Prose poem: elizabeth jones
in the sitting room. Invisible starting line as he scribbled his name and unknowingly walked across. Sauntering race-start is a guaranteed last place finish. The inky fountain pen finger stains were fodder for walking home conversation. A prelude to the ensuing cacophonic mating ritual once the arrow was released. They took dance lessons, starting with basic benign box-stepping around the kitchen island. That goofy t-shirt annoyed him but not as much as socially awkward abrupt departures. Dragging the ladder under roof eaves and listening to the lyrical love-longing with a cavernous hole in his chest he didn’t know could be filled. He ascended the steps, pushing off from the quagmire. Descending the metal tree, flip-flops thud on freshly painted porch planks and he wonders for a minute where he is. Someone! He thinks. Please give me my new reality map! It felt stuck in his throat when she decided to pay for his lost door key. Sometimes it blocked his breath. And words. Is she just going to fumble around with it, or unlock the door? At the kitchen counter, the back scars provided another tactile connection as they ate from the same fork. But the mundane day of cleaning finally shook the dust from together-being. “Will I ever see you again?” She tugged on one hair strand as if it were his whole heart. And it was. Row boat tumbled over the waterfall and he discovered he knew how to swan dive. The breathing air is cold block butter. He tried to smear it all over his toast but he needed the hot knife. She punctured the hard, outer shell with her learning finger and they exchanged exuberant exhales. Drinking coffee from the love cup tastes better. When did this race turn into a relay? They were in it, but they kept trying to take long walks instead. Running through the park, naked people and ice skaters were backdrop for liberated laughter and languishing. On the sand, they willingly sunk deeper into warm welcoming sludge. He breathed in her perfume and exhaled his soul and watched her walk away with it, and his sturdy knees. Later, through the phone screen, she showed it to him, safely in a steel soul-box. She sent him scrawling sand messages and he became a twisted pretzel. He set out again, with the relay baton, landing on her island. He ate the entire ice cream carton and then another before it all melted. She promised him there would be a freezer at the finish line. So, he braved sun and trudging through tall grass slicing at his legs. Deep in the distance, he sees the small house by the river. As he rounds the summer bend, the mountain looms tall as her voice gets shaky. The monosyllabic talking is making his feet heavy. The executioner knocks at the door, but he thinks it is the milkman so he lets him in. She tries to tell him with her eyes but he is too busy making space in the refrigerator. Tapping on the keyboard is not like collecting dead leaves together or standing under eaves watching surprise hailstorms. She reluctantly decides to pass the baton, but he’s slow to understand it’s the steel soul-box. Reaching, just as the executioner slices off a chunk. She laughs and stares at his ugly feet, but inside she weeps, hoping he leaves before more dying happens. Back on the path, the house by the river is distance-small and the freezer on the porch is overgrown with weeds. She didn’t lie. She said there would be a freezer for ice cream. Stuck with heavy back-strapped soul-box. Go on without me, she says. If you return, you could lighten my load. No, he resists with no spirit. I can’t dispense more soul. They stand stuck under grief-weight of shared sky until she reluctantly restarts the slow saunter. Now she faces eternally East. He can’t bear the back view, so he chooses West. He buys ice cream along the way but it doesn’t make his mouth sing. He tries to run with his new sluggish self but everywhere he goes memory signs slow him down. The river house with the freezer graveyard grows smaller in his view. He sighs and sits and slathers sticky dates in the tahini and sips milky tea. The runners are buzzing past with water. Obviously, he’s last.
about the writer: elizabeth jones
Elizabeth Jones Gutierrez directs program development at a non-profit dedicated to helping immigrants integrate into the US workforce and culture. Prior to this role, for the past 19 years, she was a founding partner in an architecture and urban planning firm where she worked extensively in community development. Having lived abroad in Hong Kong as a child, Elizabeth acquired an early appreciation for the vivid and varied landscape of cities and has proudly called Philadelphia her home for 23 years. An avid walker, she roams the city filling up her mental cup for her creative outlets, which include writing, cooking up a storm in the kitchen, music making with her son, and anything crafty she can do with her daughter. In addition, she loves to binge-watch crime dramas, make cocktails, read, and travel to big cities and get lost. She is working on her first novel. Elizabeth has a Bachelor of Arts in Geography from the University of Missouri, Kansas City, a Master of Arts in Geography from Temple University, and a CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Speakers of Other Languages).
painting: victoria saccomagno
“On Such a Winter’s Day”
Acrylic on canvas 14"x11"