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 galloped across the plain,
Resting only when his heaving horse
No longer could 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 had loved another man
During his years of abstinence,
He'd 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 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 husky voice
Laced with dregs of hope and dread.
The gaucho flings his knife away,
And bows his shaggy head.
He prays that God will forgive his folly,
And thanks the myriad stars above
For having survived the wounds of war,
And having no cause to kill his love.
A window flew open clattering wood,
A girl leaned out as far as she could.
The gentle breasts that filled her dress
Palpitated with distress.
A moment later on the bottom floor
A man flung open the rotting door.
She cried: "¿Cuándo volverás?"
"That", he spat, "I know not".
He limped across the puddled street,
Cursing the slowness of his feet.
I've often wondered but never learned
If that hombre ever returned.