‘Wild Geese’ by Mary Oliver

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



When in the presence of humour,
you smile, pear-shaped,
chest rising to meet,
to not be left behind.

Eager to rhyme,
match their wit,
higher and higher,

Their bitterness
funneled through pipes –
back-turned spray –
you smile knowingly.

Tearing of paper,
bored target,
flutter of absurdity,
your loose smile.

Shadow of contempt,
a hazy outline,
your warning fire,
skyline of words.

Your voice steady,
in command,
present the iceberg,
drowning beneath.

The day,
a stitching of smiles,
left behind.