Poetry

Mary Oliver – Wild Geese

“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.”

– Mary Oliver

One of the enduring themes in Mary Oliver’s poetry was her relationship to nature as a the touchstone of transcendence and salvation. This poem runs like an exhalation, beginning with a lifting of the weight of religious culpability – in the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers, there is no onus to be good nor to string oneself out in repentance. Instead, there is a gentle turn towards the ‘soft animal’ of oneself and the kindness of letting that creature simply ‘love what it loves.’ Oliver here acknowledges both loneliness and despair and invites them out into the open, to hear the particular harsh and exciting call of the wild geese who assure us of our inextricable place in ‘the family of things.’


Wild Geese

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.

Mary Oliver
From: Devotions

Leave a Reply