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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.

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