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  • Phebus Etienne (bio)

At the house next to my grandmother's no trees bloomed in the yard. Two maids worked in the cloistered rooms, stirring batters, folding linens, pouring ice water. An olive Mercedes cooled in the driveway most nights when the father stumbled home at twilight, rum distilled in the sweat coming through his pores. I dressed dolls with the daughter on her porch. We wandered to the parlor, shared Chiclets on the floor, watched television in a flowered room. I answered the father's questions softly and was careful not to disturb him if he slumped into sleep. Once while waiting for a movie to begin, he asked which of my parents I loved more. I swirled a caramel candy with my tongue, saving butterscotch in my palm. One choice would be wrong. "Qui est-ce?" he persisted and I chose my mother. My father I saw while he slept, when he took my hand, paraded me on Dimanche Pâques. My mother kissed me awake. Her absence I felt more.

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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