Kate’s Poems

Catherine “Kate” Lawrence is a fictional character, the protagonist of Farewell Rio.  Kate is a poet, and fragments of her poems head each chapter of the novel.  This page collects a few of the complete poems from which the fragments were excerpted.


It was that strange time . . .
Is it summer?
or winter?
or somewhere in the middle?
I think Hemingway
wrote about Michigan in Spain.
It was that strange time, place . . .

At the Hilton:
Kentucky pasty-faced pianist.
The drummer, burned-tan, out of reverence
and need; is the machine
Loose-lipped, murmurs of respect,
cut the crap.

It’s the once-a-year way you say yes.
“Thanks for making love.”
“No, thanks for the cigarette.”
We are on the frontier of pleasure,
we must try something foolish,
the feeling of flesh.

We all love mystery.
Does it have to be murder?
Stretched out against the curvature
of the earth,
I’m addressing you both as instruments,
and as human beings.


Brazil dropped out of the Nuclear Club
just about the same time samba
was integrated into the school system.
Tourists went,
but never returned.
The people themselves, somehow,
were not happy.
They jumped
and held their arms outstretched
and danced samba,
but in the view of many foreign observers,
their waving arms
were really gestures to ward off
No one could say anything for certain,
the situation didn’t seem to have any parallels.

“Well, you see, Excellency,
the people like it,” said one of the President’s advisors.
“The people have bad taste,” replied the Brazilian President.
“Carnival is anachronous, predatory, thievish!”
“Excellency, be realistic,
you can’t elevate the people’s taste!”
“The people are characterizations of themselves.”
The President watched the steady rain for some moments.
“Where is their vision? I ask you!”
“Just be glad the people haven’t thought about dressing
like guerillas. Think, Excellency,
if they looked forward instead of back . . .”

Secret societies sprang up to dance samba.
Rotating lookouts were hired, vigilant
for the Special Samba Police.


I could light a match to my book
and write another one.
It doesn’t matter, it’s all the same,
because I will live to be
one hundred thirty,
the only survivor after World War III.

Every time
I write a poem,
I save a life.

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