Paul Violi was a great American poet, a warm and generous man, and a good friend and supporter of Soanyway. He sadly died on 3 April 2011, and in his memory and in honour of his capacity to create poetic narratives of the everyday, often hilariously, we include here his poem Counterman…..
What’ll it be?
Roast beef on rye, with tomato and mayo.
Whaddaya want on it?
A swipe of mayo.
Pepper but no salt.
You got it. Roast beef on rye.
You want lettuce on that?
No. Just tomato and mayo.
Tomato and mayo. You got it.
… Salt and pepper?
No salt, just a little pepper.
You got it. No salt.
You want tomato?
Yes. Tomato. No lettuce.
No lettuce. You got it.
… No salt, right?
Right. No salt.
You got it. Pickle?
No, no pickle. Just tomato and mayo.
Yes, a little pepper.
Right. A little pepper.
Right. No pickle.
You got it.
Roast beef on whole wheat, please,
With lettuce, mayonnaise and a center slice
Of beefsteak tomato,
The lettuce splayed, if you will,
In a Beaux Arts derivative of classical acanthus,
And the roast beef, thinly sliced, folded,
In a multi-foil arrangement
That eschews Bragdonian pretensions
Or any idea of divine geometric projection
For that matter, but simply provides
A setting for the tomato
To form a medallion with a dab
Of mayonnaise as a fleuron.
And – eclectic as this may sound –
If the mayonnaise can be applied
Along the crust in a Vitruvian scroll
And as a festoon below the medallion,
That would be swell.
You mean like the Cathedral St. Pierre in Geneva?
Yes, but the swag more like the one below the rosette
At the Royal Palace in Amsterdam.
You got it.