When the Moonlight by Berwyn Moore


“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.


Author: A Room of Her Own

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