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12 April 2007

Poets tell us we don't have to be good

Wild_geese_at_sunset_1_2Wild 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

Friends Stu and Janna came by today in the cold rain. In talking about one of my favorite poets (hey, I didn't bring him up) and National Poetry Month, Janna--a playwright--mentioned how much she loves this poem by Mary Oliver.

Me, too. Thanks for the reminder, Janna.

I was happy to hear Mary Oliver read it to me (okay, me and a few hundred other hangers-on) several weeks ago. There is meaning imparted in a writer's tone, those pauses we could not know but only guess from a printed page, or hear inside our own heads, the rhythm of our own voices laid down on that of the poet.

[Image from here]


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