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Ava Leavell Haymon.
“My Father Will Have Two Dozen on the Halfshell.”

© Ava Leavell Haymon.
Used by permission.
All rights reserved.

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.


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© Ava Leavell Haymon. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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