Too Many Names (by Pablo Neruda)

(Translation (c) Heidi Fischbach. “Demasiados Nombres” is the Spanish, original title)

Monday tangles up with Tuesday
and a week with the whole year.
Time cannot be cut
with your weary scissors,
all the names of the days
are washed away by the night.

No one can be called Pedro,
no one is Rosa, nor María.
All of us are dust or sand,
all of us are rain within rain.
I’ve been told of Venezuelas,
of Paraguays and of Chiles,
and I don’t know of what they speak:
I know the skin of the earth
and it has no last name.

When I lived among roots
they pleased me more than flowers,
and when I spoke to a stone
it rang out like a bell.

Springtime is so long
when it lasts all winter:
time has lost his shoes,
a year contains four centuries.

Every night when I sleep,
what am I called or not called?
And when I awake, who am I
if I was not my self while I slept?

What this means is that just
as we are stepping foot in life,
just as we are newly being born,
let us not fill our mouths
with so many insecure names,
so many sad labels,
so many pompous letters,
so much yours and so much mine,
with so much signing of papers.

I intend to confuse things,
to join them and newly birth them,
mix them up and undress them,
until the light of the world
has the wholeness of the ocean,
a generous vast oneness,
a fragrance that crackles.

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