The Southern Cross

by Frank Thomas Smith

Gracefully the gaucho gallops through
The pampa’s waving windswept grasses;
From time to time he strokes his beard,
Black as the eyes of his woman’s lashes.

Orion patiently makes its rounds,
Dripping dust in the River Plate,
While over the rancho, his destination,
The Southern Cross guards the gate.

Three long days and three long nights
The gaucho gallops across the plain,
Resting only when his heaving horse
No longer can stand the strain.

The midnight pampa is ghostly gray,
Starlit by a million sources;
The gaucho flicks the deadly blade,
His mind rehearses virile curses.

If his woman has loved another man
During his years of abstinence,
He’ll kill them both with a silent stroke
And later think of penitence.

Then, like a matchbox tossed aside,
Appears ahead his home, unchanged
Since he left it for the wars;
He spurs his horse like one deranged.

The rancho's door flutters open
Flinging out a flare of light;
A woman trembles on the threshold
Straining to see through the night.

Juan? she calls in a vibrant voice
Laced with dregs of hope and dread.
The gaucho flings his knife away,
And bows his handsome head.

He prays that God forgive his folly,
And thanks the myriad stars above
For having survived the wounds of war,
And having no cause to kill his love.