April Lindner

Female Western Lowland Gorilla

Between us, only glass. She sits quite still
upon a stoop, hands folded in her lap,
resignation in her deep set eyes

which gaze in mine for minutes at a time
without the human urge to look away.
The others shift behind her listlessly.

Her son lolls in a hammock, tasting straw.
Two daughters finger-comb each other's pelts.
The Silverback who keeps his brood indoors

polices the perimeter on knuckles.
Her back turned to them all, she looks to us.
A dad jabs his thick finger at her nose

saying, "See the monkey?" Kids in day-glo
scratch their armpits, shrieking "ook, ook, ook."
One twists his zoo map to banana shape

and waves it near her mouth. A perfumed lady
taps her coral nails against the window
and laughs when the gorilla rolls her eyes.

Why does she linger so long at the window
before she leaves to brood at a remove?
She looks from face to face.
                                        What does she see?

Is she depressed? An anthropologist,
working to interpret our strange gestures,
measuring the threat in our bared teeth?

Does she wonder at our flashy pelts,
the freedom we possess to come and go,
the clever way we use our mouths to speak?

Life Study

The screen, as if to view me were forbidden.
The robe, rubbed thin by bodies it has hidden.

The plywood platform costumed in a sheet
adorned with bottles and a sheaf of wheat.

The half-lit room, its easels in two rows,
each with a stranger waiting for the pose.

My hope: to be a shape in air, a gesture,
to meet nobody's eyes while the professor

moves me into place. His studied hand
which tugs my arm and shows me how to stand.

The spotlight flooding half my flesh with heat.
My other side in shadow. My cold feet.

And at the break, their sketches on display,
each with a different angle to convey,

sum up the profile, belly, hips and thighs
of somebody I barely recognize.

Presents for Girls

Identical, the gifts our parents brought:
twin baby dolls or bunnies, or we'd whine
and fight over who got the blonder doll,
the pink rabbit and not its yellow sibling.
We drooled for stuff that makes me wince these days:
the girly pink aisle of the Toys R Us:
the dream mansions and Cinderella castles,
the sacred Barbie bridal gown and Ken
slick in his satin tux. White go-go boots,
ballerina slippers, and the purses:
white for Easter with a tidy clasp
and empty spaces we would someday fill
with matchbooks, wallets and mascara wands--
grownup goods withheld and marveled over--
the credit cards and magic butane lighter,
the fragile, pale and glamorous cigarette,
the breath mints and the ticket stubs. How alien
to be a woman in sharp heels, how powerful
that aura of Chanel. To have a baby
not a baby doll, to have a husband
handsome as the Prince from Sleeping Beauty—
clean shaven in a uniform. To drive a car
and go out in the night in rhinestone earrings
and not be left in rose-dotted pajamas
on Grandma's couch to squabble over popcorn,
with pocketbooks we'd click open and shut
waiting for a token to appear there
of the lives we'd been rehearsing for.


April Lindner is an associate professor of English at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Her poetry collection, Skin, received the 2002 Walt McDonald First Book Prize from Texas Tech University Press. Her poems have appeared in The Hudson Review, The Paris Review, Crazyhorse, Prairie Schooner, and many other journals. With R. S. Gwynn, she co-edited Contemporary American Poetry, an anthology in Longman’s Penguin Academics series. She lives in Havertown, Pennsylvania.


Mary Kathryn Arnold
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April Lindner
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Meredith Bergmann: My work has always seemed cut out for me. I give myself assignments or I take commissions to find challenges to make heroic work in which the themes must be expressed with beauty and with irony. Light touches on dark subjects help me break away what's monolithic or opaque. No thing, for me, embodies mystery, gives life to clay, or conveys narrative enduringly as can the human form. Loving to sculpt and to manipulate ideas, I'm happiest when I can give new meaning to old urges, or can warm a concept into art that's worth its weight.
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