Kitchen Heat records in woman's language the charm and bite of domestic life. Ava Leavell Haymon's poems form a collection of Household Tales, unswerving and unsentimental, serving up the strenuous intimacies, children, meals, pets, roused memories, outrages, and solaces of marriage and family.
Some of the poems are comic, such as "Conjugal Love Poem," about a wife who resists giving her husband the pity he seeks when complaining about a cold. Others find myth and fairy tale lived out in contemporary setting, with ironic result. Others rename the cast of characters: husband and wife become rhinoceros and ox; a carpool driver, the ominous figure Denmother.
An elderly female is Old Grandmother, who creates time and granddaughters from oyster stew. The humidity of Deep South summers and steam from Louisiana recipes contribute to a simmering language, out of which people and images emerge and into which they dissolve again.
Denmother went to college in the 60s,
could pin your ears back at a cocktail party.
Her laugh had an edge to it,
and her yard was always cut.
She grew twisted herbs in the flower beds,
hid them like weeks among dumpy marigolds.
The wolfsbane killed the pansies
before they bloomed much.
She'd look at you real straight and talk
about nuclear power plants or abortion. At home
alone she boiled red potatoes all night
to make the primitive starch that holds up the clouds.
Ava Leavell Haymon is the author of the poetry collections Why the House Is Made of Gingerbread, Kitchen Heat, and The Strict Economy of Fire. She teaches poetry writing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and directs a writers’ retreat center in the mountains of New Mexico.
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