By Sharon Whitehill
Untouchable at fifteen
as porcupine quills.
Her sullenness spreads
like a rash.
Find her bunched
in a ball on her bed.
Offer all the right words:
Can you tell me what’s wrong?
It’s okay to feel angry or sad.
Furtive tear wiped away
but silence still.
Stymied, empty of words,
afraid she’ll bristle if I persist.
Would you like me to give you a backrub?
Her wobbly I guess
belies the deliberate dullness of tone.
She unrolls, turns over, and I begin:
at the base of the neck,
curvature of the ribs,
contours of wings at the shoulders,
valleys and crests of the spine.
Over and over I knead my way down,
her skin warm through the shirt.
Nowhere a spike or a spur.
Finished, I bend, kiss her cheek,
hear her voice soft, undefended,
the first time in days.
Sharon Whitehill is a retired English professor from West Michigan now living in Port Charlotte, Florida. In addition to poems published in various literary magazines, her publications include two biographies, two memoirs, two poetry chapbooks, and a full collection of poems.