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.