Nicole Monaghan

Nicole Monaghan


38 degrees

is how the surgeon describes it

her spine’s larger curve

idiopathic (no known cause)

neurotransmitters sending a message to twist,

to go in unexpected directions

just like life

a mystery at its core

that her spine snakes sideways

rather than follow a predictable path

it meanders,

takes a turn between heart and hip, makes an S

The x-rays are funny

like spooky Halloween greeting cards

she could have drawn

more precisely

than the machine can register

she could render every vertebra

even the ones that rebel

and lead the curve,

and the ones that follow and

hide behind the others

those would be the trickiest to capture

but she would

And that’s the irony

how precise

she is

in everything

with her Blackwing Pencils

(the world’s best ones, we’ve read!)

that Japanese cedar gliding along her paper

held between elegant fingers

with the perfect nails everyone thinks are fake

at the exact right angle

38 degrees

is a chilly day

but it’s balmy

below her skin

and glowing in her heart

her skeleton’s on an adventure

bent on

going places

as she desires to


other cultures

take a wrong turn in nature

amongst the monstera plants

in the jungles of Hawaii

create jewelry that doesn’t

look mass-produced

that’s imperfect

or perfectly asymmetrical

Who is anyone to say

the exact right angle

at which

her bones should be set?

Nicole (Scarpato) Monaghan’s great grandparents on both sides emigrated from Italy.  Her dad is so olive his 5 o’clock shadow is present at every hour, and her son looks like him.  Her eighteen year old daughter is especially proud of her Italian Heritage. Nicole’s work has appeared in many venues both online and in print.  This poem was inspired by her sixteen year old daughter. Please visit here