from LSU Press, August 2013
From LSU Press:
In Eldest Daughter, Ava Leavell Haymon displays her mastery of the craft and engages us with the poetic gifts we have come to expect from her. As in previous collections, she combines the sensory and the spiritual in wild verbal fireworks. Concrete descriptions of a woman’s life in the mid-twentieth-century American South mix with wider concerns about family lies and truths, and culture that supports or forbids clear speech. … Haymon’s poems encourage us to revel in the natural world and enjoy its delights, as well as to confront the hard truths that would keep us from doing so.
From the book:
“My Father Will Have Two Dozen on the Halfshell”
ordering at Phil’s Oyster Bar in Baton Rouge
Gulf oysters are milky, grown fat
in braising seawater. The Gulf’s a warm pool,
on chuffy oil burners, a crock pot
of Guatemalan blood and Cajun spices.
My father spoke of other beds, of blind tongs
groping to a clean salt shoal: Virginia tidewater,
him fresh from the seminary, before he’d failed, asea
with a smiling deacon host in a small boat.
Under their boat, I see an oyster crunch away
from its drowned bed, snapping aloose
like pliers a dentist clamped on my deadened tooth
once, and bumped off with a careless elbow.
Sometimes they just won’t open, he’d tell me,
slumped against his forearms on the metal table.
No matter how you jab at the hinge
with that stubby knife.
He’d eat them with me, at Phil’s, and say Obliged.
But mainly he would see the open boat.
The cold Atlantic bitterness. The favor. I’d see
pearls, spilling from his mouth like a god’s.