To a Dry Elm

Antonio Machado

From the old elm, split by lightning
and half rotten,
with the April rains and May sun
a few green leaves have sprouted.
The century old elm on the hill
lapped by the Duero! Yellowish moss
spots its whitish bark,
its trunk worm-eaten and dusty.
It will not be, like the singing poplars
that guard the road and river bank,
inhabited by dark nightingales.
An army of ants files up its bole,
and in its entrails
spiders weave their gray cloth.
Before the woodcutter chops you down
elm of the Duero, and the carpenter
converts you into bell mounting,
cart axle or yoke;
before, you burn tomorrow
red in the fireplace of some miserable hut
at the side of the road;
before a tornado uproots you
and the wind from the white sierra
mutilates you;
before the river carries you to the sea
through valleys and ravines,
elm, I want to get down in my notebook
the grace of your greening branch.

My heart hopes
also toward light and life,
another miracle of spring.

Last updated November 29, 2022