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
published by Atlantic Monthly Press
© Mary Oliver
I love Mary Oliver’s poetry. There are just some lines that resonate in my head and want to be mouthed over and over to feel the sound of it in my head and lips. This is one of those poems.
“You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.”
The soft animal of your body.
The soft animal.
The feel of a cat or bird as you hold them, that velvet softness that gives with each touch like a feather pillow, pulsing with breath and heartbeat and fragility.
You embrace your fragility, your humanity and accept that this is who I am and that I cannot change what I am or who I love. The rest of the world is just going to have to accept that, you cannot force yourself to change by torture or breaking off bits of yourself. You must accept the bumps and hollows, the cracks and fissures in order to shore them up.
- Free Yourself to Be Yourself: Mary Oliver’s “The Journey” (livingselfcare.wordpress.com)
- Mary Oliver, You Elude Me (shantara.wordpress.com)
- Wild Geese by Mary Oliver (jackysunchaser.wordpress.com)