We Are Many

OF so many men that I am, that we are,
I can't find a single one:
I lose them under my clothing,
they've moved to another town.

When everything seems to be set
to show off my erudition,
the fool I always keep hidden
takes over all that I say.

I am paralyzed and silenced
among those who are distinguished
and when I seek the fearless within me
a coward I do not know
rushes to cover my skeleton
with a thousand fine precautions.

When a home I care for burns
I call forth the firefighter
but the arsonist breaks through
and he is I. There is no fixing me.
What must I do to select me?
How can become myself?

All the books I read
celebrate dazzling heroes
always certain of themselves:
how I envy them.
In cowboy films
I am jealous of the cowboy,
and even admire the horse.

But when I seek the daredevil
I find the lazy old man,
and so I do not know who I am,
or how many I am or we are.
I would like to ring a bell
and summon the real me
because if I need myself
I should not be disappearing.

While I write I am absent
and when I return I've gone:
One day I will see if these things
also happen to other people,
if they are as many as I am,
if they resemble themselves,
and when I find out
I will know all things so well
that to explain all my problems
I will speak about geography.

Pablo Neruda
translated by F. Pajares