Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver


Original Language English

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.

-- from Dream Work, by Mary Oliver

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/ Photo by Rennett Stowe /


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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.


To me this poem is a healing balm, the way it invites us to forgive our own struggles and look beyond them to a larger, living grandeur, of which we are a part.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes...


Winter here in Colorado...

the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting


Look up and see "the wild geese, high in the clean blue air..." Ancient purpose, animal and magnetic, lined up in chevrons across the winter sky. That eternal determination that marks our direction through the world, to be always "heading home again."

The geese continuously call out one to another, as we all do, "over and over announcing your place / in the family of things."



Recommended Books: Mary Oliver

Why I Wake Early New and Selected Poems House of Light American Primitive What Do We Know: Poems and Prose Poems
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Wild Geese