when all this is over


When all this is over, said the swineherd,
I mean to retire, where
Nobody will have heard about my special skills
And conversation is mainly about the weather.

I intend to learn how to make coffee, as least as well
As the Portuguese lay-sister in the kitchen
And polish the brass fenders every day.
I want to lie awake at night
Listening to cream crawling to the top of the jug
And the water lying soft in the cistern.

I want to see an orchard where the trees grow in straight lines
And the yellow fox finds shelter between the navy-blue trunks,
Where it gets dark early in summer
And the apple-blossom is allowed to wither on the bough.



In the Odyssey, the swineherd Eumaeus remains loyal to Odysseus throughout his master’s 20 years of absence. When Odysseus returns, in disguise, Eumaeus receives him warmly and later helps him slaughter the suitors who have overrun his palace. In the poem above, however, the swineherd is invoked only in the most general sense. It’s a great starting-point for the strange fantasy-world of this poem – which seems to grow stranger the more you read it…

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