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Two Poems by Vincent Katz



German Television


              For Rosanna


We still make a stink,

We just learn to hide it better.

Leaves begin to gather.

Its not that I want to stay here forever

But that I like being in a particular place.

Pins, for instance, are terrific,

But we dont need to keep them.

Lets see if I can figure out

His name from the maps downstairs.

I dont go after anyone but

I have a stick I can use to defend myself.

This sensitive closing device moves me to tears.

I knew those people knew what time it was.



Being challenged is love, not being allowed

To do the complacent thing.

A flirtation occurs below

Your possibility, we in hats take trains

Downtown to see paintings.

I must be able to describe to you

Precisely the boats and waves

On the lake.  An egg sits, boiled,

In its cup.  Extravagant tulips

From when Vivien was still here.

Hard money on a winter ledge.

I will not make the decision but rather

Let it make me, as music in waves,

Circling birds, boats waiting in their wet

Quadrant, clouds introducing summer.



Barge (Section XVI)


If I believed in an afterlife, set of gods with it,

Id take the Greek and Roman version, believe

On death Id meet Charon at the river,

Hed check the coin under my tongue,

Take me into his fragile bark,

Count his load, blow a gloomy horn,

Push off from land.  Hed stick

His way through mud and murk.

Halfway across, hed pause, squint as though

Hed forgotten something, then keep pushing.

First thing Id notice: hes a lot bigger than

A human.  His skin harder, hes not from here.

Long white tunic hangs from one shoulder,

Stance slightly sunken from travails.


Id look to see my fellow travelers,

But would notice Id make nothing of their faces:

Forms huddled on benches, that, when one looked,

Would become indistinct and shapeless.

Would there be benches?  Id look then to the

Stream, famous flow from poetry and art:

A little of this could knock you out

Would return to my mind and vanish

Quickly as it came.


The memory of daylight would come, as through

A veil, filtered light once seen in paintings

View of coming through woods to a field,

A single thin cow at its edge, and the thought

Of paintings in general, of all one has seen

Over years and years, and the thought

Of all the concerts, in churches, halls, rooms,

So many breakfasts in kitchens or restaurants.

A low branch or indistinct overhang suddenly. . . 



Translation by Vincent Katz



Propertius 2.27


Do you mortals seek to know deaths unfixed

hour and by what path the end may arrive?

On a clear night, do you study Phoenician science, as to

which star may be favorable and which destructive?

Whether we pursue Parthians on foot or Britons by boat,

on sea and on land, the way holds hidden perils.

Our head again tossed into the tumult, we moan,

when Mavors jumbles both camps uncertain hands,

and whats more, the flame and ruin to our homes,

we moan, lest the black cups approach our lips.


Only the lover knows when he will die and from what

cause, and he fears neither Boreas blasts nor war.

Though the oarsman already sits in the Stygian reeds,

and he sees the gloomy sails of the infernal bark:

if only the whisper of his girlfriend calling would summon him,

he would make the journey back, obedient to no law.


(Published in The Complete Elegies Of Sextus Propertius, 2004, Princeton University Press)  Note: Mavors is an archaic name for Mars.