From the Ephemeral Past

Antonio Machado

This man from the local social club
who once saw the bullfighter Carancha,
has a glum face, grey hair,
eyes veiled by melancholy;
under his grey moustache, weary lips,
and a sad expression, which is not sadness,
but something like it: the emptiness
of the world in the hollow of his head.

He still cuts a dash in a maroon velvet
jacket and buttoned breeches
and a Cordoba hat of caramel colour,
looking refined and smart.
Three times he inherited money; three times
lost the lot; twice widowed.

He only brightens up at an illegal gamble,
lounging at the green baize,
or when evoking the feats of a bullfighter,
the luck of a thief, or when someone
recounts the derring-do of a brave outlaw,
or the blood-soaked acts of a thug.

He yawns about politics, uselessly
taunts the reactionary government,
and predicts the liberals will come to power,
just as the stork returns to the bell-tower.

Something of a farmer, he eyes the heavens
and fears them; and at times he sighs,
thinking about his olive grove, and looks up
with an anxious eye if the rain is late in coming.

The rest of the time, he is taciturn, hypochondriac,
prisoner in the paradise of the present,
bored; with only cigarette smoke
casting false shadows on his brow.

This man is neither of yesterday nor tomorrow,
but of never; coming from Spanish stock
he is not the ripe fruit nor the rotten fruit,
he is the worthless fruit
of a Spain that's gone and hasn’t been,
and is now grey haired.

Del Pasado Efímero by Antonio Machado

Last updated November 29, 2022