Poetry Sunday: Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

Autumn crept over the windowsill on Wednesday last week. It brought with it some actual autumn-like weather - bright cool days with temperatures that never went above the 80s. It is a welcome respite from the heat of summer. It probably won't last. We'll likely have some summer days again before autumn sets in for good. But this time of year always brings to mind one of my very favorite poems because soon the wild geese will be winging this way, ready to settle down on our prairies and wetlands to spend their winter.  I know I've featured it here before but you can't have too much of a good thing and this poem is a very good thing.

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

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.


  1. When they build a shrine to Mary Oliver I am going to go there and worship! You have done this before, Dorothy, and I encourage you to do it again. You are quite right, you can't have enough of a good thing, and it really doesn't get any better than this. It won't be long before the first geese that have bred around James Bay are winging their way south, calling in the most wonderful, evocative way.When I see and hear my first flock I will think of you and Mary Oliver. After a whole life immersed in nature, the migration of the geese is still one of the most moving experiences of all.

    1. I always love the image of the world offering itself to our imaginations and, through the calls of the wild geese, announcing our place in the family of things. It's good to remind ourselves that we are a part of Earth's family. We are all related. This poem always reminds me of that.

  2. haha, a perfect answer to hiding in the bushes! i look (hear) forward every year to the sounds made by a flock passing overhead...

    1. It's such an evocative sound - something I always look forward to.

  3. She writes such amazing poems! I need to check out some of her books of poetry. Thanks for sharing this one. :)

    1. Her poetry so often references Nature and I love that about it. She wrote about our place in Nature, something that we often ignore.

  4. I love this poem and will never tire of it.

  5. I was not big into poetry until I started to read some of your Sunday posts. I love Mary Oliver more and more; I can't get through her poem "When Death Comes" without crying; it makes me so emotional. And I don't care if a poem is a repeat!

    1. "When Death Comes" is a favorite of mine and I confess my reaction is much the same as yours. It is a very emotional poem.

  6. So wonderful. Thank you for sharing. Happy Monday.

    1. It's my pleasure to share poetry here, especially that of Mary Oliver, a personal favorite.

  7. This is a poem I could read every day. It speaks to both the sadnesses of life and its consolations.

  8. I love her poems the we she makes me picture nature and human human emotions through it is pure joy. 💖


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