Summer 2008

Table of Contents - Vol. IV, No. 2


Poetry    Translations    Non-Fiction    Fiction    Essays   

April Lindner


The Trip to Brooklyn Misremembered as a Roller Coaster Ride

Lock your doors, they'd say. Look straight ahead.
Every other Saturday we'd travel
from Long Island to Grandma's house in Brooklyn,
my parents anxiously accelerating
through neighborhoods they'd gladly left behind.
In the backseat, secretly, we thrilled
with vertigo, craning our necks to gape
at tenements and billboards. We admired
the smashed out windows and oily graffiti--
so much more satisfying than the misdeeds
we dared dream up. Buckled in the backseat,
we drowsed, secure. But once Dad took a wrong turn
past a cemetery—not the first I'd seen,
but enormous: rows and rows of headstones
in strict formation, interspersed by obelisks
and mausoleums dreadful in their heaviness.
A graveyard gray and scalloped as the ocean
and seemingly as endless, stretching on
for blocks until I couldn't help but know:
the dead were gaining on the living, soon
they would be everywhere. I squinched my eyes
and counted ten but when I peeked we still
were driving past tombstones that grew more ancient,
pale and straight at first, but later crooked,
dark with car exhaust, ground down by age--
the way our grandmother kept growing shorter--
the city underground crowded with bodies
like the one above, each skeleton
waiting in its windowless apartment,
and everyone I'd ever grow to love
would wind up buried here. Our Buick climbed
the ramp onto the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway,
a steep, clackety track. Chains scraped us onward,
grinding toward a peak high as a skyscraper--
a long pause—then the sudden giddy plunge,
the naugehyde seats falling out beneath us.
We hovered, breathless, bracing for the drop.


The Smell of Men

A mix of mildew, hops, fermenting yeast.
A dark brown sourdough pungency. The first
time I noticed, I was cutting through
the dormitory boy's wing, underground,
sunless and a little dank. The furnace

hum, the exit sign's electric whine,
the slivered light beneath each bedroom door,
were seasoned with the humid musk that rose
from rumpled sheets, the sticky mist of showers,
the captive breath, the sweat and Ivory soap

and pheromones of sixteen boys-slash-men.
A virgin then, I paused to draw that air
into my lungs, to memorize its taste
before I passed into the crisp blue morning.
We had, back then, a law no one enforced:

no girls allowed in boys' rooms after midnight.
It wasn't long until I found myself
sneaking from a from a friend's cracked door at dawn--
my hair unruly, teeth unbrushed, in clothes
I'd shed the night before--through that same wing,

and gingerly upstairs, the floorboards squealing,
it seemed, under my weight, hoping no hall mate
would catch me stealing back into my room.
Before too many nights, the smell of men
had seeped into my pores, an air I wore

like Shalimar, a veil of it between
my skin and blouse, so heady I would sniff
my wrist and tremble. Could the other girls
detect it? And—more thrillingly—the boys?
With time I grew accustomed to the scent.

I'd wander through that long hallway of men,
breathing deeply, trying to discern
that burnished note that once had signaled sex,
exiled from the thrill of the first time.
yearning for that first hard slap of difference.


© April Lindner



Poetry    Translations    Non-Fiction    Fiction    Essays   

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