“When the Moonlight” by Berwyn Moore
in memory of Ann
Contact inhibition: The cessation of cellular growth and
division due to physical contact with other cells.
When the moonlight crept in at odd angles
and the shadows bristled and sighed
like childhood dragons, dangerous and sly,
you slew them with a glare and a shrug,
a forbidden word and that hoot (always a giveaway)
that never, even in your untimely, untidy
last hour, lost its gift for levity. Like that time
browsing at the book store, unaware
of the panties stuck to the back of your sweater –
dryer static – until a friend peeled them off
and flung them, the way your laugh ricocheted off
books and shoppers too embarrassed to look.
Even then the cells were replicating, splitting off.
As you rocking-stitched quilts for your children,
hammered bed frames, pocketed coquinas at low tide,
the cells clustered quietly into malignancy.
And in Panama, while bare-breasted Embera women
painted your skin with black dye and danced
with your husband – your contact inhibition suddenly
lost in the swell of flute and drum – mutant cells,
resistant to contact inhibition, collected in dark tumors.
By the time you knew, you had already fisted
the mysteries of light, built towers with the eastern clouds,
and chased the dragons back into their caves.
And in your last exuberant breath, you knew –
as touchable as water or bark – that the reasons
for loving far outweigh the reasons for living.
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Berwyn Moore’s Artist Statement: Berwyn Moore won the 2015 James Dickey Prize from Five Points Journal. She has published two poetry collections, O Body Swayed and Dissolution of Ghosts (Cherry Grove Collections), and edited the anthology Dwelling in Possibility: Voices of Erie County. She served as the inaugural Poet Laureate of Erie County, Pennsylvania, from 2009 to 2010. Her poems have won awards from the Bellevue Literary Review, The Pinch Literary Journal, Margie: The American Journal of Poetry, and Negative Capability Press. She has poetry and prose published in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Poetry Northwest, Nimrod, Journal of the American Medical Association, Kansas Quarterly, Cimarron Review and Public Health Reports. She teaches English at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania.