- 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 multifoil 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 Virtruvian 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
In the Royal Palace in Amsterdam.
- You got it.
- Paul Violi (first appearance in Shiny; included in The Best American Poetry 2006)
George W. Bush in Hell
(Inferno, Canto XXVI)
Rejoice, America, risen to such glory
That over land & sea your eagle wings have flown
Imperiously, & all the depths of hell resound your story.
Among the caverns there, O sorrowful to set down,
I came upon many of your citizens, a fact
Which can bring no honor to your name.
Upon a blazing plain they lay; my guide picked
His way upon the bridge above, & meekly
Did I follow. Over geysering fires we trekked
& deep within each column of flame could we see
A figure in torment writhe. As on a June night.
When farmers of Vermont watch moon-bright fields seethe
With fireflies—teeming, darting lantem lights
In stands of soybean & com—so it was then
That this eighth ditch gleamed, fire-tongues bright
As midnight LAX or Houston from a DG 10,
The landing wheels opening. The flames along the stygian floor
Streamed like interstate headlights, flaming ribbons.
My guide now spoke, sensing my fear "There dwells
Within each flame a soul in permanent
Auto-da-fa, his sin an inexhaustible fuel.
An oil rig derrick blackening the firmament
With fires unquenchable. These are the givers
Of fraudulent counsel, whose arrogant
Disdain of truth has brought them here."
The flames like flashbulbs crackled the dark.
& as he spoke a single flame drew near.
Inside, a wavering face, lips parted as if to speak.
"Master," I inquired, "Can these shades
Converse with us? For this one I know & seek
To hear his sorrowful relation." My guide bade
The form approach: "This one is also familiar to me,"
He answered. "His deeds of infamy have made
His name renowned in hell. Princeling of a dynasty
Of blackguards, his forebears & brothers likewise bum
Within these terrible precincts." Then suddenly
From the white-hot pyre the face emerged
& spoke: "So great was my lust for power, to lead
My land as my father—now consigned also to these fires—
Had done before me, that I came to believe
In the God-ordained virtue of all my deeds.
Truth was my toy. No counsel could dissuade
My certainty, nor satisfy my cronies' greed.
For to exercise my zealotry I gave them leave
To pillage & bring havoc. Their coffers overfiowed
With booty. O how deeply did we crave
To level Baghdad, to suck its oils dry.
That first night, when my pilots rained a spray
Of fire on its neighborhoods, I cried
For joy. I watched the smart bombs seek their prey
On a television screen three stories high.
Even my generals gasping—such dazzling display.
What thundering shock & awe had I made.
Great Babylon did grovel on its knees.
How mighty was my sword. What matter that so many died
Below, or in the months & years to follow.
My father was revenged, my longing assuaged,
& haughty I walked the West Wing hallways
To the Lincoln Bedroom, where I slept as deeply
As a man can sleep, my enemies laid low.
My apotheosis complete. But see where this has taken me.
Who brought two countries to shame & ruin.
My every cell is napalm. Take pity
On me, you who may leave this fiery tomb
& walk again among the living." With this
the flame drew back & took its place among
the woeful throng, the other flickering tapers.
- David Wojahn (originally appeared in The Kenyon Review, Fall 2005; now published in Interrogation Palace)
"inspired by Kokopelli, Golfer-Pelli is a fun-loving symbol for our times."
from one of the 400 mail-order catalogs we received last year.
Certainly it was a premonition of a Navajo warrior that men
in plaid would take up sticks and club a ball into a hole's
submission. And that a god of prosperity and joy, flute
player, source of the wind's conversational obsessions,
secretly longed to represent the beef-fatted, tax-sheltered,
divot-spewing tribe in their hunger for real estate
made green and blemish free, acres of fertilized eternity.
It happened like this: someone named Stan or Rita
spanked their cell-phone open in Manhattan traffic, called
Lou Ellen or Robbie and went on at an ecstatic pitch
about a program they saw on the Learning Channel last night
that document cave paintings in Arizona of this guy
with hair like spiders and a body twisted as if
he'd swallowed a hurricane, and wouldn't it make a hot
knick-knack if we put him in knickers with a seven-iron
in his hands? And later, after the market research,
after paying one company to come up with a name, another
to design the eyes, hips, the casual-yet-indigenous-gestalt
needed to represent a sport built around the prophecy
of leisure, Stan or Rita will confess to something like
inspiration, a little zing, a small frisson disrupting
their preoccupation with fear that screamed low
cost, high profit. And I wouldn't mind if I were ten
or drunk most of the time, if I'd missed
even half the commercials utilizing the dramatic skills
of Super Bowl quarterbacks, the winks of senators
who reached for president but fell one scandal short,
wouldn't care if I forgot Michael Jackson
trying to sell his crotch, Elizabeth Taylor
hustling the diamonds of her scent, if just once
someone would stand before a camera and simply say
I've made this offensive thing but won't leave you alone
until you send me ten bucks. Golfer-Pelli's destined
for mantles, to fill that hole between vase and clock
where space bleeds, needing the bandage of artifact.
And what of the Buddha alarm clock, Shiva spice rack,
the shoe polisher in which red and green fuzzy wheels
pop from Mohammed's ears and spin your leather clean?
Give it time and you'll get a crack at each
and more, for as we eat and sleep there's someone
flipping through a magazine, strolling the open veins
of ruins, touching forgotten texts, sculpted faces
of a people centuries gone, who can't help but think
there's beauty and sorrow and money in every one of these.
- Bob Hicok, from Plus Shipping