Emily Banks

Riverview-Fisk Park

It was the beginning of winter in Jersey City 

when I left my hunger and the paper bag 

of take-out Thai we’d driven to pick up 

on the unfinished wood table of our third-floor 

walkup apartment and walked to the park

in the middle of our neighborhood.

To say “park” is generous: a couple blocks 

of grass and some bare trees swaying

ominously in the dark. I sat 

down on the freezing bench 

next to a rank garbage can, nauseous 

with sorrow. I remembered 

how your grandmother thought sitting

on cold surfaces caused infertility,

some Russian superstition you still half-believed. 

I let the icy slabs chill through my jeans. 

I thought you’d come for me. 

I thought about my first kiss 

at a different point along this same river, 

how I’d watched smiley-faced plastic bags 

float through the filth to say Please Come Again  

as I caught my breath. You said it was movies

that made me think true love 

meant someone running after you.

The park was dangerous—you never went

at night without a knife. You drove 

for cigarettes, returned and drank 

from my plastic cup of tea, bright orange 

watered down by melting ice. I counted hours 

and when I grew bored I knew 

I must still want to be alive. 

I tried to remember the story

I’d read about a garden where at night statues

come to life only to freeze again

by the morning. But Riverview-Fisk Park

was no garden, and I was no statue. 

I couldn’t make myself inanimate. 

At home I ate cold spring rolls

and lay down on our bedroom floor

while you organized your drawers 

with white trays, assigning each garment a type. 

You said I could take care of myself, never

wanting me to realize you were right.

 

Emily Banks is the author of Mother Water (Lynx House Press, 2020). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Heavy Feather Review, The Rumpus, Juke Joint, NCLR, The Cortland Review, Superstition Review and other journals. She lives in Atlanta, where she is a doctoral candidate at Emory University.

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