Strode off across a meadow full of asphodel

Homer – Odyssey, Book XI


A weary man reading the same verse over and over
A woman smoking, her glance misplaced
Exhales smoke through her nostrils, her teeth tight
Looks in her purse, picks out a notebook
The weary man, his heart so blue,
Sticks his little finger looking for detritus in his ear

Reads the same verse over and over
“its meadows of eternal asphodel”
In his head another verse takes shape
he doesn’t know why he sighs
while the voice that inhabits him mumbles another:
“the hints of a god cannot erect happiness”
The weary man’s sight returns to the page
The woman drops the cigarette and puts it out with her heel
Picks up the cigarette butt from the gravel
showing a glimpse of her tight curved thigh
through the deep opening of her skirt’s slit
and throws the butt into the garbage can, two feet away, falling silently
and silently too the man is mentally translating
“her meadows of everlasting asphodels”
the weary man closes his eyes
the air mixed up with the smoke of the tailpipes
and the china tree’s pollen,
he cries
he rubs his eyes
the woman sneezes and gets up
opens her notebook, reads something, and then puts it back in her purse
looks at where the weary man is,
without seeing him,
then looks to the front,
the weary man looks at the tips of his shoes
the woman moves away when the weary man looks up,
he sees her move away in her tight skirt, her well shaped calves,
the man gets back to the unfulfilled verse
from the beginning of the stanza:
“she turns away
into the irrigated land
with its blond hills like breasts of hay,
its tall tan herds of eucalyptus grazing
above its lawns of ice-plant, of geranium,
its meadows of eternal asphodel”.
The weary man recaps: blond hills
bust made of hay, of straw
flocks of dark eucalyptus
herding, watching, keeping
lawns of ice-plants, geranium
Its meadows of eternal asphodel.
Closes his eyes
Yet once more: hills, tits, hay, eucalyptus
expanses of wild flowers, geranium tapestries.
Perennial asphodels.

A woman moves off. The man closes the book and opens his eyes.
Sections of a rite enduring its meaning
Even tho’ we cannot understand it long ago.


            —Translated by Sergio Coddou


Note: this poem refers to and mixes poems by Randall Jarrell, “A Man Meets a Woman in the Street,” and Roberto Merino, “Transmigración.”


Photo by Steve Crane