you do not have to be good

I miss you. I just had to come here to tell you that.

I am also going to share a poem, which is typically more Lindsey’s thing than mine (and I am grateful to her for all the poetry she shares). I am posting this poem because I have read it every day since hearing Mary Oliver read it in an episode of On Being. You should listen to that interview right now, as a matter of fact. But before you do that, let me tell you why I’m reading it every day. Moving—perhaps especially, moving at the end of the school year—has a way of bringing up many emotions. The two most prominent, and least helpful, are rage and anxiety (or in terms of the five emotions of Inside Out, anger and fear), but nostalgia, joy, and sadness bubble up too now and again. This poem, tho.



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.

(Author’s note: photo is by my cousin Alice, the farmer in Portugal whose photos I am always sharing, especially the birds)


3 thoughts on “you do not have to be good

  1. Justine, I love this poem, and thanks to you and your suggestions on this blog, I’m now a podcast convert and love On Being! Downloading Mary Oliver right this moment. Thank you!

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