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Thylias Moss


Thylias Moss was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on February 27, 1954. She received a BA from Oberlin College in 1981 and an MA from the University of New Hampshire in 1983.

She is the author of several poetry collections, including Wannabe Hoochie Mama Gallery of Realities’ Red Dress Code: New & Selected Poems (Persea Books, 2016), Tokyo Butter: A Search for Forms of Deidre (Persea Books, 2006), Last Chance for the Tarzan Holler (Persea Books, 1998), and Hosiery Seams on a Bowlegged Woman (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1983).

The poet Linda Gregerson writes, “Thylias Moss has never been a poet of easy comforts…. With fury and exhilarating velocity, she heads straight into the maelstrom. She excoriates; she sings.”

Moss has received fellowships and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Library of Congress, the MacArthur Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Whiting Foundation, among others. She has previously taught at Phillips Andover Academy, the University of New Hampshire, and Brandeis University. She currently serves as a professor emerita at the University of Michigan, and she lives in Michigan.


Wannabe Hoochie Mama Gallery of Realities’ Red Dress Code: New & Selected Poems (Persea Books, 2016)
Tokyo Butter: A Search for Forms of Deidre (Persea Books, 2006)
Slave Moth: A Narrative in Verse (Persea Books, 2004)
Last Chance for the Tarzan Holler (Persea Books, 1998)
Small Congregations: New and Selected Poems (Ecco Press, 1993)
Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky (Persea Books, 1991)
At Redbones (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1990)
Pyramid of Bone (University Press of Virginia, 1989)
Hosiery Seams on a Bowlegged Woman (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1983)

Tale of a Sky-Blue Dress (Bard, 1998)

By This Poet


Lessons from a Mirror

Snow White was nude at her wedding, she's so white
the gown seemed to disappear when she put it on.

Put me beside her and the proximity is good
for a study of chiaroscuro, not much else.

Her name aggravates me most, as if I need to be told
what's white and what isn't.

Judging strictly by appearance there's a future for me
forever at her heels, a shadow's constant worship.

Is it fair for me to live that way, unable 
to get off the ground?

Turning the tables isn't fair unless they keep turning.
Then there's the danger of Russian roulette

and my disadvantage: nothing falls from the sky
to name me.

I am the empty space where the tooth was, that my tongue
rushes to fill because I can't stand vacancies.

And it's not enough. The penis just fills another
gap. And it's not enough.

When you look at me,
know that more than white is missing.

The Culture of Glass

         Thanksgiving 2004: I’m thankful for

Columbo’s eye, Peter Falk’s indivisible
from the other’s vitreous dupe that he can pocket,
rub into, off of, and shine the crystal eyeball after
it subs in a game of table pool. Oh yeah!

The future of fortunes is manufactured revelation
of a snow globe: when the right someone gets his hands
on such a world, that world is shaken to pieces, the glass

is tapped in the aquarium, semitransparent arowanas remain
inexplicable, a tapper’s desire breaks out: oh to become glass,
to slide the foot into a transparent baby slipper arowana
and dance with a prince whose glass toenails
shatter when he runs after glass-footed beauties

born that way, skin so thin it hides nothing
without actually being clear, sneak peak
at the friable optic nerve, the components

separated only by glass
through which all seen becomes transparent, criminal
activity obvious, the put-on of opaque alibis
exposing a fear of crime’s transparency:

finger prints on the latex interior of the gloves,
imprint of a face on the wrong side of the mask:

at some level, a matter of seeing eye dog versus unseeing
eye dog, culture of breed, hole-in-the-wall expectations, cash
transactions, motel by the half-hour versus extended stay
opulence just to sleep there for real

with seeing eye dog sleeping on a braided rug half-under
the bed of a blind girl, the girlishness not an issue,
the dog not meant to be her guide into decisions, just
crossings to which she becomes committed independently,

regarding the cool dark of evening, the lapse
of the feel of light as day’s form of breathing,
getting illumination off its wide chest
until able to face again the responsibility of light
that even this girl must accept behind glasses:
day is hers too, given by an internal clock
that wants all the bright hours, odor of rising,
flowers opening with the bakeries, stunning
synchronizations, a pas de deux, she steps, dog steps
into the crosswalk at the same time as a man heading
toward them with coffee, led also but by the Arabica, hookah
descent, descant now to the caffeine
that doesn’t adhere to the glass mug: it is all for him,
her too if they merge at first sight: the world of coffee,
the culture of glass

bottom boats, success:
liquid assets: if solidity is the basic state

that matters, it’s obvious what happens:

The dog retires, seeing what canines see
for himself, fleas cross
his coat without help other than his receiving
no special treatment,
tied in a twenty-foot yard frequented most
by sunflowers, each seed
like the eye of an insect.      An alley of a yard

that from time to time becomes a crime scene
in the blink of an eye

                              the glass one melts last.

This Did Not Happen

This did not happen

although I have memories of it:
a doctor unwrapping a tutu 
so I knew I was in a hospital
but one unlike any other
practicing strange medicine 
but this strangeness has been effective

A hospital for dancers?

I was in pink,

I had been in a street,
an alley and

I was left there, tutu shredded, 
I couldn't dance


No animals other than myself, so the animal 
in me


but tried to hurt no one