Today's poem is by Antonio Machado, translated by Willis Barnstone



My heart was where a hundred roads converge,
all of them passing through, and a broad crowd
of aimless, roomless travelers, who surge
as on a railway platform chaotic and loud.

My heart made its workday in the four winds
and spread itself along a hundred ways
of level land and where a rock storm begins
and happened on the sea of a hundred sails.

Today a swarm of bees flies to its hive
at the gray hour when bands of crows are hoarse,
flapping around to find their blackened cave,

and my heart starts to do its work, and soon
it joins the flowering fields of plump nectars
and mourning of a sullen afternoon.


Pilgrim, you'll see the wonder of the road,
the road that goes to dreamed-of Compostela.
O peak of flax and lilac! And below,
the plan with poplars forming a fire umbrella.

Autumn and its two rivers have placed gold,
making a circle round the giant sentinel
of stone and light, prodigious with its old
towers against the perfect blue. Its spell

goes on across the plain: a pack of lean
greyhounds and then the master of the chase
riding into the distant range. You'll see

the vain phantasm of an ancient race.
You should get there when in the cold twilight
of the bare square, a balcony burns night.


Have I dirtied your memory? So often!
A life descends like an enormous river
floating a tall ship to the sea again,
with greenish slime and scum all in a stir.

Especially if a storm attacks the short
and drags about the booty of the storm,
and in their sky some clouds of ashes soar
and crack in yellow lightning hugely warm.

Yet while it flows toward the unknown sea,
life also is the water of a spring
dripping and trickling brightly from its source

or else a raucous cataract flooding
below the blue and over broken rocks.
And there your name echoes eternally.


Light of Sevilla, the great palace house
where I was born, the gurgling fountain sound.
My father in his study. Forehead round
and high, short goatee, mustache drooping down.

My father still is young. He reads and writes,
leafs through his books and meditates. He springs
up near the garden door, strolls by the gate.
Sometimes he talks out loud, sometimes he sings.

And now his large eyes with their anxious glance
appear to wander with no object to
focus upon, not finding anywhere

to rest in void. They slip from past and through
tomorrow where, my father, they advance
to gaze so pityingly at my gray hair.

Copyright © 2004 Willis Barnstone All rights reserved
from Border of a Dream
Copper Canyon Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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