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BACK TO THE HYENA, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography


"Back to the Hyena" by Thylias Moss probes the complexities of desire, compulsion, and the inner psyche through an interplay of vivid symbolism and metaphor. The poem presents a compelling narrative that wrestles with the human impulse for indulgence as juxtaposed against the natural, unapologetic instincts of a hyena. The thematic essence of the poem centers around self-acceptance, the transience of external influences like religion and societal norms, and the raw, untamed elements that make up human identity.

The opening lines introduce the idea of a hyena's independence, pointing out that "the spotted animal can go for days without drinking." This trait starkly contrasts with the speaker's own need for Bacardi to entertain "fantasized pirates." The alcohol and pirates function as an escapism, a medium through which the speaker copes with an inner void or emotional turmoil. Bacardi here is not just alcohol; it's a magical elixir that transports her away from reality to a realm of her fantasies.

The pirates are "invited only because they are given to womanizing," highlighting the erotic undertones of these fantasies. Yet, there's a poignant awareness that these imagined journeys are superficial, a mere diversion. Unlike the hyena, which is "guiltlessly" true to its instincts, the speaker battles internal and societal pressures.

The poetic narrative weaves in further complexity with its religious undertones. In contrast to the hyena, which has "no need for religion unless it's edible," the speaker seems to grapple with a guilt complex. This is subtly illustrated in the line, "the flag could be a nun's skirt spreading forgiveness as it m not against, the wind," which also shows the manipulation of language to reflect thought-in-process, suggesting a continuous revaluation of faith and morality.

There's a transmutation that occurs as the poem evolves. The "bad genies" in the Bacardi bottles "evolve into hyenas that laugh and whoop after the kill." This evolution could symbolize the speaker's growing alignment with their more authentic, untamed self, which is no longer restricted by the societal or moral constructs symbolized by "nuns" or "pirates."

The poem's style adds to its thematic weight. The use of enjambment and lack of strict punctuation creates a flow that mirrors the stream-of-consciousness narrative, giving the reader an intimate view into the speaker's internal landscape.

Towards the end, the hyenas "leave only tatters of black cloth," symbolizing remnants of past beliefs and self-imposed limitations. Whether this is the "caribou's bloody velvet that was supposed to fall off" or a nun's skirt, the symbolism here leans toward shedding, toward liberation. The poem leaves us with the notion that, in the end, external roles and self-concepts fail to save us from our raw, primal selves.

In summary, "Back to the Hyena" serves as an intricate tableau of the human psyche, colored with motifs of fantasy, faith, and animalistic instinct. It provokes the reader to ponder the innate dichotomies within us, questioning where societal imposition ends and where true self begins. Moss invites us to consider the liberation that might come from embracing, rather than resisting, our own inner hyenas.


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