Poem [by Vincent Katz]

Mais Suave Igualmente Eficaz


I saw something on Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana
photophilia an all-white showroom called Arpoador

adesivos personalizados envelopamento dos veiculos
and just off Avenida Atlantica:

bikinis yellow umbrellas beach chairs abandoned facing ocean
two fishing boats anchored

rock islands shooting up out of plane
cloud tumults blue harbored in midst of streaks dark hovering

thought I saw a shrine to bespectacled poet of Rio
but it was only a figure of public interest

two girls in black bikinis far away and long ago bend to consider wares
of beach vendor, then don their street apparel, white

young men with wide chests, exposed elderly women free in sidestreet breeze
dumptruck full of earth and rocks, dripping brown water on mosaics

Cariocas afraid rain will damage leather or imitation-leather
their frame of mind, ultimate desire to go to beach

no one believes sitting on a beach in the rain could be a good thing,
as on Long Island, or Maine, or other places we have attempted it

good we were able to forget those
attempters of life-structuring, our lives in particular, which brook no structure

our lives must fall, as yellow petals fall to mosaics, in rhythms which turn
discotheques to museums, museums to bookstores, bookstores to rain

endless walking in front of beach looking walking mountains loom
voracious mouth of violence glutted but is now sorriso of banjo player

endless bodies of looking, comparison in front of beach,
in front as day slips from noon to afternoon

in everyone’s biography, one mysterious detail: they all die
of all geniuses who lived, hasn’t one figured out how not to die?

life in this moment, siren breaking through
in two-pitch whine, waking from mid-life slumber

see things few see — parts of lives —
tiny silhouette across jumping into lighted space

light sectors in darkened building sit and watch, decide
not unimportant, not nothing, but

everything happening we are gifted with
possibility of any moment

how can clouds be white against dark sky?
how can person be ready for trip from one continent to another?

lying on beach in mid-city, looking up,
seeing one single illuminated point in all the darkness









Vincent Katz is a poet, translator, and critic. He is the author of eleven books of poetry, two books of translation, and his art criticism has been published in numerous books, catalogues, and journals. He is the editor of Black Mountain College: Experiement In Art, published by MIT Press in 2002 and reprinted in 2013.  He is the author of The Complete Elegies Of Sextus Propertius (Princeton, 2004), Alcuni Telefonini, a collaboration with painter Francesco Clemente published by Granary Books, and One-Liners, a chapbook from Faux Press.  He was the publisher of the poetry and arts journal VANITAS during its 10-year run and continues to publish Libellum books.  He curates the Readings in Contemporary Poetry series at Dia Chelsea and is on the staff of the MFA Program in Art Criticism and Writing at the School of Visual Arts in New York, where he has taught the courses “The Poet As Critic” and “Investigating Interdisciplinarity.” This poem above is from his upcoming book Swimming Home.





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