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  • Public Parks
  • Matthew Dickman

This one is named after a suffragist and it's also the first place, at night near a pond where families of ducks float by like paper boats, I felt the warm legs of covered-in-shadow romance and had no idea what to do with my hands. I remember how her tights were smooth but scratchy and midnight blue, she had dark curly hair and a name that sounded like Ramon. Maybe it was Simone and her tongue was perfect like her knees and the weeping willow wept hard for us because we were rough and rough with each other as much as we were kind. There was a bridge over part of the pond and I crossed it when it rained and Simone wore a shirt that looked like water when you looked into it and saw a sky that was not a sky and your face which was not really a face. The park was open all night with patrol cars moving in and out, their spotlights seemed like heavy benevolent animals looking for their young, and there we were with our clothes half-torn and soaked. This is my favorite memory of rain and parks and ducks and nylon stockings. I like parks with statues and parks with fountains. I have sat below a few signatories of several important American papers while pigeons sat above them, on their shoulders, swords, and wrists. Lincoln stands, among other places, in the park near a famous bookstore where he is turning green, facing Alder Street and Rich's Cigar Shop where you can get a really nice Romeo y Juliette and smoke it on a park bench near the YMCA. [End Page 142] Some parks are celebrated for the bushes that men hide behind, touching each other in the dangerous hour before returning home to their wives and boyfriends setting a table and pulling a roast out of the oven. Some parks are noted for their baseball fields and some for their swing sets. Some for their willows and some for a body that's found by hikers, left in the wet brown leaves for the worms and twelve o'clock news, the reporter combing his hair between takes. I have performed Shakespeare in the parks. I played a wall and fell in love with a girl who played a nymph, she wore a green dress made out of shiny vinyl leaves that shimmered and shook above her hips. She had a lazy eye and listened to Patti Smith albums. There's a park I visit whenever I'm in Chicago and one in NYC where I smoke German cigarettes and watch students pass between classes, all the lamps covered by decorative and giant lampshades. The students with their Norton Anthologies talking about George Herbert and Henry James, some in love with professors and some with little burns on their ankles because a lover tied them too tight between the bedposts and some with no one at all and no bed at all but a blow-up mattress they pump full of air each night before reading a section of the Iliad and fighting themselves to sleep. I like the secret life of students almost as much as I like parks like the one in Texas where garbage cans are hidden behind a mosaic of multicolored tile so you're not even thinking of garbage but adobe flats, mesas, and in particular a collage by Ray Johnson and a tabletop [End Page 143] by my neighbor who also cuts words out of the daily crossword puzzle and pastes them onto a separate page, making poems that are always sad and terrifying. Can you believe it? he says, these words were just lying there in twenty-four down and eight across. He and I used to walk to a park that was five feet by six feet, one live oak to sit beneath and one large stone to set a book or a baby on. You could eat lunch there if it was a small lunch and you were alone. I dropped acid and walked through a park where I met myself over and over until...


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pp. 142-145
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