wild geese, mary oliver

This is the third Mary Oliver poem I’ve encountered in a week. I’ve sought none of them, but been grateful for every one. I don’t know why I hadn’t been exposed to her before.

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 your 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 one came to me through a cycling blog, of all places. It does for me what Let the Great World Spin did for me; in a hairsbreadth of the time. To continue the thought from the other day–maybe I trust fem poets more than fem novelists because they must cut away all the details of their life that make it different than mine. I want their voices to be mine; I want them to be sharing my realities, and when they let all these little differences in–the softnesses I did not feel, the frailties I’d cave into if I acknowledged them; all the little things that make up the measure between cerulean and azure, between an ankle-twanging recovery and a skidding over scree into a thousand tiny cuts–I grow frustrated with them. You aren’t telling the real story, I want to growl at them. You’re putting up a show; distracting from the real deal here.

Whereas poets don’t have time for those charades. Or at least, the good ones don’t. And I am less willing to put up with charades from women. There’s this need–this dwindling period of time, for us. We haven’t had much time, in the grand scheme of things, to speak, and who knows how long we will even be heard. Tell it now and tell it right, I want to yell at them. But only the poets listen.

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