The old elm up on the hill by the river.
Whose worm-eaten, dusty trunk
is stained by a yellowish moss.
It will never be one of those poplars,
those that guard the road and the riverbank,
a shelter for the nightingale to sing.
Even now, an army of ants march in file
through it, while in its entrails
the spiders spin their silver webs.
Before the woodsman cuts you down
with his axe, old elm of mine,
and the carpenter makes of you
a bell frame, or a yolk for a wagon.
Before you burn red
at the hearth of some miserable hut
at the wayside,
or a river carries you to the sea
through valleys and ravines.
Before that, Elm, I want to take note
of the beauty
of your green-speckled branches.
And secretly, despite the beauty of the
here and now,
my heart still wishes that you
defy the odds
and that next year, there will be
one last miracle of Spring.
This poem is a translation and adaptation of a work by Antonio Machado entitled ‘A Un Olmo Seco’.