Aspasia

Late at night
men entered her ground-floor
room via the window.
I'd nicknamed her Aspasia, which she liked.
Then she left us. She was a waitress, a hairdresser,
and other things. I ran into her only rarely.
When I did I yelled out Aspasia!
and she smiled without stopping.
We were the same age, she'll have died years ago.
When I enter hell, almost out of habit
I'll shout Aspasia! at the first ghost who smiles.
She'll keep on walking of course. We'll never know
who she was and who she wasn't--
that butterfly who had next to nothing but a name
I chose to give her.

-Eugenio Montale (trans. William Arrowsmith)