Pine Two Prose Poems by Elijah Matthew Tubbs
Two brothers rip through the forest tripping over tree root, bramble and broken branches. They slip on the fallen leaves, their gaiety glows gold. Pine needles stick to the soles of their shoes, wedge themselves between the crevices while thicket scratches at their calves trying to hold them still—warning the boys, threatening. It is night and their only guide is the white of sunlight reflected off the moon. The brothers frivolous; a light push and pull as they trudge through the soil. They blindly head to a cliff nearby and the fire of their campsite can be seen the opposite direction.
A dark wind blows by
Moonlight’s rays shine upon us
Ash becomes earth soil
Dusk soon approaches, and after dinner, I go out for my second walk today to get fresh air and clear my head of this day’s prior complications. Rain clouds accumulate in the sky—massive, dark, heavy-looking masses drop droplets of rain onto my head, the water travels down the strands of my hair to my chin. The rain spots and speckles the cement a quail’s egg. First gentle and altogether pleasant, then suddenly, as if all the complexities of everyone’s day’s manifested themselves into the nimbus, the drops become more abundant, violent even. I put my coat above my head and continue down the street, which glistens under the streetlights. This is stunning and strange, like a dream I’d want to last forever. It never rains in Phoenix, Arizona.
My co-worker, Slim—no one in the office knows his real name, offed himself today in his cubicle with the staple gun. The company is trying to keep it out of the public eye. Things like that can hurt a business.
On this walk was the first time I’d thought of you in over a month.
Shadows get twisted and warped in the rain, especially when the light from the streetlamps refract in the puddles near a house or fire hydrant. The constant movement of the rainfall and myself make the shadows appear as if they are breathing, speaking to me. I keep my head down and look the other way. I pretend not to listen. The rain batters my skin like a thousand tiny dull needles, reddening but never breaking skin—clean my pores, rid my outer layers of whatever aura has been surrounding me this day.
The lenses of my glasses are too blotched with water and smudged from my fingers wiping off the wet to see through them. I take them off; store them in the damp inner pocket of my coat. Everything is like looking through the eyepiece of a camera out-of-focus. New perspectives give birth to new thoughts, it’s like seeing through someone else’s eyes, I think—
I didn’t cry at first, when Slim did what he did. But after seeing Deborah and Pat spilling tears from their eye’s like bathtubs overflowing I cried too. I’m still unsure whether it was for Slim and his family, Deborah and Pat’s tears, or us.
Rivers run through the streets and cars move at twenty-five miles per hour in a forty-five zone. I give quick waves to the passing lights as I walk, there’s few, sometimes I pretend one is you and you notice me. I’m unsure about how late it is but the moon is high above the clouds, hanging there, piercing the clouds with white reminding everything awake that things will be alright after the storm subsides; that it is the constant, the familiar, not the storm. Follow me, it says.
You came unto me in the bathtub, with such fervor I thought those feelings would’ve never ended for you. I moved up and down your spine’s currents with the tips of my fingers—a riverboat fisherman who’s just hooked the biggest catch of his life. I casted my line into your waters, cupped your breasts with my palms, touched all of you, the reel spun and spun, you touched me back, tugged me further down the river away from home. I followed it and followed it until you finally snapped my line and swam away after I said us, leaving me, floating.
Slim wasn’t my friend, or even an acquaintance really. I’m just the janitor in the building.
I hunch my back, pull my coat tight around myself and push through these winds counting the cracks in the sidewalk as I walk over them. My skin numb now, feeling as if it is melting off my body, my eyes like they’re about to drop from my skull, stinging. I am walking on sponges. Nothing but those shadows and me stir in the storm now. I sit at the curb on the corner of Fifth and Roosevelt in front of a closed café and let the remainder of the storm, like you, pass over me as winter does through one’s bones when that first dry cold engulfs an entire city in it.
Elijah Matthew Tubbs is a writer living in Tempe, Arizona. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart prize and can be found in print and among the web. He is co-founder of ELKE “a little journal” www.elkejournal.com and is poetry editor for Superstition Review.