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some Cotton Candy 

sweetness, goodness, history, future, complications, complexity, possibilities  associated with




Listen to Brook Benton sing the Boll Weevil Song that my father once sang while he repaired the roof (a pocket of nails & a pocket of peanuts) as if he'd really climbed out the attic window to sing to the squirrels and pigeons:

(buy at iTunes, buy at Amazon )



Sweet Enough Ocean, Cotton
Thylias Moss

I haven’t seen the sea before
but it must be easy to love

because even without ever seeing it before
I call the blown-open cotton a sea,
I call moving through the rows
my attempt to walk on rough water.

It’s not that the cotton seems watery
or that each cotton seed hair is like
a separate one of the sparkles the sun makes
when its light bounces in moving water

—though it is like that
now that I think about it.

It’s just how big
the cotton is.  This small field

seems bigger than the sky,
and is the sky for ants.  It’s just

how the cotton carries you,
delivers you to a rocky shore,
shipwrecks you,

strands you

even though you can’t argue
against what good it does

because you have been taken up in
the persuasion of a garment, of a cocoon.

I’ve been thinking about this,
while I’m working, I think
about this.  My mind is the part of me
that gets the least rest.

It’s never quiet;
there’s always the hum
inside me, the hive free inside me
making me think about honey, dipping
all my thoughts into honey

and even the thoughts honey won’t
stick to have been in the honey,
have been next to honey so the knowledge
of honey is on them and the knowledge
all by itself can be sweet enough.

I think about that, think how thinking
can be sweet enough

for now.  Thinking about so much
that is buried in the cotton.

Few months after we planted it,
I called the pink blossoms of cotton
before it ripened
an assault

of endless sunset on the ocean. 



Listen to a version of Sweet Enough Ocean, Cotton  (vocals by the author, music composed & performed by her son, when he was 12)

from Slave Moth

a novel in verse by Thylias Moss

about which Anne Jansen in her  Magnificent Distraction blog has this to say:

I've read novels in verse before, but none quite like this. The poetry of Moss' novel really comes from the language (as opposed to the form, although that's there as well). The image of a young slave woman stitching her words onto cloth and wearing them like petticoats is beautiful, but Moss has created so many layers of meaning around these layers of fabric. On one level, there's the idea that this is a woman writing her way to freedom. On another level, she's practicing an act that is forbidden, and is going about it in a poignant and deliberate manner. On yet another level, she's defying Peter Perry by taking something he wanted her to see (the luna moth) and transforming it into her own idea (the cloth diary). Then, on top of all of that, there's the luna moth itself: a creature that has an extremely short life span, that transforms itself via cocoon, and that cannot be contained for very long. This final layer has so many implicit meanings -- Varl-as-moth, novel as bildungsroman of sorts, slavery as a possession of the body but not the mind/will, etc. Suffice it to say, the novel is accomplishing many things and tackling many different issues through this one title image.

On a completely different note, the novel has a definite preoccupation with deformity -- what Varl classifies as not only physical difference (because it's not always a "deformity" despite her continued use of that word) but also emotionally twisted situations. There are several characters who might be classified as "abject" (as Kristeva use the term) -- including Albino Pearl and Dwarf Sully, who have natural differences; Jessper, who inflicts her own difference with the iron (thereby making her suddenly "interesting" to Peter Perry); and Mamalee and Varl themselves, who are intellectually different in their intelligence and their level of education. But more important to the core of the novel is the emotional deformity (depravity?) that surrounds Peter Perry. Varl describes him as a "collector" of unusual slaves, which is why he continues to search for these abject figures to bring to his homestead. Then again, he also thrives off of his mother-in-law's death, charging people to see the hive that honeybees have made of her rotting corpse. And most significantly, there are his relationships with the women in his life: his scholarly relationship (which Varl sometimes speculates goes beyond exchanges of words) with Mamalee, his neglectful/disdainful relationship with Ralls Janet, and his oddly desirous yet abstinent (for the time being) relationship with Varl. In other words, throughout the novel, Peter Perry is depicted as the one who has the deformity (rather than those around him) because of his twisted approach to life. Even at the end, when he (plot spoiler!!) renames Perryville "Varlton" it becomes clear that the entire thing is a kind of experiment he's performing to observe what happens with the three main women in his life (Mamalee, Varl, and Ralls Janet). In other words, he's sick. Or, to use Varl's word, he suffers from "extreme deviancy."



To understand a little of what it might have been like for Varl to sew bits of her cotton wings, I sewed by hand, by dim light, no more than 25 watts, sometimes not even that, but by streetlamp filtered by a Japanese maple whose leaves, in twilight in a neighboring yard, weren't quite so red; with such restrained illumination, I made a small moth-shaped cotton dress by hand, white as can be color of full moon and full hopes full of risks.

The dress fits standard size American Girl dolls, the moth-dress I made is on a modified Addy, right now (as it is on the Varl doll as pictured above), though now shifts; the now of a presumed encounter with a reader may occur while the cotton dress is not on the Varl doll, while it is being laundered, while it is being displayed, as it will be, with chapters written without words by Ralls Janet, who could not in her illiteracy use words, but she was not without other means for self-expression, in her own languages, so could utter every taboo necessary within the deviancy she married.


Listen to Tennessee by Arrested Development (featuring lead vocalist Speech)

(buy at iTunes, buy at Amazon):

watch the video below or at youtube:



Varl dress
made of sweet enough ocean, cotton


sweet enough ocean, cotton
made of Varl dress

My aunt from Tennessee
made of sweet enough ocean, cotton
& Ralls Janet


sweet enough ocean, cotton & Ralls Janet
made of my aunt from Tennessee


Watch  Project  Genealogy: (some of) why I wrote Slave Moth

(read about Project  Genealogy)


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