Tag Archives: Sharon Whitehill

Lost and Found

By Sharon Whitehill

An adolescent lost to her hormones,     
compelled like the durian tree 
to inflict puncture wounds,
the thorns on its rind seem no kin
to the feathery flower that came first,
or the buttery richness 
of ripe fruit to come.

A beloved husband adrift, 
still breathing yet all but extinguished,
his body the husk, browned and dry,
left behind when the harvest
is ground into meal.
As the kernel remembers the corn,
so his imprint on those who remain.

A woman as bodily ravaged
as the remains of a tree, 
rotted away to a stump
but kept alive by its kind. 
Forever ungreen, yet most deeply herself,
her essence polished to shining.


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.

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.

A Normal Grave

“As bright and affectionate a Daughter as ever God with His Image blest”

– 1871 epitaph for Florence Irene Ford in Natchez, Mississippi

By Sharon Whitehill

Florence Irene Ford, a child 
once so frightened of thunder
she clung to her mother whenever it stormed.
Her headstone bears a carved wreath,
at the foot an urn on stacked blocks;

A traditional grave but for a trap door behind it 
that gapes, a mechanical maw
with rust on its palate, hinges like teeth
clogged with clumps of dead grass, 
and five concrete stairs down its craw
with risers and treads too crumbled with age
to stave off invasion by galinsoga, 
gallant-soldier plant, green in a crevice.

A chasm the size of the tomb,
concrete walls dappled with damp
like an abstract of monochrome blots.
A six foot descent to a window of glass
with a view of a little girl’s casket.

A stark anteroom excavated 
so a mother could comfort her child    
in the belly of death.


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.

Ode to the Mushroom

“The role of the infinitely small in nature is infinitely large.”

–Louis Pasteur

By Sharon Whitehill

How to react to a biome
that’s in between creature and plant, 
forms a kingdom all to itself?

Unlike those animals easy to love,
a dolphin that smiles back at me, 
or a soulful-eyed calf,
or the animals easy to loathe 
like the bobbit worm buried in sand, 
ready to scissor its prey;

unlike the emotions I feel 
when beholding a redwood 
or breathing the fragrance of peony blossoms
or recoiling from poison oak,
I confess I don’t know how to feel 
about mushrooms.

Their ancestors grew into spires 
that stilettoed the earth, 
later helped primitive plants become trees 
in whose roots they now thrive:
a vast network of organ systems 
that function as one complete body.

Mushrooms nestle in beds of organic decay,
bloom overnight into witch-hats, umbrellas, 
saucers, or funnels that fan out like skirts.
Whether ovoid or conical, nippled or flat,
some honeycombed into pits,
some baby-bum smooth,
some dusted with powder, 
some branched like corals or shingled with scales.

Some of their faces are waxy, or sticky, or slimy,
but none can outdo the hirsute: 
garbed in capes of bristles or goose-down,
coats fleecy, or spiked like a mace. 
Bleeding tooth, starfish, purple antlers, wrinkled peach—
how to respond to a throng so prolific?


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.

The Underburbs

By Sharon Whitehill

Networks of tunnels and rooms 
carved out of natural caves
or straight into the rock,
multileveled and labyrinthine.
Drilled for subways and sewers,
or dug out as places of refuge.

Pillared halls, arched chambers 
for granaries, wineries, theaters, 
temples, and grottoes.
A former salt mine  
now a commodious complex 
of frescoes, carvings, and statues. 
An underground village in France
with bakeries and chapels.
How many square miles
in the fallout shelter under Beijing?
With hospitals, schoolrooms,
cinemas, arsenals, skating rink.

Cities invisible under our feet,
in spite of our natural hunger
for greenery, ocean, and sky. 
Hewn out of nature itself, 
parallel to the tunnels and rooms 
of the psyche. 
Caves hung with shadows. 
Mine shafts of the mind
that have swallowed the light. 


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.