cover image Last Chance for the Tarzan Holler: Poems

Last Chance for the Tarzan Holler: Poems

Thylias Moss. Persea Books, $24 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-89255-229-0

With titles like ""Ode to the Cat-Headed Consort in a Painting by Bosch"" or ""Splitting a Double Life,"" the poems of Moss's finely wrought sixth collection immediately draw us in for a closer look. Moss pulls no punches in giving voice to progenitive biblical myth (""Did Hagar not have Abram eating from her hands as well as from her thighs?"") or, chillingly, to Dr. James Marion Sims's gynecological observations of 1845. Throughout, Moss meditates, starkly and unsentimentally, on death and motherhood, on God, and, beneath them all, on sex and power, as in ""Heads"": ""John's head arrives on a platter, knife/ and fork come later, in a civilized moment/ when the kiss tastes funny, when she sucks/ the lips so white she is sure it is talent."" Media-swollen cultural debris like Susan Smith's cold-blooded murder of her two sons or the tragedy of recent African American church fires are made to yield their moral crux: ""Since fire is power"" she concludes of the torchings, ""both the supreme good and supreme evil are entitled/ to it."" If Moss has largely replaced the more personal voice of books like Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky (1991), she has here removed to more difficult, more powerful ground. (Mar.) FYI: Moss, a 1996 MacArthur Fellow, has a memoir, Tale of a Sky-Blue Dress, forthcoming from Avon in August.