Living on the
One should grow
Will result in attack.
If there’s one thing about Moss’ poetry, it’s that it is strange and not intuitive. This poem does not fall outside of that category.
I’ve never really known Moss to be a health-conscious man, though this poem would suggest otherwise. We could think the “animal-ness” (ln. 5) of the first “heart” (since “one should grow/another”, [ln. 3-4; my emphasis]) as cholesterol and the “result[ant]…attack” (ln. 6) is cardiac arrest. As we all know, the largest incidence rate of heart disease is overwhelmingly on the east coast. It would only benefit those people to grow another heart since the stressors of living in rat-hole Eastern cities and bumfucknowhere towns is about as healthy as smoking two packs a day—hell, I live near Philly and every day I get more than my fair share of hypertension.
This prophecy, if it can be so-called, brings me back to a time when both Moss and I were in high school (back in 1989—we were juniors at Capt. Shreve at the time). We were sitting along the banks of the Red river smoking menthols stolen from his sister and skipping stones. The way flat rocks would skip across the murky way made us both contemplative and Moss turned his attention to cruelty, in general. He spoke of carnivore eating habits and with how cruel they were to animals. I’ve personally never neaten meat, much to the chagrin of my mother so I commiserated his opinion.
Yet, you may be wondering: Jane, you’re both from Louisiana and this poem concerns the “East coast” (ln. 2)—how does that make any sense? Both his parents are from the east—his mom was from upstate NY and his dad from PA (around Lancaster, I believe—weird how things like that work out—and I only figured this out when my mother directed some mail to me from Moss’ old house. A letter, specifically, written by Moss. I don’t know if it’s a posthumous letter or what—I haven’t seen it yet; I haven’t the heart to look).
I’ve always known of Moss and his family as being aloof—they lacked the southern hospitality and stayed mostly indoors—because that’s how people on the east coast act having perfected the art of being alone in public. Moss, however, was a little tortured, I feel, in his want to have companionship conflicting with his natural aversion to people. As a theme that runs through other poems, the doubling of one’s self, this poem expresses that doubling, not as a warning but as a desire. Since it is imprudent to think beings capable of awareness of identity—however fleeting or nonsensical that may be—are incomplete—as we are all very much complete in and of ourselves—this poem suggests that we are stuck in a particular sensibility. In order to change there needs to be additions onto ourselves (“one should grow/another heart” [ln. 3-4]) in order to overcome our previous environs, or original environs.
Here, Moss assumes we are complete as identities, but that those identities are themselves limited to our locations of birth—there is a kind of emotional significance to where we grew up, one that not only holds our nostalgia, but also one that holds the basis for all our desires. Location is very much significance.
Since Moss moved from PA to LA, he knows—if even before his conscious time—his emotional limitations are rooted in PA, not in LA (and if we think about it, vice versa, those who live in LA have emotional limitations specific to that place [not state-wise, or nationalistically, but more so by the very fact one happened to grow up in those areas]). His first heart is rooted there—indoctrinated by his parents and set firmly in his nostalgia—in PA, on the east. In order to settle with living in LA (when he did, before he killed himself, allegedly, in ’06) one needs to grow another emotional limitation—but, one cannot excise the original heart—no, it is like body fat: it does not go away it merely wastes, merely sits there, powering one’s urge to get away from the past. For better or worse, nostalgia stays with us, like plaque in the arteries, and when the times comes even if we’ve decided to start a new life that heart may pine so painfully for its lost home. The pain is not the longing but the continued separation from the origin—a commitment to undoing the old heart, the old emotional limitation and supplanting it with a new one.
I guess this post is pretty apt for myself especially at this time. I haven’t had much strength to continue writing these posts because I’ve been missing H. Moss for sometime—he’s been dead almost 12 years and I still can’t get over it. Moss was a great friend to me—though I don’t blame him for killing himself, allegedly—this life is thresher and I’m jealous that he had the constitution to kill himself. As much as I go on about desiring life and the uselessness of suicide, it is too hard on some instances to be active. Maybe Moss’ suicide was reactive—I’m sure it was. But that was his animal heart speaking for him in that strident tone that no one can understand, not even the speaker. Life does not have to cease, but it certainly hurts—so maybe I am pining for that cousin of sleep, death. Maybe.
This is last poem I was able to collect from Moss and the last that I know of him—hopefully, I will continue making these posts. But, I don’t know.