So, where’s the beef?
It all depends on who’s roasting it and how you order. Here’s to the many flavors of language, elevating the seemingly mundane into art, and having the appetite for a tasty serving of wit on rye.
by Paul Violi
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 — as eclectic as this may sound —
If the mayonnaise can also be applied
Along the crust in a Vitruvian scroll
And as a festoon below the medallion,
That would be swell.
You mean like in 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.
~ from Overnight (Hanging Loose Press, 2007)
This is my first Paul Violi poem and I’m definitely hungry for more. It immediately brought to mind “When Harry Met Sally,” and the picky way Sally Albright ordered:
Sally: I’d like the chef salad please, with oil and vinegar on the side and the apple pie à la mode.
Waitress: Chef and apple à la mode.
Sally: But I’d like the pie heated, and I don’t want the ice cream on top. I want it on the side, and I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it. If not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream, but only if it’s real. If it’s out of the can, then nothing.
Waitress: Not even the pie?
Sally: No, just the pie, but then not heated.
The poem also reminded me of the rapid fire comedic banter in Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?”
I love how Violi first draws us in with familiar New York deli speak, priming us for a punchline, then . . . oop! he swerves left into the fanciful and absurd. I love a good curve ball. 🙂 Two halves of a poem, two slices of bread, two kinds of language, dialogue both on point and on a par with each other.
And the best part? The counterman doesn’t bat an eyelash with that second order. Don’t we all crave a Vitruvian scroll now and again? 🙂
In a 2004 interview, Violi was asked how he writes his poems:
The poems simply happen. I can’t claim either spontaneity or discipline as virtues. I’m too impulsive and too patient. For instance, over thirty years ago I watched a counterman in a delicatessen make a sandwich. He did it with such impressive dignity, artistry and pride and served it with a manner that bordered on disdain, I knew I’d write about it. I just did, two months ago. It came out as a sort of skit.
Sandwich artistry begets poetic artistry. I got no beef with that. Just a little salt, please. No pickle. 🙂
📘 BOOK GIVEAWAY WINNERS! 📕
Wow, we have five giveaway winners this week — four for the Cookie Books by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jane Dyer, and one for Stand Up and Sing!: Pete Seeger, Folk Music and the Path to Justice by Susanna Reich and Adam Gustavson.
Needless to say, we were keen to enlist the services of the dapper, always ravenous, charmingly erudite Monsieur Random Integer Generator, who was enjoying an extended Spring Break in Lahaina, Maui.
While it was difficult to tear him away from his 4th luau this week, we were able to lure him to the Alphabet Soup kitchen with Amy’s favorite Peanut Blossom Cookies and a Seeger sing-a-long with Mr. Cornelius on banjo. After effortlessly consuming 153 cookies and singing Pete’s entire folk music catalog, M. Generator picked these names from his tophat.
🥁 DRUMROLL AND TRUMPET FANFARE PLEASE 🥁
The winner of Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons is:
The winner of Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons is:
The winner of Sugar Cookies: Sweet Little Lessons on Love is:
Kristine O’Connell George!
The winner of One Smart Cookie: Bite-Size Lessons for the School Years and Beyond is:
🥁 ANOTHER DRUMROLL AND BIG BANJO PICK PLEASE 🥁
The winner of Stand Up and Sing! is:
🎉 WOOHOO! CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!! 🎈
Please send your snail mail addresses to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com to receive your books.
Thanks, Everyone, for entering these giveaways!!
Keisha Shepard is hosting the Roundup this week at Whispers from the Ridge. Scamper over there to check out the full menu of delicious poetic goodies on the menu. Have a nice weekend!
Copyright © 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.