Among the Multitudes

Among the Multitudes

- Wislawa Szymborska, Poems New and Collected 1957-1997,

Trans. by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

(Tree of Life - by Mary Coelho)

I am who I am.

A coincidence no less unthinkable

than any other.

I could have different

ancestors, after all.

I could have fluttered

from another nest

or crawled bescaled

from another tree.

Nature's wardrobe

holds a fair

supply of costumes:

Spider, seagull, field mouse.

each fits perfectly right off

and is dutifully worn

into shreds.

I didn't get a choice either,

but I can't complain.

I could have been someone

much less separate.

someone from an anthill, shoal, or buzzing swarm,

an inch of landscape ruffled by the wind.

Someone much less fortunate,

bred for my fur

or Christmas dinner,

something swimming under a square of glass.

A tree rooted to the ground

as the fire draws near.

A grass blade trampled by a stampede

of incomprehensible events.

A shady type whose darkness

dazzled some.

What if I'd prompted only fear,


or pity?

If I'd been born

in the wrong tribe

with all roads closed before me?

Fate has been kind

to me thus far.

I might never have been given

the memory of happy moments

My yen for comparison

might have been taken away.

I might have been myself minus amazement,

that is,

someone completely different.