rev. of At Redbones by Thylias Moss

Issue #54
Spring 1991

Beneath the body and blood of the Eucharist, invoked and present throughout Thylias Moss's third collection, lie the bones the skeletons in closets, the fingers worked, the heart's durable cage. "It's hard to bandage your life with bones," the poet writes in "Vicious Circles in the Trenches," but she will not be comforted by "white lies" that mask reality like a mother's powder, "two shades lighter than/her face" ("The Eyelid's Struggle"). Tough and knowing,
At Redbones flays the sacred and profane assumptions about a black woman's life, often with flensing wit.

Moss delights in jolting words and phrases out of alignment. In "Hattie and the Power of Biscuits," the big maid's "best supporting role" in
Gone With the Wind is quickly redefined as "the best job / of holding up the confederacy." The incantatory "Provolone Baby" is thrown out with the bath water. And though there's a religious side to many poems, God the Father is at best an incomplete presence. Moss notes that her mother was "in charge/of all the church's books except the Bible" ("Death of the Sweet World"). In "The Adversary," a symbiotic Saviour requires Satan, since He is "subject to/the quirks of maleness, among them that need/for adversary." Salvation is a selfhelp project in "Fullness," where the poet urges, "You will be the miracle. / You will feed yourself five thousand times." Readers who hunger for more should look for
Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky, a winner of the National Poetry Series competition, later this year from Persea Books.

Joyce Peseroff