The hero pocketed the money
and handed over the keys
to what had been his family’s home
since Romulus created Rome.
The hero now felt free to roam
having given up his ease.
All his money he distributed
to anyone who asked.
All that he kept hung on his back:
a sword, some cheese in a gunnysack
and a book of prayers most others lack
among the hero caste.
He wandered, loitered, stood all lonely
till he took himself in hand
and, finally finding his own way,
went resolutely to the quay
where a ship fresh in from Mandalay
disembarked a van.
Inside the van a wizened woman
smiled at the hero’s gaze.
He tried to smile – it was not his style –
and after staring blank a while
he asked himself what female guile
put his mind in a daze.
The woman, wistful, watching, wondered
who like a fool stood there,
seemingly vanquished by a van.
Her Odyssey required a man
strong and stupid, a type she ran
But then he spoke. The woman marvelled
at his honeyed words.
It was as if her van were filled
with raptures queens would have been thrilled
to hear, and as if dragons were killed
by bronze beating swords.
‘Ahoy!’ she cried, rolled down the window.
She trilled, ‘Want a ride?’
The hero, startled, murmured, ‘Rather.’
Stalling so her wits could gather
she engaged him in palaver
to get him stuck inside.
The woman engaged the van’s ignition
so as to hide her zest.
She unlocked the door, cried, ‘All aboard!’
The hero hopped in then she floored
the accelerator. The van roared
like a vehicle possessed.
Away from the quay and through the village
the racing van careened.
The hero, grovelling till that made
him remember he’s the hero, said,
‘I say, let’s call this shovel a spade.’
The wizened woman gleaned
that travel with a hero’s sweeter
when she can’t hear him chatter.
She grins and steers the van and keeps
count of the souls its bumper reaps
while the hero’s story soars and sweeps
unheard in the van’s hoarse clatter.