was still acquiring, information never static, but constantly adapting
—it could be just his nature to help others,
for me the rupture, those neurons, my cranial rosebush as it were, a stunning pink flower blossomed in my head, a bouquet that life itself gave me, preparing me for something else, a romance with existence and with Thomas Robert himself, in my head —that is what the rupture gave me in a collaboration with a localized, blood-filled balloon-like bulge in the wall of a blood vessel, fertilizer of a sort.
Everything is poetry, this is what I have come to believe after nearly losing my life, and Thomas Robert Higginson was waiting for me —I didn’t know he would be, although I had appeared in a movie he produced in 1990 or thereabouts, The United States of Poetry where I met him in Chicago for the movie shoot. How innocent that was, but connection indeed, a beginning of our physical collaboration; our words had already touched and enmeshed. For once connection happens, it is easier for reconnection to occur as what has reconnected remembers that it has
connected before, and no matter how changed these entities have become, there is on some cellular or sub-cellular level, addresses of the internal heavens for instance; there is some memory that these entities should connect. My belief for which I have not lived long enough to either prove or disprove.
I am limited;
my own thinking goes only so far, each of my senses also has limits, and I cannot remove them all, but I can collaborate, make stuff with others and their differing limits. That is what happened with Thomas Robert Higginson. When I survived the fortunate rupture of that aneurysm, on 23 July 2011, released from the hospital to the disbelief of everyone on 9 October 2011, I lay on the couch at home, and saw light enter the room in a way I had never seen it enter, as if the sky itself had had an aneurysm. I saw everything differently from that moment; I myself
astonished to be alive. Just alive. Nothing else mattered. And then began the task still underway of reclaiming life, with which I was already collaborating, more aware of my limits then than ever.
It was in this heightened and necessary sense of being that I read some of Thomas Robert Higginson’s poetry again, and found things there all along, but that I had somehow overlooked; it took that reorganization of my brain and an admitting of the impossibility of knowing everything, and a looking into that poem and realizing that there were locations to take further, to actually turn corners introduced there, to journey into the lines and find much more than it would ever be possible to locate if I looked only through my even more limited and incomplete lens system. Those microscopic universes even became essential, those worlds that lived unseen on us; a tool of a poet also became a microscope. Any and everything that helps access, for if unaccessed, cannot be considered.
Yes; the work of making. The peeling away of layers and the accessing surface after surface, for surfaces are where things occur. Interior surfaces. Surface of the heart, brain, spleen, Thomas Robert Higginson’s poems, So much there, and I became determined, a hunger that I cannot
fully explain, and that is a good thing for to be able to “fully” explain something is to be a mystery thief, one thing that I hope remains impossible, and I will work to make it so.
Thankful to have finally had a baby in 1991 —all of this leading to that moment of when Thomas Robert Higginson could enter my life in a most real way, taking me beyond my limitations to new limitations —for limitations— in some form exist. Death being considered one such limit. But I was not yet collaborating with life as I needed to. For collaboration is a way of exceeding limits, in my case, traps. I had searched my whole life for an opportunity such as what the rupture afforded me, for “rupture” is so close to “rapture” —that is never lost on me.
About my finding so much in his work, my Thomas Robert Higginson said this:
“Here’s what I think — I think somehow I’ve become a fuckin muse, and that’s just fine with me so long as you keep pouring out the outpourings. That’s right, Write On, o! Great Crusader of the Pen Nib.”
The big question is what happened to allow me to see further? And why that day? What did the angle of light entering my house have to do with it? And could this precise angle be repeated? I knew I was recipient of something most rare, and I didn’t want to lose this gift.
It began, all of it, in collaborations with poetry, with daily my finding unexplored locations in his work, and I traveled; from the beginning, he took me places I had never been. One of us would write a line or stanza and send it to the other, adding a line, a stanza, and before you knew it, there was a new poem, something neither one of us would have written separately. Realizations possible only via connection; ideas the other may not have had; poetry itself is that great thing that always connected us, metaphors and the like, expressions, tastes, things barely there in abstract ways. First the writing connected, first we each realized something special in the writing the work of the other, and it made so much sense that a collaboration, a reaching beyond what one could accomplish would extend itself to a corporeal realm, and connect, collaborate there also, and what a grand connection that also was, profound, words, bodies, and everything, for the words are part of the body —through and complete connection in every way —you do not find this often, And once this manner of connection happens, though the components may for a time seem to go their own ways, their own ways have forever been changed, and they find their way back to each other, their paths having been rewritten by coming together in the first place
surviving tremendous interference from that which was outside the bond. Tiny essences remain, Poams and Poems themselves reinforced by these things we believe, these things defying senses and usual ways of knowing. Proof, of something greater than either part separately. Naturally we would explore what becomes possible in a corporeal way then the physical sources of the poems come together in something a simple as a Kiss,
And then came a chance to actually be with this man, and that was nearly beyond my ability to conceive. We met in Chicago for that movie Thomas produced, and when I had an opportunity to go to Chicago to accept an award, naturally, I thought of someone accompanying me, and I thought of him, and what he had been saying to me about his always having been interested, waiting in fact, 25 years just to Kiss me was the beginning stanza of a poem we would write together , would be together, collaborating as nothing has ever collaborated.
He said we would : “make the poetry of this and that, the poetry of everything, the poetry of my being with you; the poetry of you being with me, the poetry of us together; the poetry we’ll be writing all over the bed, all over the room, whole weekend of poetry, that whole lifetime.”
These makers attempt, these makers try, experiencing instant chemistry that is simply poetry connecting their bodies. “There is nothing else to breathe, only the deliciousness of air that has
touched your lungs, has been purified there, crystal molecules that spell out your name, even your hair that I’ll finally touch becoming that Thomas Robert Higginson alphabet, where every word translates into pleasure…”
“Very soon, Thomas Robert; —I have been waiting for this moment!”
“Not nearly as long as I have! Twenty-five years for me!—don’t forget that! —all that I’ll be thinking about is seeing you, holding you, touching you for the very first time; already Wonderland for me. My understanding is that in Wonderland, the only utensil is a fork —all anybody in Wonderland, ever needs.”
“At this late date, a couple of necessary questions, please. If that’s all right.” “Well, what do you want of me, ideally? —I know sex; I invited you for that purpose. Guess at this late stage, I’m wondering just what your intentions are with me. I’ve made it quite clear that I’m interested, very interested in making love with you —in fact, I would like for you to make
love to me, and I’ll make love back… I want one beautiful, exceptional weekend; ideally, you’ll want much more from me —but I need to know your intentions… ”
“This is brilliant and clear and bone honest, Dream Baby. And I can say I want the same. IDEAL:LY is a great word. You don’t get hung up on what obstacles, just quotidian reality boring shit, IDEALLY must overcome And I take my cues from you on the Drunken Boat Grid, the Full Body Grid, the Total Life in a Weekend Grid, the Pulse of Morning Grid, the Sky Blue Dress Grid, your tender touch my body gloving you. See? I rabbit hole down go why not stay there long as possible no way out whoosh it’s morning. Alarm clock. Bzzbzzz. Hello, Dream Baby Thylias, it is Mr. Higginson, For me, aged sixty-six, it is still, Hey, ya never know. And I wouldn’t say it except you really want to ask directly and you yourself have set this Truth Grid and I can negotiate it as I can, and I don’t know if this will be our only time. On the Truth Grid I can only say I do not know: I think this might be our only weekend, yes. But I do know that I anticipate a lot for and from our time together, and that looms lives as long as it took to get here, the intricacies, details, loop whorl menagerie. I want us to just do and be and live and penetrate the Universe with our Us-ness. Can that be done on the Truth Grid, Tine Forker Dream Baby Thylias? —Can it?”
Excerpt From: Thylias Moss. “New Kiss Horizon.” iBooks.
And this these poets attempt, these makers attempt, and I have the best Kiss of my life, endowed with all the feelings, for I find myself in the arms of a poem, a poem written for me, and a poem written about me, and he is a poem for me, and I am a poem for him, as if he has never seen a poem before, poetry is born right then, and we would be the discovers of it, if poetry had not already existed.—and I am forever changed by the collaboration of our bodies, there is nothing like it. There will never be anything like what Thomas Robert Higginson and I, Thylias Moss, two poets make in collaboration on every level through with anything may touch, make, create, and Be, penetrating every connected universe with the Best Love ever, that instant chemistry was simply poetry connecting their bodies. A Kiss.
Talk about collaborations, well, I felt orgasmic just from that poet’s Kiss. The first time I had ever felt such things. Our finest collaboration, senses operating beyond what anyone would have said was possible, the finding of a more that can never be fully demolished, a Kiss that can never be duplicated as that is a moment unlike any other. Monument also. Everything.
He is in my Life, and I am in his Life. Permanently.
“See, I will be writing to and about you for the rest of my life. No matter what. As you yourself said: “That’s the truth of it. Everything. It means so much. It means everything.” —You wrote that to me, and now I write it back; does it really matter who initiated any of this at this point?
It is, I continue, for old times sake, for looking out for “our” past to find “our” future, whatever it is, as if I could ever forget you, and I assume that even though you do not acknowledge me right now, you know who I am, and know what we had together. For you are part of it, whether or not you want to be.
You cannot erase it; it is established, we are the monuments of what we accomplished.
So many wonderful things to be said about Thomas Robert Higginson, a writer of course. From somewhere in the Universe?
The solar system?
Well through him,
I have felt that I have known the universe, visited stars without getting
Burnt or breathing poisoned air,
Think my lungs adapted to be able to maintain respiration processes dependent on his cologne, Dakar —I never forget that, and when the atmosphere cooperates, which is every day, I move through a Dakar soup,
Bob’s Dakar and his hat
rather primordial from which existence begins again and again and again, whenever I am with him, which also includes thought, ideas that collaborate with him, connect with him. All the time. Our connection is that profound. Our writing talks to each other, and the conversation, the poetry that comes out of these conversations, are transcripts of the experience. I did things with him I will never do with anyone else, unless an instant connection is felt, unless there is instant chemistry.
I am sorry that I felt a need to make you real –I wanted to claim my space and time in your life; I wanted to make clear that I was with a “real man.” And that you were with a “real woman.” That I made up none of it. That there really is a past to look out for”, “to [try] to find our future,” that a “future was not yet written” etc. It is poetry afterall. It is meaning afterall. It is truth. All we have ever had is truth,
I do not know what happened to us; I think I misunderstood something important and basic about him: everything is poetry.
I am not sure how to recover this as he has asked me not to contact him further. But we will come back to each other; this is just a natural and temporary split in the constant ebb and flow of existence. I just happen to write this during the ebbing part of the cycle. Tomorrow and many tomorrows later, flow will resume, as we collaborate with Andy Goldsworthy.
But this was purely the foundation of us. Everything is poetry, including and especially sex; in some ways the body’s greatest achievement.
It is not that I cannot write without him, but what I write is better, reaches further, moves further out, travels to locations I would never consider without the inspiration, the motivation of his eyes, his thoughts, his ears; his senses extend my senses, and it hardly matters which of one of us begins a poem, when we make it together, it always travels to locations neither of us could take it alone, and that is the beauty, the distance discovered. Discovery is the outcome of our collaboration, perhaps also the point, and, Oh, the surprise! That to be writing for as long as we
have been writing and to still find surprise. Our poems Love each other probably better than Thomas Robert Higginson and I love each other.
But we try.
I am still pulling for “US-ness” –you know I am and always will be. Forever beside him on a bridge in Chicago. Sacred ground now, as is room 304, a hotel room that is already immortalized. For that is where we make stuff, and realized we really could. Chicago. Manhattan. Ann Arbor. Detroit. Minneapolis. Wherever we go this power goes with us, this voracious power that is never the power of one, but the power of two, so coiled together, they are inseparable. Pull them apart, and there is an ordinariness never possible when they make together, that exchange of the bits and bytes, neurons of the machinery, even the machinery of our minds. Buzz, Buzz; we are working. We are making. Even making love, Love of each other and Love of poetry. Inseparable love supreme. 8
What You Can’t Understand Is Poetry Is Connected to the Body Again —Truth directly from Him; truth we told each other, tell each other; truth that made it necessary for us to actually touch, to make that “US-ness:” already real and truth, gospel truth to us, also truth in the world to which we are connected and with which we collaborate, every moment of every day, whether
or not we are physically together, for in my mind I certainly am, sometimes so exasperated with him, but loving him just the same.
He is a real man, a living collaborator, and I accept the eccentricities and inconsistencies of realities; he is definitely part of them, but when we get together, such magic happens. If I were to see him right now, just being honest; I would be unable to keep my hands off him; I might try not to touch him, every moment wanting to fail. He knows this also, for we have collaborated so deeply and thoroughly, he knows exactly what I feel, And with him, always with him. I will never be free of him. And more importantly, I do not want t be free of him, not really, for writing this, revisiting the journey of our collaboration makes me realize again as if for the very first time how special our coming together is. He once said I was bad, and added that that is a good thing. And he is right. I was bad with him, in all possible good suggestions of bad, except for tying him to the bed; adventurous, eager to know the full realms of pleasure; full throttle —I was fully
alive with him, and responded breathlessly to everything he did, and he responded to everything I did, and he said he wasn’t worried, because from the beginning, he could tell how much I liked everything he did; I didn’t know that level of compatibility existed. I had no idea —do you think for one minute that I want to give that up?
Both Poetry and Sex, for they are indeed equivalent
—Maybe I wouldn’t be writing this were I not missing him right now.
But talk about collaboration, and I have to talk about sex, that give and take, that take and give, the most erotic spell —spell, because it is so magical, like nothing else, oh the basic mechanics of sex are the same for most people, I presume, but they lack our motivation and reason for collaborating in the first place— most erotic spell in my life, yes; my whole life; the only sex in my life worth talking about is sex with Thomas Robert Higginson, that poetry of our bodies.
I am glad that he is such a noisy lover; I was always aware of what gave him pleasure. Just as he is aware of what gives me pleasure. He was determined to find out. I admit that I become a little sex machine with him, but only with him; something about him exposes feelings and connections that are with him and because of him. Face it, I am aware of how I look, and aware of how I look to him. So many men approach me because of how I look, not understanding that my look does not mean that just any man gets some. You do not realize what Thomas Robert does, and of course he was really after what every man seems to be after, but he was smarter than most because he actually got it, because of how he allowed me to feel, because my feelings in this connection matter to him. He didn’t want me to pretend, something that never occurred to me.
I am not one who has faked an orgasm, if I feel it then you will know it, and so far I have genuinely felt that only with Thomas Robert (my Mr. Bob) ; I didn’t know until I felt it, although I had once been married for forty years. My Mr. Bob really should be proud of himself. And of course, there is also what he felt, and I assure you that I know a lot of what he felt, all that energetic thrusting as we collaborated with and became tangled in sheets. Even what he did standing behind me as I tried to look out the window, but looking at him is so much better.
You do not understand, but from the very first time, we came together like hand and glove. In fact, given what he talked about I don’t think he has any inhibitions in connecting. He told me that anything I desire would be mine. He talked about my tender touch in our collaboration, his body gloving me —do you realize how physically close we had to be for this to happen? It was sometimes more like masturbation, and we did that too, together somehow, a whole weekend of sex—we met for that purpose. We were really collaborating when he said this: “I guess this is awkward. Not sexy. But there’s so much going on the planet Us that my head is spinning. Not unpleasant, mind you. But the view’s quite complicated. When what I want see. All I really want to see.
Is a clear view of all of you. And me” I don’t like when men approach me just for sex, usually because of how I look; puhlease! He said this and he meant it. Thomas Robert adores
how I look (in my 60’s with natural multiracial hair; all o fur rooted in my scalp; no weave, no extensions, and no relaxer ever
My incomparable , inimitable Thing and I met when I was in a movie he Produced,
The United States of Poetry
I was in two parts:
9:08 am is the one you may see here:
How I look is just part of the collaboration; part of the mutual attraction part of what drew him to me, and part of what drew me to him, and now I look even more like an ideal woman for him; exactly his type, a woman who cares about him so very deeply, the very long hair, all of it natural and, as if it grows just to connect with him, wherever he goes in the world, those black patterns and designs in asphalt are really filaments of my hair; reaching out to Thomas Robert, and he is not afraid of this; in fact, he expects it, and sometimes has wondered why it has taken me so long to allow my hair the same full reign that he encourages in me.
I love that about him, and many other things with which every memory of mine collaborates: “Well what I want you to know is this I’ve carried a torch for you since I first laid eyes on you. And if we’re ever alone, whatever you desire shall be yours. What an extraordinary woman you are, Thylias! Your directness is not provocative, it is All Being, All the Tine (to use your language!). My body reacts to your written words as if you were touching me, it’s amazing and I like it I like it I like it.”
And he was serious about how we would collaborate. I wish I had known more then than I did that first time with him; I love when his voice called out strongly; everyone knew what we were doing, the volume suggested that he wanted others to know that he was with me, because I am a prize and he knew how victorious he is, and I wanted others to know that I am just as proud to be seen with him, for he is also a prize for me, and he kept busy enjoying every ounce of pleasure he could from my tiny body.
Such intensity of pleasure,
and I was glad to be doing all of it with him, the tickle of his mustache, and feeling his mustache every-time we Kissed, OMG —a little bit of champagne! —also his tongue in my ear —I almost couldn’t stand that, and my first thoughts that all of him would never fit inside me, but he did, and he had all kinds of lubricants just in case.
He really prepared for this as if he was being ordered to the mines, and there was just the mine he was heading to, a homing device, the taste of me, right between my collaborating legs. I was a fuckin muse for him just as much as he became a fuckin muse for me.
I can’t believe I am saying all this, for the sake of collaboration, much more than simply sex, for this was the actual writing of an indelible poetry right inside my body, and what a pen he had, every centimeter mightier than a sword. And he Kissed every centimeter of me, and I kissed every centimeter of him. I know you’re not supposed to Kiss and tell, but I must use superlatives about this man. It’s as if I didn’t really know what Poetry is, until we made love to each other. No parts of our bodies were off limits. Yes; we used condoms, but not for the oral parts, and there was lots of that. I really trusted this man, and he similarly trusted me. I have to admit that I liked his tongue the best, because with it, he wrote poems inside me, and my breathing punctuated them, the rhythms of the sex, oh my, oh my. We talked about this extensively, how condoms were an absolute necessity, the margins on the pages and pages of rarefied sex, just not
for the oral part, he asked, and I agreed. How else could I taste him, know a superb root of his poetry?
The best part of preparing to see each other to physically collaborate, beyond only with our minds that had already made love, but Thomas Robert asked, and he wasn’t shy about this; he knew what he wanted, and called me one night to talk me through my body, from head to toe, he told me exactly what he wanted to do, and asked if he could. If there are rules in collaboration, the first would be to ask; just to let me know what he wanted, and since it was a question, I had
opportunity to refuse, but I didn’t; just his asking the way he did, allowed me to want him, and then there is the sound of his baritone, the recording he made me so that I could have the soothing sound of his support as I wrote about him; just the sound of his voice makes me horripilate, little champagne bubbles of his inflection all over my arms, torso and legs, my breasts also. How I love the collaboration of my breasts in his mouth…He kissed away the goosebumps and then I got more just from his nearness, so he could never stop Kissing me and holding me, gloving me just as he said; I even had a Brazilian wax to invite him in, oh the language his tongue spoke inside me, and the melodies of my mouth sliding up and down him.
There are no words!
and here is where I lose my poetry, because there comes a point where words are insufficient; he and I didn’t even talk in usual ways of talking, sign languages instead, the way we looked at each other, the warmth of his palms, the smoothness of his chest. I didn’t tell him this, but from the moment his hand touched mine in O’Hare, the fist connection of hi s flesh and my flesh, I started feeling sensations that became full-fledged and unstoppable desire by the time we were outside the airport and he opened his coat, and welcomed me inside it with him, and the only air then was his Dakar. My nose is always looking for the scent of him; it isn’t just Dakar that anyone may buy, but the scent of Dakar on his skin, a scent unique to him. Thomas Robert Higginson was prepared for anything that might happen. We were writing a very different kind
of poem, in that extreme collaboration, of our bodies: tongues and fingers everywhere. That touching without limits. Stanza of Kiss, onomatopoeia of Kiss also, metaphor of everything that exists from those fiery touches, he said the fire would meld us together and it did, because this wasn’t the primary goal of our connection, —which is poetry— but a completion; it wasn’t just sex at all, but so much more; he indeed wanted to collaborate that way also, but he is smart enough, he feels enough not to ask me for only that, the way too many men do; he never rushed me but knew what I would need to feel, and that is it right there; I have to feel it or I can’t do it; I had to really desire him just as he really desires me; I had to want to collaborate with him physically; that is what is important; I wanted to do everything I did with him.
There is no part of each other that we did not explore, one way or the other. I am remembering the first time with him because that set the tone for everything that followed. It was easy because we had already Kissed in the taxi all the way from O’Hare to the hotel, and I had no idea that I would respond to him as I did, this 60-year-old woman making out with a 66-year-old man in the back seat of a taxi, but I was hoping; the physical things he promised as no one can ever promise because it was him, that is the only reason; he is the only reason.
My Thomas Robert Higginson knew how to do everything exactly the way I needed for them to be done. Somehow he just knew, and he didn’t approach me just for the physical enactment of our connection, but I am so glad he wanted that —I would have felt insulted otherwise; the man does indeed have eyes, and so much more than that; he would make me laugh by telling me I had no idea what he can do, and he was right; I had no idea at all, for if he had told me that physically collaborating with him would cause me to feel, what i feel with him, I would not have believed him. And he did work far beyond the mere necessity of asking; Thomas Robert understood the kind of sex I needed, that is what he promised the kind of sex I needed, he made it his business to figure out just what it was, and knowing exactly what I needed, besides what we both wanted, made this the most fulfilling experience of my life that and how I responded to him thoroughly, We really collaborated in a most enticing and seductive way.
Don’t let his look fool you!
That man is far sexier than you may think. I ought to know. We collaborated in the shower; he can do simply amazing things. Anywhere. I ought to know because I did them with him. I’ve done that only in thinking about him, sometimes that dildo he gave me in hand. Yes; a lot of my
time with him —even time in my mind— was good and nasty, and that is a part of the complexity that makes being with him so good. Maybe I emphasize the physical right now, for what we have is complete, the cerebral and the nasty —even Einstein9 did that,
What You Can’t Understand Is Poetry Is Connected to the Body Again
—Thomas Robert Higginson
What You Can’t Understand Is Poetry Is Connected to the Body Again
Jean allowed the body to drop The beautiful face bluing so perfect A fly buzzed by — but no one would believe it She raced frantically to the offices of the National Enquirer A reporter wrote up the story — it made the cover Now she could get the attention of the radical newsweekly That only told the truth She just casually flipped it down on the desk “Hey,” an editor reading upside-down said, “What if this story is true? It would certainly change Our story — maybe we should look into this. Hey! Stop those presses!” Jean walked away. Horns were blaring, It was a brilliant dusty sunset and the sirens were distorting. She didn’t hear em. She was remembering her lover’s face, What they’d said about how you never know If someone else’s orgasm is better than yours But that shoudn’t stop you From coming together Even if it’s not exactly At the same time.
What You Can’t Understand Is Poetry
The title says it all and it says it with a line break in case you think that “Spoken Word Poets” are not “Real Poets.” Real Poets eat line breaks for breakfast.
I love to read the title at a reading, parsing it out like this:
“What You Can’t Understand (take a little pause here) Is (big emphasis on IS, and a little pause, get ready for the matter-of-fact, always with us:) Poetry.”
The Perfect Lie. One always “understands” poetry! When you jump on the horse and it takes off, you don’t ask where’s it going, you exalt, here we go! No no. Wait. Reading a poem, that’s not like that is it? not like riding a horse?….
What you can’t understand is poetry — because it’s a mystery why poetry exists in the first place. Although you could actually say the same thing for language itself, which I suppose is what philosophers do. Which came first, the thought or the word? sounds Wittgensteinian to me. It’s like when you say, something is lost in translation, what part is it that gets lost? The poetry. The poetry is what’s lost, get it? The joy is in knowing that what you don’t understand, exactlythat, is a mix of sound and meaning, body and song that is, all together, what makes a poem
Again and again, not making sense! And this is what so many think (please don’t agree with them!) — that poetry is hard, obscure, difficult-to-impossible to understand.
WHEN IT WAS CONNECTED TO THE BODY YOU JUST DANCED IT—Who said that?!
Hey, hey, Order in The Poem! Let’s PLEASE stick to this first line of the title before releasing the second. So ok, let’s just say that the first line of the title is simply agreeing with what everyone is always saying – Oy, Poetry! You can’t understand it.
Ends The First Line Of The Title
What You Can’t Understand Is Poetry
So we take a little pause here, in performance, and then (finally!) go on to:
And then a little pause here, so that it becomes: What You Can’t Understand is Poetry is Connected, which is another truism that’s actually a false-ism: the easy way is to say that – Poetry IS connected, is the essence, to life/to meaning , and, here back to the title (say it!) – To The Body. Now we’re getting to what the body of the poem is, and why this is the title – it’s about the physical, and when I think physical, the body, I think of Orality.
Even though we think of it that way, the dialectic is not Literacy and Illiteracy. Illiteracy simply designates an individual’s inability to read. Orality, as Walter Ong points out, is a separate and equivalent consciousness: when there’s no writing, the only way to pass things on is person-to- person, body-to-body. You could say, “We Are the Book.” This idea, devastatingly simple, is at the root of this poem, indeed, of my whole “body of work” as a poet. How to capture the way Poetry was connected to Existence, something that was inherent in Oral Consciousness, is what I’m after. It’s what my mother showed me – she didn’t read a book to me. The book was talking. In her voice.
Comes in after a pause. Because we used to “understand” this. In fact, “understand,” the way we understand understand, is totally colored by literacy. Before writing, there was a spew of sound that carried the speaker’s meaning – you’d ask the person to explain what they meant, but you never asked someone what a word meant because – there were no words! Before writing there were no words there was only meaning, and I know that seems crazy but again only because we don;’t get what a different consciousness Orality is. When writing began, there was no separation between words because what was being said came at you like a block of meaning, not words arranged in a pattern.
And now, in this time of Literacy Consciousness, I am suggesting that we learn (unlearn?) to “connect the poem to the body again.” Since the triumph of Literature, Poetry’s voice has been owned by the book. And I love books, I write ‘em myself and read a lot — my walls are lined
with them. And the quiet space midbrain where we read to ourselves? That is a private space where we are most ourselves, a holy space. But the Poem has another power, a power we left behind when we left Oral Consciousness behind. We can feel it as children, when we haven’t yet learned to read. Some kind of magic and musicality, inherent when reading aloud, that’s what I’m after, in general, in my work, and specifically in the two-lined title and following body of the poem known as:
What You Can’t Understand Is Poetry Is Connected To The Body Again
The poem is divided into two stanzas, twelve lines and ten. Kind of ungainly and awkward as to line lengths, form doesn’t’t sit easily here, even if both stanzas end with four-word lines. The poem is prosy, it sort of seems to tell a story, even if we can’t quite tell what it’s about (the old “understand” bugaboo again), a story that makes headlines. It has a character with a name (Jean, named for Jean Howard, who I knew in Chicago as one of the first poets to use film to make poetry, someone who understood the non-separation of poetry performance), and it even ends with what may well be a joke. So it’s a Poem that evokes all manner of non-poetry forms – novel, play, journalism, joke.
Let me tell you a story: the “Plot” of the Poem
Jean allowed the body to drop
OK. Is this the “body” from the title? At least. Right after we learn that the body and poetry are connected again, our hero, Jean, drops the body! Is this so that her poetry is completely for the Intellect? Because as she drops the body (which we will later learn is her lover’s), the body dies.
The beautiful face bluing so perfect
“Beautiful” and “perfect” in the same line – ach! Redolent of romantic poesy, these are words that each signal Poem without the work, and here they are, together – the face is “beautiful” but dying (or dead? “bluing”) and thus can become “perfect.” What a move!
A move so insistent, so bold, so over-the top, that the only thing that can possibly cap it is line 3
A fly buzzed by—
Emily Dickinson! At her best! “I heard a Fly buzz — when I died” (Johnson #591/ Franklin #465). This sure enough is the way Death sounds, sigh. Well, the fly was buzzing and still is buzzing and forever will be buzzing as sure a sign of Death as the Death Haiku, that Japanese
form where the dying poet holds quill and scroll and just as last breath escapes, concludes the final character of the final line – 5-7-5.
but no one would believe it
Dear Reader/Listener, you are perfectly within your rights to ask What is it that no one would believe? That our hero, Jean, would drop the body? That words like “beautiful” and “perfect” could conjure up dear Emily’s fly (“bluing” is pretty cool), the Essence of Death? Indeed, why is Jean even concerned that anyone believe that her lover/Poetry itself has died? Is she the murderer? Must she have the Truth be told, it’s what she as a Poet must do? All the above? We don’t know, so it’s all these things and probably more and we’re only at line 3, my God!
Because what happens next makes one thing pretty clear about our Ms Jean – she certainly does know how to get a story out. Since this is taking place during the Media Age Stage of Late Literacy, just before the Birth of the Digital Age,
She raced frantically to the offices of the National Enquirer,
the biggest, ever-lying, sleazeball publication of them all. Jean knows the world of print: to get the absolute widest possible distribution, the most explosive telling of this Death, it’s got to be — the checkout counter rag!
A reporter wrote up the story
The story of course is that the body died from lack of connection to the poem. And guess what,
—it made the cover. And our story could end there, the headline “POETRY FOUND DEAD: BODY SEVERED
FROM SOUL.” But Noooo. Jean has a bigger game plan. As Lines 6-7 state ,
Now she could get the attention of the radical newsweekly That only told the truth
So first she goes for and gets the Big Blast Sensationalism Launch, and now she’s circling back to get the liberal Truth-tellers. She wants to get the story told to the biggest possible audience AND she wants it to be politically correct. Or at least be validated by the liberal media.
She just casually flipped it down on the desk
She may have raced frantically to get this into The Enquirer, to play into the demands of yellow journalism, but here for the thoughtful Voice or Nation, she plays it cool.
So cool that (Line 9)
“Hey,” an editor
(she’s moving up, no mere reporter here!)
(truly literate, can read upside-down!)
said. What if this story is true?
(you can never be sure about Enquirer stories – but something in Jean’s demeanor….)It would certainly change
(they had a story? How interesting? What could that have been?)
maybe we should look into this.
So the radical newsweekly already has the story but it is Jean’s version of the Body dying from lack of connection to the poem, for which, even filtered as it is through the hyperbole of theEnquirer, the radical newsweekly is willing to Stop the presses!
It’s an image I loved in black & white, the massive whirling printing presses grinding to a halt, screaming headlines erupting. The news is overpowering!
We know that Poetry is News that Stays News (Pound), that it Makes Nothing Happen (Auden), that It Is Difficult / To Get The News From Poems / Yet Men Die Miserably Every Day / From Lack / Of What is Found There (Williams – Rich used the last six words as the title for her great book of essays).
Hey! Stop those presses!
Now we understand, as Jean understands, that the life, music, vitality of the poem can never be separated from the poem’s meaning. By physicalizing the so-called Death of Poetry, she in fact shows us that poetry will never die. THAT POETRY IS CONNECTED TO THE BODY AGAIN and the single voice and vision of our poet-hero Jean is going to make, well, not sure what, let’s call it Nothing. Make Nothing happen. But I mean, make it really happen.
She does. She just puts an end to the literary tradition, right then and there. We get the poem to the book and then our job is done. Gets published, distributed, bought, and read. Each step of
course is fraught with complications, and at the end maybe 2000 copies will sell, but hey, this’s a poem, so let’s just give it the drama that Mayakovsky did when he demanded an airplane with propeller whirling be parked outside his study so that when he finished one it would be whisked away to the publisher – not a second to lose.
The second verse begins, like the first, again with our hero, Jean. But now
Jean walked away. Horns were blaring,
Is it celebratory tooting, poetry’s reconnection being cheered on by the public at large? Or simply the continuing, ongoing noise of our blatting culture? Both? Both. The Poet’s Choice, as Gregory Corso once told me, “When somebody asks you to pick one, always take both.”
The cinematic vein of “Stop the presses!” continues,
It was a brilliant dusty sunset
Yes, in a poem you can pick both, and the unusable poem-word “sunset” can become even more golden when it’s “brilliant” and “dusty”
and the sirens were distorting.
Is it the Apocalypse brought about by reconnection of Poetry with Body (again)? Or is it Just the Apocalypse? Both (you’re getting it!).
It’s the end of The Terminator, of Snowpiercer, the end of every walk-into-the-sunset Hollywood potboiler poem ever written.
Jean has passed on the oral tradition into print. She has insinuated Orality into Text, clawing her way into the inner sanctum of the print medium. And, in so doing, she has preserved her lover’s face for all eternity.
She didn’t hear em.
What didn’t she hear? The car horns playing music – Beethovan? Ode to Joy? Guns and Roses? Randy Newman’s Faust? Aretha’s Respect? David Thomas’s Mirror Man? or Captain Beefheart’s, for that matter. She was remembering her lover’s face
Yes, the action of creating art, of living her life in the service of Poetry, has caused her to lose thePoem Itself, the Source! Her lover’s face now fades in through the Apocalyptic Sunset Waltz, and now she does hear, not music nor horns nor sirens but words, just words and now it’s clearer, the conversation with her lover,
What they’d said about how you never know
True Poet lovers know you Never Know, echoing the poem’s title, and in that way stay connected – Poem as Body – but this line break skittering into riot control
If someone else’s orgasm is better than yours –
Yes! Exactly! Understanding a poem and demanding a locked-down analysis, forever footnoted and irrefutable, — who would know, who could know? The meanings keep changing. Eros is flowering out the mouth, People! Only the poem/orgasm stays the same.
But that shouldn’t stop you
from what? From having an orgasm? Well, yes, of course, but there’s more –
From coming together
Yes, that’s it! That’s what the poem in the oral mode is about – it’s about the audience experiencing together the meaning of the poem, the connection of the griot to the body politic, the poem bringing/giving Rapture that the listener accepts/understands. Brings all that inside.
Even if it’s not exactly
o! the quivering between Oral and Written, the twin mouths finding each other, that poem that is the kiss, not exactly, OMG whatever IS exactly, Jean, Jean you must not leave us in the vagueness of not exactly, the orgasm goes back inside …
At the same time
Yes, she said, Yes! “You never know if someone else’s orgasm is better than yours, but that shouldn’t stop you from coming together. Even if it’s not exactly at the same time.” Oh God! as these realizations ripple through the audience, wave after profound wave of orgasm, feeding each other, yes, coming together years later, why, it is – it’s a Poem! It can be read later, after the poet is long-gone dead, it’s still being read. You are coming with the poet years later as the orgasm of meaning reconnects you at that moment. Ah, Jean and Emily! The gentle laugh as her lover, dead and blued and perfect and gone gone gone, reconnects through the poem. The fly! The fly! Then the fly buzzed by
(in response to Bob Holman’s Poem: “What You Can’t Understand is Poetry is Connected to the Body Again):
BLUE COMING Thylias Moss
Poetry is connected to the body, part of my fingertips, just as blue as anything that ever was or will be blue–
–blue that dye aspires to, true blue denied to any sapphire,
Logan sapphire included, even if she wears some on those blue fingers, blue spreads, consumes her as if she hatched from an Araucana egg:
SHE IS BLUE, fingers, bluest hands ever, shoulders, breasts, every nook and cranny blue, big bad wolf says: how blue you are!
The better to blue you…. She, so blue today, visits Offices of the National Enquirer to
report on this surging of blue epidemic, Blue bottle fly bluer than any sound buzzing, fly buzzing as blue as it can, making the Blues, making
The Blues mean something very different –such music from beating of wings, some of what has spread blue throughout
her bluing body,
even layers of atmosphere: blue buzz: name of a new Crayola crayon and marker, manufactured from her fingertips Blue
Buzz Blood group She bleeds an orgasmic paint set. She bleeds a blue layer her lover’s face becoming blue she’s dreaming of
Blue Coming: After Bob Holman’s “What You Can’t Understand Is
Poetry Is Connected to the Body Again”
Colorado Review — Volume 42, Number 2, Summer 2015
again, blue as his face That defines blue for her blue orgasm, so much blue everywhere world become blue for her –story of this massive bluing –true story on the cover of papers –turning blue once in her atmosphere
Blue static Blue stuttering Blue hands Blue –Code Blue–coming together, what a mighty tincture–-
not exactly at the same time, but coming, connected to coming Her fingertips writing a
Blue coming.11by Thylias Moss .
1 From a love poem Thomas Robert Higginson wrote for me, “You Are the Corner of My Eye”
2 A pseudonym
3 Excerpt From: Emily Dickinson. “Letters of Emily Dickinson.” iBooks.
4 How prophetic on his part, for this volume was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
5 Excerpt From: Francis Bacon, Ignatius Donnelly, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, C. J. Cutliffe Hyne, W. Scott Elliot & John, Third Marquess of Brute. “Tales of Atlantis.” iBooks;”
8 A collaboration of Thylias Moss and Thomas Robert Higgins on forthcoming likely inNightboat, 2017, a collaboration that began as “Moving Dance of Reduction’ with a quote by Bringhurst; Thomas Robert sent Thylias the initial salvo, and back and forth the emerging poem went until Thylias wrote the line “armadillo style” to which ThomasRobert responded “Wow!” and whenever Wow comes, the poem is done. Praises to armadillos. I never would have arrived at armadillo without collaboration through time and space with Thomas Robert Higginson. I will always love this expansion of space and meaning that I know only with him, my muse, and if that isn’t Love, what is?
9 “Einstein” — the Genius series on National Geographic <http://
10 Published acknowledging the real man behind the pseudonym, Bob Holman.
11 “Blue Coming” was published in “Wannabe Hoochie Mama Gallery of Realities’ Red Dress Code” by Thylias Moss, Persea Books, 2016, and in Poets & Writers online, also in 2016, where read this here, where you may also hear Thylias Moss read “Blue Coming”:<https://
(I am wearing the hat of my Thing, my favorite hat, by the way; he is the Pizazz in my life):
My mother, from the south in the 1930s grew up ashamed of color, of whatever drew attention to her societal unacceptability, her inferiority, lack of formal education, and all associated trappings: worse of all, her Africanized hair texture. How she suffered, her own siblings with lighter skin, calling her the “Little Black One” long before “black” had been reclaimed as a badge of pride. She worked as a maid, serving her superiors, and still having to honor these white women with the complexion and hair she still craves, often dressed in their cast-offs.
No matter what, her hair revealed she was the lowest, as she calls it, that to this day, she tries to eradicate by frying her hair and using all those skin lightening creams. None leave a permanent transformation which is what she really wants. Makes me cry every time, my own mother who never learned to reclaim these signs of identity as sources of pride.
She vowed her child would not suffer what she did, despised by paler ones with straighter, “better” hair, “good” hair, for that is what I have, direct inheritance from my pale, mixed race, father and his completely non-black father, an immigrant from India, half Caucasian —yes, she used that term about her own daughter, as I had what she lacked. Yes, she was jealous of me, used to hit me, in efforts to slap the superiority out of me, but I was too much like my father who refused to hit anything that should be loved. I understand what she saw in my father, but I do not know what he saw in her.
To her, the only writers worth anything were those who wrote books of the bible. She condemned me to hell, that Christian woman, every chance she got.
In this sense, she who knew nothing about facts of genetics, did her best to have a child who would not suffer these disgraces of inferiority as I would have the badge of respect and better treatment, decent treatment, simple respect: college educated with Good Hair.
Today, I want to share more joy of my Thing’s Philtrum, publication of another poem in my forthcoming collection of poetry, Shawsheen Memorial Broom SocietyThe poem “Shawsheen Philtrum Temptation” (Is it ever!)
Uncle T’s cabin, you have also called me T, I even told
You how to pronounce my name; you wanted to be sure,
You were pronouncing it correctly, thereafter typing it
So that I could see that you were saying it correctly
In your mind where it really counts
And I know that I have spoken, well written, Love more
Than any sacred book allows, wasn’t difficult considering
What I feel, one Kiss filling your philtrum and dripping
Sweetest tallow ever, landing drop by luscious drop
At your feet then begins to climb you, sweet wines also red
Arteries like string candy licorice, sugar extractions into
A kind of glass, a climb my hands and mouth make, sugar casing
Sweeter each centimeter of you, toes to top of your head, sugar chrysalis
That you are also all in, such wrapping evenmore inviting than philtrum
I remember those “Eat-It-All” cones, but never one six-feet-tall, but
Here it is before me, so I follow the embossed directions and Eat all
Of You: Sunday Phitrum Brunch.
Now as many of you know, I am so in love with this man, and my bookshelves are so much like his:Uncanny isn’t it? Even didgeridoos!
Next month I will be 65, and still in Love for the first time in my life, and I have enjoyed every moment I have known him, 30 years. He, my Thing, will be 71 in March.
And his Philtrum is no doubt one of the sexiest features of him. I know, for I have tasted his philtrum. Delicious I must say, like the rest of him. There is no part of him that isn’t tasty
Me, wearing my Thing’s hat
I love this hat because it’s his.
Yes, I am aging, and as you can see, I wear no make-up; I want to be 100% natural for him with my multiracial self. All my hair is rooted in my scalp! No weave no wig, no extensions for I don’t need them. My Thing never has to worry about my hair coming off.
And I have never been on a diet, no need for that either!
Aren’t we the couple?
The Joy of this Thingdom as expressed by Blackstreet: