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Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life

Three Poems
by Ava Leavell Haymon ||
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Appetite in Great Ones

It turns me on, the idea of a man
with huge appetites -- JKF, Mickey Mantle,
Martin Luther King Jr -- huge appetites
combined with what Ellington called "intent."
Call it a discipline, the theme that drives them
through the variations, but could be
it's just another appetite -- one for work.
Wasn't Joe Stalin one of those guys?

Maybe it's pure libido like Freud said
and those cursed with a lot of it lucky
if they've got a craft or a mission --
so they move on through, voracious
as an earthworm, taking in without recoil
whatever comes. They unstick in time
while the rest of us, finding the real world unconscionable,
only nibble around the edges.
Ravenous, they negotiate a composting century
-- genocide, physics, astroturf, cholera --
terminal moraine of a retreating millennium.

"He's a genius," Blanton said about the Duke.
"He's a genius, but Jesus how the man eats."


      for Julian Priester, trombone
This is the sound of the world
breaking apart. Trombone
on that yanh yanh whine
that makes you want to slap
a toddler. The back door of
repression is always desire
-- hot and nasty, true as what
a child knows not to tell.

There's no vocabulary
for it, the longing. Taboo's
the plunger mute, choking off
that sigh in the bell.
Not quite enough to shut it up.
Just the right amount
to make it really cry.

Rainbow Room

     for Carroll

I was twenty-four, pregnant,
cartoon neck-crane tourist
in skyscraper city. We DROVE there
from Baton Rouge -- didn't know
you don't take a car to Manhattan.
One of those blissful pregnancies
where every time I sat down
I'd go to sleep. Went to sleep
during a tour of the UN, they made
us leave for loitering.

Our big splurge:
the Rainbow Room in the RCA BUILDING.
My first elevator to 77 stories.
Duke Ellington at the keys
-- this was 1968, you know
how you time things
by your children -- two or three
guys playing back-up.

No more than ten feet from the piano,
I put my elbow on the table,
propped my head, and sank back
into that golden estrogen gestation nap
I roused from only when I was moving.
That's my excuse for missing the great one,
but in truth I've never been too good
at taking in what happens
in the present. It was chilly outside

and warm in there
where the little tadpole
-- beyond category -- didn't have
a gender or a name. A new sound
twinkled into her round round universe,
muffled a little bit on the high notes.
Her tiny ears unfurled. Right away,
she started wanting to come out, come out
where all that close harmony was.

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