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Sample Poems by Judith Moffett

A Meditation Against the Recurrence of Cancer

My body is a farm,
My farm a territory
Policed by wolves. The harm
Imbrued all through a story
That, brutal base but true,
I learned when I was little,
Still drains and drains into
The sinkhole in the middle.

But deep in bony hills
My timber wolves are lining
The banks where moonlight fills
A drained clay bowl with shining,
The liquid light of trance.
Tongues lap it. Let them finish,
Lean legs and amber glance
Spring up through scrub and vanish.

No sound. But let them scent
The predator coyote,
Legs blur and paws imprint
The farm that is my body,
And all is savage sound.
Yearlong, but best in winter,
Wolves guard the holy ground
Whose sinkhole is its center.

I know they do by this:
Five-petaled tracks, that crisscross
The farm my body is
In slushmelt mud so viscous,

That punch through snow's stiff crust
So deep, they make a telltale
For where my wolves have traced
Their fourfoot mantra Heal-all:

My borders' watermarks,
My stonelike standing waters,
My thorny strands of wire,

My bramble canes' red arcs,
My fence, my slope of cedars,
My dark interior.


Raw-skinned, round, the color of clay,
Day upon month your logs of pine,
Bound in their bundles, lay and lay
Oozing their blood
Of turpentine
Next to a hole in the rock-hard mud.

"Too blame cold," said the concrete man,
"Cain't pour now." But after his truck
Had crapped and departed, you kept right on
Refusing to rise
On your walls of block,
Refusing to budge, to materialize.

And people who went to work on you
Were asking for it: the busted phone,
The busted backhoe, the sprain, the flu,
The wife's pacemaker,
The kidney stone-
The bad-luck streak of a record-breaker.

Hangers of windows? Layers of floors?
-Caught in your spin-cycle force field's grip.
Unpoured patio, unbuilt step
For months obstruc-
ted all three doors.

But hurled from a center where nothing stuck

Your builders rallied to seal your fate.
With power drill, mortar, and staple gun

They won to the center. Your walls stood straight
On straight foundations, fair in defeat.
Blue as the sky the roof clenched down.

Stain, red-brown as devil's-food cake!
Lights! Water! Telephone! Heat!
And who cares now whose crazy mistake
Made four small rooms and a basement take
Fifteen mortal months to complete?

O house I despaired of, house I fear,
Little log house so fiercely intent
On not getting built for week upon year,
What can be going to happen here
That you strove so long and hard to prevent?


Lightning's enormous flutter
yellows the whole dark;
now (black blink) and now
jolts of unguessable force
open and close a shutter.

High in the strobed foliage-
thrashing boughs of shagbark
hickory, of buckeye-
lightning bugs acknowledge,
answer in cursive Morse.


It comes when you're not looking. Has been there
Before you noticed. Blazes forth between
The hickory's new leaves, their tender green
Massy above you flopped into a chair,
Hot from the garden, with an aching back.
Two phoebes flit from tree to eave to tree
Feeding the tyrant nestlings you can't see;
You watch them labor, mind and body slack

Then among bobbing boughs a flick of red!
Binoculars have leapt into your hand,
Swept the green shapes and fixed an active blur
That moves-moves-lights in focus as the wind
Pushes, and full sun strikes him breast and head.
It flares, it flames out. Scarlet tanager.