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EGGPLANTS / David Wojahn —After Amy Wilentz You must understand: we have done the Lord's work here since 1961. Eldon had just finished the seminary, and I was only twenty, though I suppose you're thinking you could never picture me as a girl, and sometimes I think I never was. You see the snapshot there: Eldon and I on the airport runway, coming in to Port-au-Prince, my absurd gray woolen suit and pillbox hat! Even Baptists wanted to look like Mrs. Kennedy. And the heat that day—like a hammer. I'll never forget how I prayed just for the strength to walk the tarmac into Customs. Then a night in a filthy hotel, and next day our ride up the Route Nationale— just a gully, like a riverbed—to here. You journalists: I've seen your sort every year since Duvalier took power. You'll sip from your lemonade, so prim in that dress, so polite. But away from here you're a slut, and everything I say to your little machine will come out in print as lies, as ridicule. "Mrs. Cunningham believes in prayer ..." You'll see the hymns the congregation sings— Amazing Grace in their own Creole— as some fancy ironic symbol. You'll call us fundamentalists, imperialists, as if you weren't one too. But the hymns, you must admit how beautiful they sound, though I don't know my Creole very well. You see, we try to teach them English: 96 · The Missouri Review so many families leave the countryside for Port-au-Prince, the shantytowns, and they're better off with some English. They can find good work in the hotels. Be honest with me— admit they're little more than beasts, that God has His work cut out for Him. And even God would tell you so. Have you seen how they live? continually in fear and superstition. That scarecrow in the garden with the crushed derby hat, the tattered black frock coat, that's Baron Samedi, the lord of the Dead. The derby, it's his symbol. And Duvalier would dress that way, to make them think the Baron was on terms with him. The Baron sipping rum in the Presidential Palace! It was said an elevator ran from hell straight up to Papa Doc's bank vault. And they all believe such drivel! Clarvius, our gardener, for two years he was convinced he was a zombie, held slave to some village sorcerer, though you won't get him to talk of it. And dogs gone wild that howl from the hills past sundown: they say they're loups garous, werewolves who live off babies' blood. Oh, they file into church on Sundays, but they're here for the meal we feed them later, though they'd rather eat their horrid cassava thari the soup and beans the Mission freights from Dallas. Lord Jesus is as far from them as we are from a shopping mall, though Eldon says it's sin to talk this way. Here's a story for your article: there was this woman in the church, a clean decent woman who kept to herself. I knew her, not too well, but on Sundays I would say hello, chat awhile about the market, the weather. The woman David Wojahn The Missouri Review · 97 raised eggplants in her field, very plump and firm. Market days, she'd get up early— two in the morning—and wake her daughter who'd pick the eggplants while the mother held a candle, and they'd cart them in the dark to the market at Passe Reine, arrive before sunrise, set up their stall, the eggplants huge, so purple they seemed black. By daybreak, when the neighbors arrived with their own eggplants, the two had already sold what they had brought and were heading home. So the neighbors had a rough time selling eggplants: the pair had a monopoly on the Passe Reine eggplant market, just because they'd get up before their shiftless neighbors! So the neighbors began to talk. The women were this, the women were that. The mother clearly was a sorceress: she'd call on evil...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 96-105
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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