Poetry by Thylias Moss.
Photo by Don Paulson.

The Warmth of Hot Chocolate

Somebody told me I didn't exist even though he was looking dead
at me. He said that since I defied logic, I wasn't real for reality is one
of logic's definitions. He said I was a contradiction in terms, that one
side of me cancelled out the other side leaving nothing. His shaking
knees were like polite maracas in the small clicking they made. His
moustache seemed a misplaced smile. My compliments did not
deter him from insisting he conversed with an empty space since
there was no such thing as an angel who doesn't believe in God. I
showed him where my wings had been recently trimmed. Every-
body thinks they grow out of the back, some people even assume
shoulder blades are all that man has left of past glory, but my wings
actually grow from my scalp, a heavy hair that stiffens for flight by
the release of chemical secretions activated whenever I jump off a
bridge. Many angels are discovered when people trying to commit
suicide ride and tame the air. I was just such an accident. We're
simply a different species, not intrinsically holy, just intrinsically
airborne. Demons have practical reasons for not flying; it's too hot
in their home base to endure all the hair; besides, the heat makes the
chemicals boil away so demons plummet when they jump and keep
falling. Their home base isn't solid. Demons fall perpetually, deeper
and deeper into evil until they reach a level where even to ascend
is to fall.

I think God covets my wings. He forgot to create some for himself
when he was forging himself out of pure thoughts rambling through
the universe on the backs of neutrons. Pure thoughts were the
original cowboys. I suggested to God that he jump off a bridge to
activate the wings he was sure to have, you never forget yourself
when you divvy up the booty, but he didn't have enough faith that
his fall wouldn't be endless. I suggested that he did in fact create
wings for himself but had forgotten; his first godly act had been
performed a long time ago, after all.

I don't believe in him; he's just a comfortable acquaintance, a close
associate with whom I can be myself. To believe in him would place
him in the center of the universe when he's more secure in the
fringes, the farthest corner so that he doesn't have to look over his
shoulder to nab the backstabbers who want promotions but are tired
of waiting for him to die and set in motion the natural evolution.
God doesn't want to evolve. Has been against evolution from its
creation. He doesn't figure many possibilities are open to him. I
think he's just wise to bide his time although he pales in the moonlight
to just a glow, just the warmth of hot chocolate spreading through
the body like a subcutaneous halo. But to trust him implicitly would
be a mistake for he then would not have to maintain his worthiness
to be God. Even the thinnest, flyweight modicum of doubt gives
God the necessity to prove he's worthy of the implicit trust I can
never give because I protect him from corruption, from the compla-
cence that rises within him sometimes, a shadowy ever-descending

"The Warmth of Hot Chocolate" has been published in two of Moss's collections of poetry, first in 1991's Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky from Persea, and then in 1993's Small Congregations: new and selected poems from Ecco.  The poem was also selected for the Best American Poetry series and for the Best of the Best American Poetry series.  The poem  originally appeared in Epoch and is reprinted here by permission.