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"Hanging Loose"

Robert Hershon Presents "Counterman," a Poem by Paul Violi


Paul Violi This poem by Paul Violi appears in his collection Overnight and has been reprinted in a number of places, including The Best American Poetry.


What’ll it be?
   Roast beef on rye, with tomato and mayo.

Whudduhyuh 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.
   And pepper.


   Yes, a little pepper.

Right. A little pepper.
No pickle.

   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 the 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.

-- Paul Violi

This is my twelfth and last Sunday Poetry Post, and I thought I’d end the party by leaving a big gift box on your doorstep, one of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets.  You want elegance, wit and a flawless ear?  You got it.

-- Robert Hershon 

from the archive; first posted April 25, 2010

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January 02, 2012

December 27, 2010

April 25, 2010

April 18, 2010

April 11, 2010

March 28, 2010

March 21, 2010

March 14, 2010

March 07, 2010

February 27, 2010

February 21, 2010

February 14, 2010

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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