Author: Don Moss

Don Moss is a poet and author born in rural Virginia. His legendary book-length poem, DOMINIONS, can be read by contacting him via email at tybeetypes@bellsouth.net.
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An open sign with an unlit hanging lamp to stylize legendary poet Don Moss's short story, "Breakfast Stories: OPEN Sign".

Breakfast Stories: OPEN Sign

Joel knew brief little fantasies about other women, of real, but mostly of imagined ones. This one was real, had sat across from him in the same office. Aalis, might as well say her name, was one of four nurses he had to assign patients at the university. These nurses were remarkably organized, well beyond his slovenly habits. Aalis carried herself a little more upright than the others, meant what she said, was the only nurse practitioner among them. He’d not worked with all women before and her manner appealed to him from the outset. He soon learned her manner was polished from her years as a commissioned Army reservist, a Major, no less.

Aalis mentioned she had two young daughters and a husband named Mark. There was something about how she spoke of him that hinted they weren’t doing so well. She didn’t disclose many details, other than Mark was too settled with his job, not pushing for advancement at the insurance company. He was a good father to the girls, and he and family would manage them during Aalis’s Army weekends and when she had longer deployments. Joel had told her his own marriage needed to begin, a curious way of putting it, she thought.

Four years she sat across from him, but for the past two years she’d moved to another campus office, and he wished he saw her more often than an occasional lunch. […]

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A black and white photo photo of a Joshua Tree in the Mojave desert. Captured by Jay George from Pixabay.

Breakfast Stories: In a Box

“We will show them Our signs in the universe and within themselves…” — 41:53, Quran

Having no street legal car or bike to race, Rob and I were to race each other—not what we’d expected at this once noticed-in-the-mags, Ramona drag strip, aka, San Diego Raceway. We both knew Rob would likely win, his having the newer bike, better tires, but racing each other at least met the first rule of adventure: wasting time in a manner that could kill you.

And kill it might have had Rob not noticed that my front tire was nearly flat and a danger at speed, even in a straight line. No alarm, though, a pump was available and I was near certain the air would hold for the run. […]

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A stylized shot of French toast on a cast iron skillet.

Breakfast Stories: Toast, French

I’ll admit I wasn’t then a particularly sensitive human being. I should say “yet” instead of “then,” so you won’t think that my growing up in Queens excuses or explains my being like that. There are plenty of good people living there, but this happens to be a story about a pimp. When was it? That would be 1983. I finished high school that year, so I must have been eighteen. I was eighteen, I’ll swear to it.

I had stayed over with my Puerto Rican call girl girlfriend. She was no streetwalker. A call girl’s got a lot more class. A streetwalker’s got it rough, standing out in the weather (she only walks when a cop happens by), and, often as not, working fast in some alley or in the seat of a trick’s car. A trick, I hope you know, is not just what a guy wearin’ a cape does with his hands. You might still say that whorin’ is whorin’, but with a streetwalker that’s nearly all it can be. She’s got no time for conversation. You’ve seen her. She’s the one waiting at the bus stop, only, when the bus stops she doesn’t get on. Another difference for a streetwalker is that her working numbers increases her chances of trouble, of disease, of mixing up with some bad-ass dude, or with cops, who’re mostly son’a-bitches. The literal-minded will like it that call girls, as the name implies, might work up their business on the phone. Even call girl language has more class: client instead of trick. And when it comes to sex, that’s going to happen inside somewhere probably on a bed, not in some family sedan. […]

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A stylized image of an older, serious man in a suit presiding over a meeting, with others around him.

SHORT STORY: “James (Continued)”

“Committees should be dissolved,” James stated.

He hadn’t put it that way before, a good summary, though, of how his mind had come to operate. “You mean the department committee that denied your master’s proposal?” I said.

“That’s the latest—my fault for loitering where I don’t belong?” he replied. “Things need to be pure.”

“Pure?”

“Yeah, tired word. Can’t think of a better one that captures it.”

“Would an example serve?” I said.

“OK, in the religion class, not just western faith, but several; I told you a little about that over the phone? The professor was classic, recited long passages in translation, his own, in Latin, in Greek, in Hebrew, and other dead tongues.” […]

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Two sepia side-by-side photographs of Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein.

DRAMA: The Tobacco Pot – A Play in One Act (1996)

SETTING: Einstein’s office at Princeton, desk, with large tobacco pot, two chairs, stacks of books and papers everywhere, half erased equations on chalkboard, Lighting slightly dimmed.

AT RISE: The two men have been life-time theoretical competitors; this competitiveness shows in all their interactions, though good naturally, as if acting out how media sometimes pits them against each other. NEILS BOHR, lost in thought, stands in profile by the desk fumbling to fill his pipe. The pipe, unfilled, unlit, he moves toward back, toward the window of the large office, walking furiously left to right, his hands clasped behind his back.

BOHR: Einstein, Einstein. [BOHR’S hands fidget with the pipe. Einstein enters stage left on tiptoe. He pauses only an instant to watch BOHR and smiles. He heads silently for the tobacco pot] Gezukenakken, pond scum. That means “pond scum” in Danish. He’s always late. Oh, Einstein! [BOHR picks up chalk, announcing as he writes] E … = … m … C … squared. [Just as EINSTEIN’S fingers eagerly touch the tobacco pot, BOHR suddenly spins round. The two men pretend to glare at each other.] Stealing from my pot again, Herr Doc-tor Albert? […]

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A mirrored image of a child jumping down a staircase in post-impressionist style, perhaps taking place in the 1960s.

SHORT STORY: Don Moss’s “Down The Stairs”

Our large farmhouse had an oak staircase that descended eight or nine feet to the landing, then offered five steps to the right and left, to the dining room and to the parlor, respectively. At age four or five, I would stare down to the landing and imagine a perfect leap to the precise center of the landing, absorbing the fall with no harm to body or to the parquet oak landing. Since the basement stairs were directly beneath this stairwell, I just knew any imperfection in the act would send one through the landing to the basement and to my demise. That last detail was of no interest, simply the consequence of imperfection. This fantasy felt more like a message built into the stairway and landing itself.

Evidence of my never attempting the jump is the fact that I sit, seventy-some years later, now writing these words. I was neither gifted with any useful athletic abilities, nor plagued with innate daring to attempt such a stunt. I didn’t take the fantasy literally, even years before I knew of such a word as literal. The image of the stairs, leap, and perfect landing did not abandon me. The image did now and then vanish, drifting below conscious recall. […]

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A stylized shot of West Virginia, where a portion of Don Moss's "Lettered State" takes place.

POEM: Don Moss — “Lettered State”

Lettered State

An hour past dawn, at this clear-road pace,
We’d cross the last county line,
Passing from East to West Virginia.
His plan was masterful. A second D-
W-I, he’d be revoked a full year.
With the foresight a son might inherit,
He’d claimed his wallet stolen
And applied for a duplicate license.

He slid the form under the wide
Bi-focaled face of the counter woman.
Who’d lifted her head to assess him,
Corrected the date, asked of insurance,
Reviewed and stamped his freedom form,
Freedom to drive west, to Phoenix, AZ,
A two-day drive to friend Tom’s,
Take the Arizona test, cowboy a year,
Return to Virginia and petition
The court for reinstatement. Masterful.

His ’73 Continental drove well, but
Father didn’t know what to do
On the right side of the wide front seat,
Forming fists of dependence.
“Son, how fast you going?” […]

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A stylized, 3-colored, tripartite portrait of a smiling Bruce Ario, the great Minneapolis poet.

The Minneapolis Poet: Remembering Bruce Ario

I can’t find the quote just now, I think by Kurt Vonnegut, something like; ‘Don’t just hold up in a room and write, socialize. Get people interested in you.’ Vonnegut said it better, a little longer, but this book on Bruce Ario’s poetry is a good application of the idea, though, as for now, online, not on paper. Bruce didn’t hide in his room writing—he got to know people, read his poems in coffee houses, joined the Uptown Poetry Group, UPG, the small informal writing group led by the author/editor of this book, Dan Schneider. (Not the well-fed TV producer actor born in Memphis, Tennessee, but Dan Schneider, from Queens, NY.)

I got to know Bruce through the UPG group, and, now and then, sharing a microphone with him at a reading. I saw a number of his poems and offered comments a couple of times each month for a good number of years. He, of course, commented briefly, in his manner, on work I brought in and on that of others. UPG participants varied as months passed, but Bruce and I and several others were of the core group. I do not say “members,” it was not that sort of thing, no dues, no qualifications. The only criteria for attendance were to bring in work, accept comments, offer suggestions to others, and leave egos outside the door. This last quality is likely why no “known artists” of the Twin Cities ever paid the group a single visit. Word got around that at UPG expect useful critique, not empty praise. […]