Emily Banks


Always the bad girl in the games we played,
because I’d found her lying on the street
and never could shampoo the smell of cigarettes
out of her hair—this must have been a time
when mothers in Park Slope still smoked.
She was once maybe blonde,
coarse curls I couldn’t run my fingers through
and never tried to brush. That kind of doll
with a soft plush body, rubber arms
and chubby dimpled legs. She always cried
when she got F’s on her spelling tests,
or was put in the corner for being mean
to other girls. Lashing out
because they left her out, the girls bought new
and dressed from catalogues,
who carpooled to gymnastics class and shared
Food Co-op snacks. She only had one dress,
a purple floral Velcroed in the back,
no longer really fashionable for dolls
in our neighborhood, who by then
were starting to wear bellbottoms
and Soffe shorts for gym classes where Gabby sat out
unprepared or embarrassed herself,
her hand flapping uselessly while the basketball
rolled out of bounds off her. And then she’d throw a fit:
flail her bare feet smack against the wall,
wave her arms with a fury to strike
her own cloth body, hurl her neck
faster and faster weakening the seam
where her head was sewn on,
plastic lids clacking against her eyes.

Emily Banks lives in Atlanta, where she is a doctoral candidate and poetry lecturer at Emory University. She has an MFA from the University of Maryland and a BA from UNC-Chapel Hill. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals including Free State Review, Cimarron Review, storySouth, Muse/A Journal, and Pembroke Magazine.