She Tossed Her Head

by Anne Whitehouse


She tossed her head, and I fell in love—
it was that muscle at the side of her neck,
her sternocleidomastoid
like a skein of silk from jaw to collarbone,
gracefully moving just below the surface of her skin
when she tilted her head, or flexed or extended her neck.

We were the only women in our class of bodyworkers.
She asked me to ease the tension in her shoulders
when she had a headache or a pain in her neck.
Only after I’d released the other muscles
did I take up her sternocleidomastoid,
lifting and gently compressing it
between my fingers.

The main artery to the brain lies under
and to the side of it, so you can’t dig into it.
Vulnerably placed, as near naked
as a muscle can be, it must be approached
delicately and carefully, soothed with a caress.

She trusted me, and I trusted her.
It’s also true that I was jealous of the way
men looked at her and not at me.
But she shed beauty like light;
I basked in it, and it warmed me.
My touch on her was therapeutic.
And what I did for her, she did for me.

As we found out, we were both lost souls
of different sorts, survivors of unhappy childhoods,
who’d come to bodywork because we were damaged,
and now were healed, and wanted to heal others.

I love what I do. I’m generally satisfied.
But sometimes a yearning comes over me
like the ineffable wildness of springtime.
My breathing is shallow, my head aches,
and my hand finds the curve of my neck,
feeling for that smooth, sexy muscle,
following it with sensitive fingers
from the back of my skull and behind my ear
to sternum and collarbone. And under it,
the pulse of arterial blood that is my own life.


[Check out Anne’s back porch wisdom here]