I spent that Christmas Eve with my schoolmate Bibi and her parents at the National Palace, comparing the sizes of presents and our thirteen-year-old breasts with the other daughters of cabinet members and businessmen. All over Port-au-Prince younger children were taking off their shoes and filling them with hay so that Papa Noël could lade them with gifts as they slept. In the palace chandeliers gleamed down on us, everyone so drunk off of anisette punch that the whole place smelled of sugar and rum and salt from their sweat.
Bibi’s father, Mr. Mesadieu, kept an arm around President Duvalier as if they were brothers. The whole country called him Baby Doc—not fondly—and I’d heard Mr. Mesadieu refer to him as le bébé idiot. Our textbooks said that the Duvalier family had been the savior of Haiti, though our teacher often let it slip that he found the extravagance of their lifestyle distasteful. But I knew that Bibi liked him.
Julian Levinson translates and comments on Moshe-Leyb Halpern; Derek Mong considers English as a second language; Natania Rosenfeld muses on her mother-in-law and Louise Bourgeois; Stefanie Weisman goes in search of E. B. White.
Fiction by Alan Cheuse (with help – a lot of help – from Herman Melville), Bernardine Connelly, Chidalia Edochie, and Peter Levine.
Poetry by Nicolas Born, Victoria Chang, Moshe-Leyb Halpern, A. Van Jordan, Nick Lantz, Margaret Reges, Brian Swann, and Ann Marie Thornburg.
Plus: A review by Raymond McDaniel of Maggie Nelson’s “The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning.”
Plates and bowls are meant to be simple conveyances for food, but now eating at home would possess the burden of memory: each grown-up, lonely dinner of spaghetti with jarred sauce and salad from a bag would be served on plates that screamed in my face COLLEGE! YOUTH! 1998! NORTHAMPTON! NEVER EATING ALONE! Over time, would these thirty-six pieces of cracked, used china simply become my regular old dishes, no longer returning to my mind an amalgam of dusty, distant college memories? Did I want my Madeleine or didn’t I?