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High Cotton, or Tea with Nina and Larry On a Sunday in January
Ruth Moose


Not cold, but sunny bright

And bare . . . the trees need leaves.


We each have our own small pot

Of choice; oolong, jasmine, a blueberry blend

Of flowers and spice. Quail eggs, stuffed

And seasoned, size the end of our little

Finger. Not even a bite, but sandwiches

Bigger; two nibbles and gone.


We pour and sniff, taste, listen

To the harpist.


A heron leaves the pond

Named for him. Was his flight

Planned? Is he on salary

For ambience? Part of the blue

Décor? Everywhere

A chosen color, accessory,

Furniture, door. Heavy money.

Not my world. Not even

My foot in the door.

I’ve only wedged it wide

Enough to hear my mother

Say, “High cotton, honey. 

This is high cotton.”


I need a spring meadow

And bluets under an oak tree

So old it sheltered Noah

When he rested the ark.


© by Ruth Moose.
Used with the author’s permission



Ruth Moose was on the Creative Writing faculty at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for 15 years. Author of three collections of short stories and six collections of poetry, her work has appeared in publications all over the world. Ruth, who lives in Pittsboro, North Carolina, was awarded a MacDowell Fellowship and, in 2009, received the prestigious Chapman Fellowship for Teaching. Her debut novel, Doing it at the Dixie Dew, was awarded a $10,000 Malice Domestic Prize. Ruth's most recent novel is Wedding Bell Blues (St. Martin's Press). Learn more about her at





Post New Comment:
Many years ago, my wife and I had tea for two at the Gresham Hotel in Dublin, Ireland. It was "high cotton."
Posted 01/22/2017 10:03 AM
Lori Levy:
Love the description of the tea and the atmosphere created in this poem.
Posted 01/22/2017 09:57 AM
You gave us a delightful view of 'high cotton'...very well crafted. Thanks, Ruth.
Posted 01/22/2017 09:36 AM
Fun, the dichotomies, and the repeated great southern term.
Posted 01/22/2017 08:46 AM

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