You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
This photo of a family of Canadian Geese was taken by Ken West Iowa Landscape and Nature Photography. Ken West and his unique landscape photographs are featured on IPTV show Iowa Outdoors. For more on Mary Oliver see The Journey by Mary Oliver, with links to other poems and an interview with Maria Shriver.
Listen to “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver when she was interviewed by Krista Tippett On Being: Listening to the World.