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.