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 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,

call to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –

over and over announcing your place in the family of things.

‘Wild Geese’ by Mary Oliver, sent to me by VV.

The image of the wild goose, the questing soul, is one that always draws me. It was the name given to Catholic exiles who joined the army in France in the 18th century, it is the creation story of the Irish (a goose honks creation into life) and it’s the memory of seeing Canada geese fly over the trees noisily as I come back from the park with my father, and my mother plays Iona hymns to me.

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