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  • A Lesson from My Neighbor
  • Phebus Etienne (bio)

When my father watched his mother lavish attention on his half-brothers, he rode the tap tap at dusk for women, rum, a dance, some ephemeral ecstasy to fill the hollow. To escape my mother's perfume lingering in the attic like dust on her slippers, I rode the interstate rails and met an almost divorced man on a king's bed. I lay silent under him, envying the woman who raised her hem behind the apricot house in the lakou. An audience with mouths dry listened, she chimed and her lover unbuckled against her body. Next, I found a Tunisian ten years younger. The thrusting against a glass wall in a garden of palms and gardenias, something close to a fantasy until I became curious about his dawns away from me. A handsome southern boy, obsessed like a satyr, admired my slacks because they mimicked fire. I craved his vanishing once our limbs were saturated with sweat and sent him home as bells signaled the three-hundred and sixty-fifth midnight since I knelt beside my mother's coffin. Abandoned by my first love, a strange embrace is testament. I am my father's daughter.

Phebus Etienne

Phebus Etienne (1966-2007) was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and grew up in East Orange, New Jersey. She graduated from Rider University and received the MFA in creative writing from New York University. Before she passed in 2007, some of her poems had appeared in The Butterfly's Way: Voices from the Haitian Diaspora in the United States, Crab Orchard Review, Poet Lore, Mudfish, Caribbean Writer, Beacon Best of 2000, Callaloo, Making Callaloo: 25 Years of Black Literature, and other periodicals and anthologies.



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