Barbara Shinn is a retired pathologist who is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. She has long resided in Dallas, but it should be the Carolina coast. Pistachio is her favorite shade of ice cream.

Between the Lines 

I long to lay you out naked,

magnifying glass in hand,

to read, digest, every line  

upon your thigh.


Enticed by the ink flowing down your arm,

flowery script a sharp

contrast to the shoulders’ sans-serif Magnum,

Creepy Morgus, Cloister Black.


I trace with one finger the curl

around your ear, tongue

the salt curve ringing

the simple couplet of your neck.


Heat rises skin on skin,

sweat swirling lines: 

a love poem,

a comrade, a fallen friend.


Isaiah celebrates at your wrist, and proclaims

awful judgement from your ankle.

The trees clap hands.

A voice cries in the wilderness. 


I hear your silence,    


your scrape of chair.

You move past, smiling excuses.

I wipe traces of ink from my fingers

and turn away.


My sister says I remember nothing.

Echoes of locker room ridicule,

prom night solitude,

the after-school smell of unwashed depression,

are packed in an over-stuffed suitcase 

as at vacation’s end,

dirty laundry spilling out the sides,

straddled to close,

long residing dust-covered under the bed.


I am much better at packing now.

Train wreck marriage precisely compartmentalized,

(takes up less room every year).

LLBean toiletry bag, purple-orange plaid, 

holds memories of quality time with the kids,

graffiti aerosol side pockets for son,

tiny angst pouches for daughter.


Sexual improprieties are discreetly rolled 

and stuffed along the sides.

(Thongs, which take up no room, 

uncustomary during the sexual revolution.)


My father’s bewildered look 

at the nursing home,

“tough love” at my teen’s totaled car,

guilt and parental failures of air balloon enormity,

are wrangled into an entire partitioned half.


Fear I keep in my carry-on,

ever ready for that  2 am phone call,

the gnarly mammogram shadow,

secured so as not to tumble out

while diving for M&Ms.


All in all, a neatly packed ensemble

appropriately tagged. God help


when dementia

springs the locks.