by Mary Oliver
“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination…”
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.
Maybe, we don’t always have to be good. Whatever guilt, shame or confessions we hold inside, can be let go.
Maybe we don’t always have to repent because we, too, are animals like the wild geese. Instead of suffering, or spending our lives trying to find forgiveness, we only have to do what we love to do.
Everybody has his or her own despair, everybody needs to be told we do not always have to be good, everybody would have a reason to repent.
Talking about our troubles can help us heal from the, and hearing other people’s pain can create a primal connection between two people, loyal and deep like the bond between birds.
“Meanwhile the world goes on.” The repetition of the word “meanwhile” is soothing and is, in the poem, cyclical like rainfall in nature. Like humans and wild geese, the rain also travels.
The geese are travelling home again, but where is home? Are they flying “home” South for the Winter, or “home” back North?
“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely . . .” it does not matter where you call home.
Listen to what the world tells you – look at the wild geese. They fly alone yet in an inclusive form, honking to keep in contact with each other in flight, connected in the “family of things”.