by Debbie Theiss

1                                                                                       2

Tattered sleeves mask healing scabs,
yellow bruises spread paths,
crisscross across soft tissue
on the inside of his forearm.
A stretched out neckline falls,
between her breasts, a gold locket
rests midway. A knotted blue
bandanna constrains graying hair.
Orange ill-fitting shirt and pants
hang on his slack body as if
trying to shed skin.  His fingers —
nails split, crusted blood, tips gnawed.
Catsup stains marked the discarded
apron that drapes her flowered dress, cinched

with an elastic belt. Gnarled hands rest, nails
bitten to the quick.

He grasps the phone, two-fisted grope,
dials the number. Blue smoke curls
around him, cigarette butt glows
fiery orange, burnt ashes fall.
Her cigarette smolders, a shrouded,
gray-filtered cloud settles in the room. She
inhales the smoke, sweet and bitter.
Leans her head back, closes eyes.
The phone rings three times, then four –
her message plays, his raw heavy
question left in return,
The phone rings, she refuses to pick up,
the number she recognizes, the prison.
A blinking light, one message left.
She presses the button to play, hears
Silence. Then click, lifeless dial tone.
What he meant to say, “I’m sorry.”
his voice choke, then silence —
“What did he say?”


Debbie Theiss (Lee’s Summit, MO) grew up in the Midwest and finds inspiration for her poetry in the unfolding art of daily life and nature.  She has poems published in I-70 Review, Skinny Journal, Kansas Time and Place, Interpretations IV & V, Connoisseurs of Suffering: Poetry for the Journey to Meaning from University Professors Press, Postcard Poems and Prose, Star 82 Review, Weaving the Terrain from Dos Gatos Press, and others.