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To a Hornworm, I
Tamara Madison


Green friend, this morning
as you raise your head
to look at me with black dot eyes
from where I find you, clinging
to a tomato branch, I see
your three rows of – are they hands?
teeth? I shall call them raspers –
and your eight stocky legs
that hold tight to the branch
that you match so perfectly
it is hard to find you. I admire
your white stripes, the tiny
black spots beneath them,
the red horn at your back.

When I first found you there
a pudgy green bus lurking
beneath a denuded branch
behind the half-sucked tomatoes
above the inky caviar
of your droppings, I recoiled,
horrified. I am sorry – I’m a human.
It’s a natural reaction.

But how calmly
with such self-possession
you feasted on my tomato plants
as though you had planted
and cared for them yourself.
Alas, I have had such friends
who feel it fine to borrow my clothes
without asking, use my lipstick,
lie in my sheets, fill in
my crossword puzzles
with wrong answers, in pen.

A flitting shadow darkens
the once lush vines – a cream-winged
spotted butterfly. Eat up, I tell you.
Gather up strength for your strange
journey ahead from which
you’ll emerge, a great striped moth.

From Wild Domestic (Pearl Editions, 2011).
Used with permission.


Tamara Madison is a swimmer, dog lover, grandmother, and retired teacher of English and French. She is a native of the California desert, and the author of two chapbooks of poetry and three full-length manuscripts--Morpheus Dips His Oar being the latest. Learn more about Tamara at



Post New Comment:
Loved your poem, especially you feasted as though planted and cared for them yourself. Also, most beautiful a flitting shadow darkens.
Posted 07/13/2020 07:43 PM
Lori Levy:
I liked the detailed observation of the hornworm and your comparison of the worm to certain friends!
Posted 07/13/2020 02:42 PM
I liked the wrong crossword answers in ink.
Posted 07/13/2020 11:03 AM
michael escoubas:
What a delight!! This poem is filled with color and tangible-edible things--best of all is the irony toward the end. Nice job Tamara!
Posted 07/13/2020 09:06 AM
Larry Schug:
As B would say, this poem is a story of one of the gods of the garden, a parable.
Posted 07/13/2020 06:37 AM

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