Shelter in Place                                                                         by Debbie Theiss 

The young man extends  
his thin hand, turns to me  
his grasp tightening  
around my fingers  
nods a thanks  
   
That was four weeks ago  
while hiking near the Mexican  
border in a sky island canyon  
in Arizona  
   
Now, I stay in place  
distance myself from others  
venture only to grocery stores  
pharmacies or take-out restaurants  
Closed signs hang on businesses  
I walk along my neighborhood streets  
careful to move to the opposite side  
when someone approaches  
   
My son texts me, “Meet me outside”  
I sit on the stoop, grateful to look at him  
He stands at the edge of the driveway  
We talk of working from home  
online school for my grandson  
We throw imaginary kisses, give air hugs  
plan for Sunday Family Night on Zoom  
   
But—I keep thinking about the young man  
I didn’t see him at first  
My poles jab into the rocky terrain  
Horses’ hooves from Border Patrol crumble  
the trail, the footing on the steep path unsure  
I pause to adjust to the climbing altitude  
catch my breath  
   
He treks across lush grass in the glade  
to make his way to me   
towering Arizona sycamores framing  
the abrupt rise of the Huachuca Mountains  
   
He is my grandson’s age, fourteen or fifteen  
slight build, a shadow of hair on his upper lip  
dressed in a Nike shirt, jeans and sneakers  
No backpack or coat.  Such contrast to my daypack  
filled with snacks, water, and a picnic lunch   
My hooded sweatshirt and gloves  
keep me warm. He tries to explain something  
I don’t understand   
   
Over and over he gestures, pointing  
ahead of me toward the visitor center  
With his hands drawn into tight fists  
he crosses his wrists as if he wore handcuffs  
I understand  
   
Again and again, he confirms my answer  
I shake my head and answer, “No”  
His shoulders relax; he reaches out  
   
I can still feel the warmth of his hand in mine  
and wonder if he is sheltering in place  

Debbie Theiss (Lee’s Summit, MO) grew up in in the Midwest and finds inspiration in the unfolding art of daily life and nature. She is a member of the Kansas City Writer’s Group and has poems published in I-70 Review, Helen Literary Journal, River & South Review, and others.  

Guest Editor Julie Ramon is an English instructor at NEO A&M in Miami, Oklahoma.  She graduated with an M.F.A from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. Among writing, her interests include baking, sewing, traveling, and garage sales. She is also a co-organizer of a Joplin, Missouri poetry series, Downtown Poetry. She lives in Joplin with her husband, daughter, and sons.  

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