Spines

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? 
Silence. 
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. 
Then, inspiration:
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: 
vulnerable vertebra-bump 
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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s