The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Thylias Moss

oh please shuffle plain Jane [in deadly graceful details]






the more we read, the more fully do we appreciate the perfect construction

of the book, even though a complete solution seems to recede as we


[A. Einstein & Leopold Infeld: The Evolution of Physics]



+         Everyday I have the time that’s left of my life at Ludlow’s Smoker’s Palace, everyday I visualize myself dead and try to reject the vision, because life is sacred, but then again so is death, nearer my God to thee, heaven is only for the dead, that’s the ticket, my most placid pose a crime, covered up, plain Jane, routine grasses and nettles in a spacious roadside morgue, glazed eyes, vitreous gloss, I’m bait, I draw gunfire, shiny mayhem magnet, I trap the killer’s undivided attention, to be the object of excess is my objective, it consumes me, no apologies for the intensity, look at the worlds that have sprung up from belief, the ages, epochs, sequence of dominations, there is not a time in which nothing is flourishing at the top of its game, it’s no secret how much I want this, with all my heart, mind, soul, plate cleaned of everything else, a most delectable certainty, I will not waver, cooked goose, my killer can take his time, savor, just like Issei Sagawa, my favorite murderer, who went the furthest in unshackling bliss, daredevil who was the hungriest, no obstacles to his extended all the way to divine sense of the edible, everything slurp study, everything overlaid with divine opacity, see only that it was good, chop licking worthy, he is not in jail, walks the streets of Japan, can not see me at Ludlow’s saying eat me, must post the (surveillance) video, so fastidious in his taste of women, he emphasized the lack of odor of his choice cut of her – shall I go on, for saying this, should I be silenced, my tongue cut out, how can I think like this, little miss smart cookie, tricky chickie, I am a coward, this is the only way I taste Sagawa, his name spring rolled into my tongue, say aesthetic to cleanse the palate —his height the length of one human intestine, really wacked out Michelin man, tread guy overlaid with intestine man, Sagawa lifting the high art of cuisine so high it’s out of everybody else’s reach, the up and up, the absolute fulfilling of the commandment to eat well, extend the quality of days, I know taste of Chicago, New Orleans, gumbo jumbo, étouffée, slaw dog, deepest dishes, Strega Nona’s theory of infinite strings of spaghetti, Sinatra and Bennett’s mouths and a young —just eighteen— Baxstresser’s mouth full of Cy Coleman’s witchcraft, but nothing like Sagawa’s taste of Paris-encrusted Renee, Dutch girl, her acquired gill vents, a series, cut into the hip after ideally calculated rifle shot, girl color of lily wilted like lily, installation of Sagawa’s exultation, say aesthetic to cleanse the palate, thin pages, slices of life, a thousand muted verses, counted calories, loosened leaves, no bleeding when design is overlaid with perfection, the bringing forth of the rose concealed in the radish from the moment of the radish’s existence, not the talent of the knife but of the wielder, flesh is scripted with its history, it is Sagawa’s instrument, daily delicate devouring, cooked till just before there’s any undesirable browning, breath of a lily, liver of a lily, all good, cooked till as warm as her life was, his feelings are, say aesthetic, killed after reading his favorite German language poem to him, cleanse the palate, was it Rilke, how could you know what primordial time you stirred in your lover, what passions welled up inside him from departed beings, oh gently, gently, let him see you performing, with love, some confident daily task – the turning of pages – say aesthetic, flesh is scripted with its history, overlaid, blade-shaped fillet of Renee’s lily hip re-sculpting his mouth for accommodation of pleasure, cleanse the palate, guided there with chopsticks fashioned from ivory fashioned from bone, fine young dead thing, lead him out close to the garden, give him what outweighs the heaviest night, flesh inscribed with its history, overlaid, at a point which, from the earliest beginning, had been established for a pure event, it’s bound to happen, you hate to admit how much closer this brings him to an aspect of God, say aesthetic to cleanse the palate, unattainable by anyone else, you hate to admit the scandalous reverence he might be owed, now you see it, this stab at lifting beauty from any hindrance, say aesthetic to cleanse the palate, knife glint as aura slice through halo, a sense of humanity that has elevated us in aesthetic, to the limits of its extended height, God is above it, maybe another aspect of God for me at the hands of the next murdering genius, I am never out of danger, its enticing loops that form petals, overlays, feathers, deadly graceful details, say aesthetic to cleanse the palate, a church where part of the layout is sanctuary, designed not to be entered first, not the immediate layer, not the most accessible lair, there is a kind that admits it’s for the birds, not birds, not much of anything flourished in Kibuye, once upon a time in Rwanda, we all have tales, once upon a time in Darfur, say aesthetic, hunger for it to cleanse the palate, it reached a point which had been established for a pure event, thickening air, clogged with prayer, its enticing loops, gridlocked, smeared, say aesthetic, deadly graceful details, thousands herded to Kibuye county churches, an aesthetic of protection — spiritual feedlots — it could have been salvation, hitchhiking flavor, daily devouring of devotion, loops, if only I were (maybe I am; maybe I get this last wish, a good one, not to be missed!) one of those women with a poisonous vagina, glass, metal, iron maiden stuff, good stuff--way more effective than any STD, some seriously gridlocked stuff, heavy aesthetic, outfitted with spikes, metal feathers, lined with thorn tree bark and thorns, when girls become women, one of the lost legends, crushed pepper palate, if rebuilt like that, I could turn the table, those legendary women are all extinct, from the time before artificial aesthetic of insemination, no men who wanted to live would screw them, despite the love of tools, those thorny spikes needing to be hammered, traffic patterns, gridlock, political decisions, legendary source of the iron maiden torture chamber aesthetic, climb in, try not to get stuck on how much of morale is moral, smeared, in Kibuye Church, high above Lake Kivu, once upon a time in Rwanda: a relationship with rivers, lakebeds, and everlasting streams: loops, wells: loopholes, like the ones in heaven, labyrinths of lilies, well overlaid with aesthetic, deadly graceful details, thinly sliced pages: bread, sashimi, skin of lilies, words and punctuation: poppy seeds, pepper, shrapnel, a grenade flew, lily bulb, deadly graceful details, like a bird to massacre hundreds under its wing, gridlocked, fledgling bullets followed, wings in machete formation chopped remaining resistance into manageable pieces, details, lilies, sashimi, chef’s special aesthetic, a nest for remnants in a crater in the floor, loophole, deep-dish, a few survivors announced survival with help from tear gas, thy neighbor, ferreted out, say aesthetic to peek-a-boo the palate, slashed to ribbons, feathers, lilies, deadly graceful details, little silver crosses in the hollows of their throats, sashimi, schoolgirls, loopholes, one Grimm neighborhood to another, a little bird told the prince two times he had the wrong bride, bloody glass slipper, a little bird of the Juniper tree told big John the father what he’d just had for supper, little Jr. John, tidings, aesthetic, sashimi, a little bird helped Hansel and Gretel after the assisted suicide, a push into her own oven, showtime, details, the golden goose’s incriminating squawk (Listen to it, hear it now, why don't you!) loud and clear, Gretel’s signature gingerbread aesthetic on the market every Christmas, tradition, witchery, Hutu, Tutsi, hoodoo, surface-bodies all over the hillside: people trying to gather at the river, wet paint, red ribbon, if only my father had seen me flourish, in that class, awareness, I was at the top, where a sentinel should be, singing like a bird, looping, barometer, lightning rod to attract the action, draw all men unto me, sashimi, the one who finished more paranoid than anyone, more aware, a man is out to get me, I’m out here to be gotten, he left my mother alone, a better life for himself, good for the goose, better for the gander, say aesthetic to cleanse the palate, he went one way out of many ways, short fuse, quickstep, jive overlay in the hive, he quickly lost his mind, his work proved too much about his failure, the nature of limits, loophole, my mother completely naked when he departed, she was in the shower, oblivious to everything but steam, looping aesthetic, sashimi, she hadn’t even lathered, water spewed fiercely, cleanse the palate, no bullets could be better propelled, that was why she showered daily, an aesthetic, water nipped at skin that toughened nip for nip, she turned it up, adjusted the head to pulsations, repeating action of machine guns, most guns are machined, trademarked, Kalashnikov, no problem with a shower curtain covered with daisies the size of average human heads, be careful what you wish for, deadly graceful details, gingerbread, sashimi, she took her time, was slow to scrub the toilet, not before the commode’s interior dark ring was like the collar of a man with much to sweat about, he hasn’t located his bliss yet, I’m at Ludlow’s - hint, hint - no one was looking for my father, my mother did not report him missing, her aesthetic, trash piled up as usual, jive details in the hive, she walked out of the shower dripping scented puddles, deadly graceful details, my killer will close his eyes when he cuts into my stomach, payday, finds my passion for guacamole, mixed bag, any form of avocado, even a champion at holding breath, once under water for good, takes the sea into her lungs where it loses its visible green, its diatoms squirm, made of silica, eating them is oh so close, say aesthetic, to really eating glass which can be fibrous, as versatile as tofu, full of it, sashimi, aesthetic, her body floats, a short time, pass of magic hands, cleanse the palate, nothing, nothing, now I lay me down to sleep a little death I will not keep – the man who finds me to kill me is a man of fortitude and perseverance, forms of loophole, aesthetic of sashimi shimmy, at first sight, it will be say aesthetic, it will be of course, this is what I was born for, he takes care of my options, cleansed, overlays, loopholes, fulfillment of his destiny to kill me relieves me of alternatives, sets the irreversible course, advantage, the only course possible, ideal, presence, omniscience dignified, overlaid with submission to omission =



Thylias Moss

Center Pieces

          the audacity of a full-service place setting

          for ten heavens

for Thomas Higginson (Mr. Muse)



The first time
it was so unfamiliar to me
I just thought of Cree Summer
because I figured her life must be
so remarkable

looking at herself
and always seeing a whole nation
compacted into her face,

her way of thinking, moving, and doing
but she has to wonder
how much of it is hers
and not the nation thing, the
Creeness of it all
creeping into the Cree of her


that isn't nation

but with that name answering
to it, responding
whether it's herself  or


being called,

so that even if one is called, at least two answer,
the woman and the

Cree Nation

and so when I heard it, I heard it as
"Cree Ate"

a simple story of something
Cree did, an accomplishment
that belonged to Cree.

Cree did not let herself go hungry
for anything she hungered for:

Cree Ate!

filled herself, nourished herself.

I wish this had been the story I
first learned to read instead of being told
to look at Jane, to see Jane run
big ole scaredy cat!

looking at the table and running from it.

But Cree was hungry,
so when she saw a table and the
spread of tasty possibilities on it, she
helped herself.

Ophelia helped herself in Pan's Labyrinth too,
ate the grapes, popped plump purple seeds of

in her mouth

the purple exploding in there,
the teeth and tongue all royal
with bite and purple spurt


part of what she created was a mess
but that is the nature of war; it's
not neat;
it's ragged on purpose
so as to define its edges so that
you know where you need to work hard.

taking a piece of chalk
that may have been a bone of a finger
and creating her own escape
from a mess she made; a door
where there hadn't been a door before.

Cree ate it all up.


so heavy, it staggers

The risk of it toppling over is fabulous
the truth is

I expect TRUTH to be the last one standing
Truth able to snatch the tablecloth from under
the place settings without disrupting them

Truth just exposing the foundation, the support
so that there can be fewer mistakes
about what's keeping the place settings
from collapsing.

They rest on something.
They trust the solidity of something.

Now, I think there's a lot more variety
in what can hold things;
I don't think all the truth of successful

support systems

has been told

because when the tablecloth is pulled
out, sometimes the plates
seem to float on air; they seem to defy
the laws of gravity

which then seem more
like other limited laws

such as speed limits
which can be exceeded
though not without risks

making it necessary to
one system of support
with another
once that system is
effectively broken, the pieces
put together     differently
shuffled           differently
at the table

so that a different hand is dealt

and the hand that's dealt is played
until the hand breaks the house

What you believe is the most truth about you
What you do fits inside of what you believe

The Truth staggers because I believe that, I
feel that. I understand how the circus of truth
is also the truth of illusions; illusions are
real and true things; True illusions.

I am telling the truth, each telling of which
is like a distorted mirror; truth
has fun with reality
Truth bends, stoops, staggers, balances
an ever-increasing stack of plates

every moment undergoes the risk of slipping
into where truth becomes un-truth

because that exists too.

When I'm at the table
having the experience
that I believe I'm having with supper
someone sitting there also
is not sitting at the same table
but at the table of their beliefs
about their supper

My truth, another diner's untruth;
another diner's truth, my untruth

so I don't speak of truth
when my mouth is full
of truth
because the amount of it is so heavy,
it staggers, is
in danger

What comes out of my mouth
which is a nest of truth
of what I'm chewing and digesting,

what comes out of my mouth
has to be able to defend itself
so I outfit it with wings, the idea of which
I stole from noticing hummingbirds,
and this idea is the only proof
I have of noticing them.

The other diner didn't notice me noticing them
and if the other diner had noticed me
noticing them, that notice would have belonged
to that diner.

I have to have some notice of my own.

Truth comes out of my mouth
in parts
that can be assembled and reassembled
until truth has a shape desirable
to the shaper
The truth that comes out of my mouth
as little hummingbirds
has the ability to fly away, fend
for itself, to reproduce, adapt
and mutate

coming home as a stranger,
having to bend and wobble a little bit, having
to stagger
until I'm the one drunk again
with recognition


While reading an article in the New York Times
(13 June 2008),

"Hope is kindled for table-top accelerators"

If the small-scale results of research experiments can be scaled up,
it will be possible for a one-yard long accelerator to
boost electrons
to the same energy as that achieved by the two-mile long
Stanford Linear Accelerator in California,
said Donald P. Umstatter of the University of Michigan (at Ann Arbor)

Among the goals of future accelerators
will be the search for a Higgs Field, a theoretical field
extending throughout the universe
which by interacting with fundamental particles
is believed to give matter its mass.

Another object will be the quest for super symmetry,
a hypothesized system of equivalence
that would allow theorists to unite the force of gravity
with the other forces of nature

So the hope is that from a table
everything will become connected

It will be as if the whole universe
is being served a meal that
the super-small
as well as the super-massive

electron accelerators
are already everywhere, Dr. Umstatter said:

the picture tubes of TV sets contain
electron accelerators.
Conventional machines
boost particles
to nearly the speed of light
by surfing the particles on radio waves
as the waves speed
through magnetic tunnels.

I hope there will always be thrill rides
and amusement parks
to kick hope up
to the very last notch
which, until hope gets there,
is just a placeholder
to make sure that that last notch
has a place to exist.


The burka is not a strait jacket; my movements
are not restrained in it, depending on
the material on the textures against my skin.
Understand that
I am free
to craft infinite textiles
in my mind and in landscapes that the burka's
hem sweeps on the surface
under it, writing an incredibly temporary
sand text
that can be sacred to those who read it.

There are times when the silk melts away
and my skin "burkas" me, flows, melts away
and then my hair "burkas" me,
wavy ink
that is a tattletale (tail) that won't shut up
moving with stealth, melting into a
night of storm clouds, all of them pregnant
and free to give birth to
whirlwinds that "burka" trees.

Under a burka
is the tree of life, the tree of knowledge

and the loss of a paradise
that was free to lose itself
and keep itself from people
"burkad" with evil.


A literate Chinese farm wife loved
her husband so much
she made room
for supporting his idea
of what it meant to be a man.

He could not read.

In fact, he was even more illiterate than
he realized, because not only could he not
read written languages, he also could not read
his wife's mind
which was a private book she authored.

She did write a page in which she dreamed
of not loving him so much

but because she did love him
the dream could not replace the love
which was stronger
than the dream.


She really loved him.

Her dream grew
but so did the love

and he loved her, the inscrutable parts of her
that were   unreadable.

He did not think of her thoughts as chapters;
he did not see her movements or the arc of tea
that she poured into his cup on the table
as poetry.

He loved

how she served him, how she
honored the life he built without
writing down the words to document
the building; the love itself
was sturdy
was the table on which their marriage rested
from which they ate vows that, truth is, did not
taste the same to both of them,
writing something different
on their separate palates,
but he did not taste writing
while she cooked it, and devoured it,
the taste of it so good and powerful
guilt was unable to appear for a tasting

--she licked her fingers clean

if any guilt had been there, it was gone.

She loved that too.

Being with him gave her many things to love;
though she was his wife, what she loved
about being his wife
was more complex than just



Tea was the most truthful thing
they shared

The fluidity of honesty was there.
Honesty can fit anything even if honesty's not
being worn deliberately
at any given moment.

Truth can come out later, a root
that can reveal itself despite lavish
use of "weed-be-gone"

If there was anything unnatural about
her love of tea,
it was not being disguised; she made no
attempt to hide it, allowing it to move
freely, honestly
from teapot to cup.

The steaminess of her love filling the cup
was obvious

Perhaps she was even kept young
by sticking her face into the steam,
the ghostly aromatic writing that used her face
as paper; her eyes
and what they saw beyond tea
as ink.

The tea was a documentary.

When it came to tea, she told the truth
because tea always told her truth.


She actually hoped that her husband's pride
would not diminish.

Why be a man if unable to feel like a man

if unable to be the truth of a man
as he believed it?

Just as she refused to jettison the truth of
who she was

as a woman who could read tea leaves, a
literacy all her own
in the marriage. Part of her wardrobe
that he did not put on, even if once
or even more than once
he imagined himself in her garments
which when folded seemed vey much like books
in a library

their spines their most conspicuous

and cloth was woven in a way similar
to the weaving of history into time
the weaving of all of it, the recorded
and the unrecorded whose truth of happening
was not erased by not being documented
so the undocumented do not have to
rely on hope to force an existence.

The undocumented exist and don't have to hope
for documentation
which could be read as the undocumented needing
in order to be taken seriously
in order to have measurable consequence
and value.

His wife did not measure his words
and he weighed more than a book.

He remembered all that as he was
soothed by her tea.

No other hope was necessary

and sometimes, life brewed
no other form.


No one watched her constantly.

She was free
to work the tea leaves,

she was free
to doctor them

something else
that her husband might envy.

While he worked,
so did she, on all her obligations.

She felt free
not to have to exclude
any of them

not to shortchange her recipe
for his beloved tea.

You just have to trust me about its
euphoric deliciousness: tea

made by her hands, with her fingerprints on the leaves
and some of her protein-content making the beverage
even more healthy,
even more delightful, even more incredible
than he could imagine.

She freely made a pollen ink
and wrote words on the tiny tea leaves,
then wrote tea poems with tea leaves
inscribed with her ideas, her poetry,
tea book, after tea book, after tea book,
after tea book,

the steam publishing and distributing them like
electrons in a particle accelerator

like electrons filling his throat, filling his throat,
filling his throat, filling his throat.

Her husband drank them all.


It was strange but so welcomed
The tea poems so accelerated
they reached both dream
and a denser three-dimensional reality

She dreamed of her husband swallowing
her words, depending on her literacy
to feel satisfied

because she got to say everything she wanted to
because what she wrote was not abridged
or censored or edited.

She was happy.

The steam was spirited and able to lift
(which it did)

both of them.




THYLIAS MOSS, a self-employed multi-racial  "maker" at Thylias Moss Writing LLC, is also Professor Emerita in the Departments  of English and Art & Design at the University of Michigan.  Author of 13 published books, and recipient of numerous awards and honors, among them a MacArthur Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, her 11th book, a collection of New & Selected Poetry, "Wannabe Hoochie Mama Gallery of Realities' Red Dress Code"  (from Persea Books, October 2016; link to a video poam she made for her YouTube channel,  where many poams (product[s] of act[s] of making are displayed) as part of Limited Fork Theory, an approach to making and thinking developed in order to assist co-makers and co-learners become more collaborative in thinking and being.  All about how things interact across all boundaries, and encouragement of interaction that becomes more meaningful over time; all have collaborators. Nothing makes alone, and everything makes; there is nothing that exists that does not make stuff in some form, which is also open: any form that becomes possible; invent whenever necessary. "Making" is not static, is evidence of life, as is book #12, collaborations, with Thomas Higginson, a collection of poems, Aneurysm of the Firmament, 2016 and a romance novel, New Kiss Horizon 2016, romance novel about Vashti Astapad Warren and Thomas Robert Higginson.  Follow the lives of these characters beyond the book in Vashti's Blog.  She has also completed an as yet unpublished collection of prose poams which might be published in 2018 by Jamii: "LFMK (Looking for my Killer)"  --an act of public service, (link is  to her YouTube poam of the same title).  She is at work on a book about her father.



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