This poem is posted because I like it.
It may be Mary Oliver's most anthologised poem. That's another reason for posting it. If so many editors choose it, it must say something important.
Living in Westhill, geese fly over and around us every year, long skeins of them. It's the season after Pentecost, and the wild goose is a Celtic symbol of the wild freedom of the Holy Spirit, the creative, urgent movement of life and the homing instinct for God. Another reason to post it.
Whatever else Paul meant by his insistence that Christian existence is to live in the Spirit, he meant to the wild freedom and the homing instinct that makes us long for God.
It wasn't written as a Pentecost poem - but I read it and wish I had wings.
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.