Dream House
by April Lindner

What if this house were every house
we’d inhabited, lost friends
to startle us from the doorway,
each broken dish seamlessly mended,
stacked in a limitless cupboard?
All the pets we buried
bumping our ankles, nudging to be fed?
What if this house were every house
we’d longed to live in?  My cottage,
shingles weathered a cape cod gray,
your cabin just below the treeline.  
All that transpired as planned and all
that surprised us?  Paintings
you imagined against closed lids.
Babies we left unconceived,
burbling, squalling, suffering first teeth.
Our daughter as we dreamed her,
on the lawn blowing bubbles,
sleek as an otter, nose
sunburnt, as glad to see us
as if we’d been away.
Would it be a kind of heaven,
a house expanding like a baking loaf,
this full?  A consummation?
Like our lives unfolding before us
in the fingersnap between dying and death.

by April Lindner

Like refugees, they ran off empty handed,
forsaking heirloom china, cutlery,
leaving behind their hands, their tongues and teeth.

The dead eat only our intentions.

Still we heat the oven, flour our hands.
Into foods they used to crave
we melt too much butter.
We gladly burn our fingers on the skillet.

Hungry?  The dead are nothing but hunger

For our sake, they swarm like bees
to sugar skulls and scattered marigolds,
mezcal bottles, glossy loaves of bread,
their own best photos framed in gold,
their graves tidied of weeds.  Lured by the lauds

we offer for their safe arrival,

the dead are not Catrinas
gussied in tophats and feathered boas
pipecleaner fingers bent to hold
the stems of red roses,

but they forgive such insults.  The dead
draw near us but can only get so close,

like dogs in winter pressed for warmth
to the wrong side of the wall.

by April Lindner

Though his taste buds were dying and every meal
made him grimace and wonder out loud
why we were such lousy cooks, he kept on
hungering for remembered dishes—
lobster Cantonese, corned beef,
bacon and eggs, a good strong mug of joe—
and we who wanted him stronger
seized on this longing, brought plate after plate
to his bed.  One bite.  He’d spit it out
and start musing on his next desire.
A Manhattan.  Pork tacos.  A Cuban cigar.
We took turns heaving a shopping cart
aisle by florescent aisle, dodging
Christmas carols, canned comfort and joy,
hesitant, as if the perfect choice
could save him or at least could buy
a day or two.  We loaded up on juice—
—pineapple, mango, tamarind, banana—
after he’d taken a single sip
and leaned back on the pillow, sated.  
Sweets became the last thing he could taste—
Häagen Dazs, Ensure, vanilla yogurt.
He was diabetic, we couldn’t tell:
were we killing him faster?  Sometimes,
when we urged him—a sip, just one sip, Daddy—
he would comply, meek and eager to please,
and other times glower, his brown-green eyes
hard as marbles.  His flesh waned,
curling before us like paper in flame.
Still, there remained one taste
he could enjoy, an orange freeze pop
in its plastic cylinder.  He’d hold it
with relief, drink a few sips
of melted ice, then fall asleep,
the magic wand still in his hand.
We’d tuck it safely back
among the freezer’s frosted-over tubs
and like the loaves and fishes it never
seemed to run out, still there each time
we opened the freezer, still there
after he died, a waning
quarter moon, its crayon brightness
filmed thinly with ice, the flavor
of something approaching hope.


April Lindner’s debut novel, Jane, is forthcoming in Fall 2010 from
the Poppy imprint of Little, Brown.  Her first collection of poetry,
Skin, received the 2002 Walt McDonald First Book Prize from Texas
Tech University Press.  Her second manuscript,
This Bed Our Bodies
, has been a finalist for the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry and the
Miller Williams Poetry Prize, and a semi-finalist in several competitions
including the Richard Wilbur Poetry Award competition.  Lindner’s
poems have previously appeared in
The Hudson Review, The Paris
, The Formalist, Crazyhorse, Prairie Schooner, and many
other magazines, as well as in anthologies and textbooks including
Good Poems (Garrison Keillor, ed.); Poetry: A Pocket Anthology
(R. S. Gwynn, ed.); and the fifth edition of Western Wind (John
Frederick Nims and David Mason, eds.).  She is an associate professor
of English at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

On “Dream House,” “All Souls,” and “Orange”:
All three of my poems are about loss.  “Dream House” addresses
the possibilities we cast aside in choosing other homes, careers,
lives; it’s meant to evoke how wonderful it would be if we never
had to give anything up, if we could live out all our dreams at once.  
“Orange” is about the much more specific loss of my father who
has haunted every poem I’ve written since his death over a year
ago.  In it, I try to capture the prosaic details of tending to the
dying, and how immense the small things become—a popsicle as
a small, rapidly disappearing hedge against the abyss.  “All Souls,”
too, is about my father and my other ghosts as well—everyone’s
ghosts, in fact.  Though I intended it to be a poem about the
impossibility of contact between the dead and the living, looking
at it now, I think it’s also about how remarkably close the dead
can come to their living loved ones, how their need for us might
be even stronger than ours for them, and how that need might tie
them to us in a way that’s almost—though not quite—palpable.

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 5, Number 1
(Spring 2010)

Copyright © 2010
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.

All Souls