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  • Avenues Revisited
  • Phebus Etienne (bio)

It was not sadness that silenced me that day, but an eagerness for motion. Three years spent missing my mother's arms. I was going back to them. No tears for Haiti, even for the last goodbye at the silver doors. Curls drooped on my shiny forehead on arrival. I saw lavish costumes with intricate head wraps, baggage carousels and moving stairs. Foreign words blared above me and my hand tightened in the pale palm of a uniformed escort. Frowning, anxious for the face decorated with moles. Finally, wrapped in her warmth, happy with scents of Dax pomade and English lavender. The stranger with nappy hair stood at my mother's side with a distant smile. I missed my father's dimples, hiding in the stubble. I held on to what I knew, pressed my face against the powdered neck. I gaped at the jagged shadows and lights of the Manhattan skyline. I hoped for loaves of warm bread shaped like doves, and pudding made with brown sugar. The new bridge did not bend under my footsteps. No spotted horses drank near it. In the river [End Page 974] below, women did not wash garments to be bleached in the sun and dried by the ocean's breath. I'll always remember winter's first touch surprising my bare legs and a blue coat much too small.

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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