Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The poem "TORNADOS" Legendary Poet Thylias Moss Is "Tornado" Dancing Her Way From Michigan to Florida . . . .

Christal Cooper

Poem copyright granted by Thylias Moss

All images are given copyright privilege by Thylias Moss unless otherwise noted.

Guest Blogger Poet Thylias Moss:
Dancing through “Tornados”

 Tornado by Irving Wolfson in 1940.  Charcoal on paper


Truth is, I envy them
not because they dance; I out jitterbug them
as I'm shuttled through and through legs
strong as looms, weaving time. They
do black more justice than I, frenzy
of conductor of philharmonic and electricity, hair
on end, result of the charge when horns and strings release
the pent up Beethoven and Mozart. Ions played

instead of notes. The movement
is not wrath, not hormone swarm because
I saw my first forming above the church a surrogate
steeple. The morning of my first baptism and
salvation already tangible, funnel for the spirit
coming into me without losing a drop, my black
guardian angel come to rescue me before all the words

get out, I looked over Jordan and what did I see coming for
to carry me home. Regardez
, it all comes back, even the first
grade French, when the tornado stirs up the past, bewitched spoon
lost in its own spin, like a roulette wheel that won't
be steered like the world. They drove me underground,
tornado watches and warnings, atomic bomb drills. Adult
storms so I had to leave the room. Truth is

the tornado is a perfect nappy curl, tightly wound,
spinning wildly when I try to tamper with its nature, shunning
the hot comb and pressing oil even though if absolutely straight
I'd have the longest hair in the world. Bouffant tornadic
crown taking the royal path on a trip to town, stroll down
Tornado Alley where it intersects Memory Lane. Smoky spirit-
clouds, shadows searching for what cast them.

“Please understand I am making the most difficult and necessary decision in my life, as if I live inside a tornado, so much sucking and swirling of many things I thought I knew, and now, I'm about to embark on an adventure that I can't see clearly at all.  Selling my house (in Michigan), and moving to a location I do not know yet. I am not running from something, but to something, and I don’t know for sure what that is. Or necessarily who that is if in fact I do run to someone...

Shadow of Thylias Moss
At the University of Michigan Museum of Arts 
I must thank my former student, now my friend Eliana Rina for offering me a place with her in Orlando, Florida.

                              Facebook Logo page for Eliana Rina 
Tornado winds are among the most destructive, but what I really want is to feel the calm of days, and once and for all settle into a retirement not from life, but to participate in life more fully than ever...


This weekend, I should hear something about my romance novel, a romance with a person yes, but even more, a romance with life, and I want both of these romances that are often one-in-the same to have their best opportunity for success --which I also want for my son whom I love more than anything in the world, and since his birth, 25 years ago next month, this will be our first separation from the lives of each other.

                          Thylias Moss and her son on his 23rd birthday.

But that too is good for him, and with all these tornadic gestures, like the one that relocated Dorothy in Oz --is that really where I want to go, knowing that all Dorothy wanted to do was go "home"? --think that's what I also want, to be in that place that I feel is home, a sense of belonging where all aspects of my life have a chance.

Growing up in the Midwest, I was always privy to tornado watches and warnings, and I took these seriously. Tornado "Watch" --and that's just what I did, venturing outside and watching the sky for curls, a monstrous Shirley Temple; I had a place for myself staked out in the basements of the houses in which I grew up. although these watches seldom turned to warnings, I always believed they could... Was I lucky or just something else? I was never sure... But tornadoes in my mind were nasty roots, that also did what other forces seemed unable to achieve, completely change the landscape, drive straws into wood, and I was fascinated by such power, power that I would never have.

Left, Thylias Moss, age 5, sitting in the world's largest finback chair from May Company.  Right, Photograph of the tornado in Ponca City, Oklahoma between the years of 1890-1920.  Library of Congress. 

There was that time, of course, the most important time really, other than the Wizard of OZ, and once again in that movie the positive force that tornadoes could be; what a ride Dorothy had --I was more affected by the Judy Garland film than by a later incarnation, The Wiz with Michael Jackson and Diana Ross.

I really did believe in rainbows, the colors, as many as in my own genetics; I liked the form of embrace, and a tornado embraced things also, though somewhat violently in most depictions I knew of; but I could also envision another side of them, searching for their partners --and I guess that is what I am also doing, searching for my partner. And this is where things get a bit tricky. Just who is my partner? --and do I really have one?   having me re-visit this poem right now, causes what's present in my present and the poem to converge; this isn't a neat convergence at all, but this is all about my tornado life! --and that ability of a tornado to churn practically anything into itself.

                      Photo of a tornado sucking in a rainbow.

My father, how I still miss that man, and I'm going to write about him, as soon as I'm located somewhere, but my father and I would watch the skies, and one morning saw a funnel form above the church, "a surrogate steeple" , white rope swaying there, like movement of a supernatural choir; that swaying in midair, and it never touched ground, never became debris-filled, and dirty, soiled, really, taking on colors of life, and churning all of it up into a monstrous salad that no one would ever eat, that no one could eat...

Thylias Moss and her father Calvin Braiser, left as a little girl, and right on her wedding day in 1973.

And for me, the tornados were, are hair --as thick and dense as mine. and I liked that hair could have such power, and with my incredible bounty of hair right now, the butt-kissing hair, I am aware of having two tornado braids, one on each side of my head, and they try to spin as I walk --what incredible dancers tornadoes are; I can envision a chorus line of them easily... not staying in sync --I admire their apparent disobedience, although I was an exceptionally obedient child. "My black guardian angel" --I wanted to explore, exploit sonic power! --the cube root of everything, crazy banana, crazy dancing banana...

Now, I'm all thinking of the Lee Ann Womack song: “I Hope You Dance" --yes; living might be taking chances, but they're worth taking, and loving might be a mistake, but it's worth making" --tornados know this. --when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance. And that is what I want with this poem, with my life. "Dance!"

Tornados were always on my mind, every spring, I paid attention to where tornadoes were, and the way that they rotated and gyrated --how sexy those storms were, and I recall when people I cared abut were involved in twisters. 1974, Xenia Ohio, as in this YouTube video:
                                The tornado as it is hitting downtown Xenia moving toward the old Xenia High School.  This photo was taken by Kitty Marchant on Murray Hill Dr. The houses in the foreground are on Eavey St. and the large red brick structure is a house on S. Columbus St.

I typed the poem “Tornados”, had ceased handwriting poems some years ago. I believe I wrote it (in the) daytime; only the romance novel has kept me up, a tornado in my mind the way it has the ability to churn up into itself, a wall cloud if ever..rotating, gyrating, dancing...”

Thylias Moss was born in 1954, during a blizzard, in Cleveland, Ohio at Mount Sinai Hospital, Thylias Moss began to write when she was seven years old, and continued, ultimately graduating from Oberlin College in 1981, and from Grad School at the University of New Hampshire in 1983, the same year her first volume of poetry: Hosiery Seams on a Bowlegged Woman was published.

                                  Thylias Moss in 1983

Only 4 feet 10 inches tall, she combats this vertical challenge with making big, and has published 10 books, encouraged by winning $25.00 in a Cleveland Public Library Contest for "The Problem with Loving a Ghost of a Sailor" when she was 17 years old--best $25.00 ever!

                                 Thylias Moss, age 17 

She has won many awards, including: "The Dewars Profiles Performance Artist's Award in Poetry" for "Poem for My Mother's and other makers of Asafetida" several Pushcart Prizes, and multiple inclusions in the Best American Poetry Series. She has also won a Whiting Writer's Award, an NEA Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship in 1996. Currently she is involved in limited forking.

Thylias Moss in 1996 posing in a storm drain in Toronto, Ontario, 1994

She was most pleased with her inclusion in the film: "The United States of Poetry" shown on PBS. Clips from my inclusion are among my videos: "9:08 Am - Nagging Misunderstanding: and "Green Light and Gamma Ways".

             Thylias Moss dressed for The United States Poetry premier. 

The "Fork" video was made to accompany my essay in "One Word" --although I mostly wrote about "forking" my essay is entitled "sixpack"

                        "eye of fork" (Pro-forker) "Forker Gryle" --in  her office at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor,  Photograph taken by Thylias Moss’s son.

You can see her video "poams" –(products of acts of making) on the forker girl youtube channel. and if you search for "limited fork" online, whatever you find is likely about Thylias Moss.

Thylias Moss has also published eight poetry collections with her ninth collection, Wannabie Hoochie Mama Gallery of Realities’ Red Dress Code schedule to be released on September 13, 2016 by Persea.

                                                     Web logo for Persea Books.              

         She’s also published a children’s book titled I Want To Be and her memoir Tale of a Sky-Blue Dress

Hosiery Seams on a Bowlegged Woman (1983)

Pyramid of Bone (1989)

At Redbones (1990)

Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky (1991)

Small Congregations: New and Selected Poems (1993)

Last Chance for the Tarzan Holler (1999)

Slave Moth A Narrative In Verse (February of 2006)

Tokyo Butler (December of 2006)

Wannabe Hoochie Mama Gallery of Realities’ Red Dress Code (September 13, 2016)

I Want to Be (1998)

Tale of a Sky-blue Dress (1998)

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