“Wild Geese” (2004) is one of her most popular and often quoted poems. When I reread it recently, I thought it particularly suited for our times.
American culture is rife with public scrutiny, shame, ridicule, and censorship. Daily messages of outrage tell us that we don’t measure up. We are condemned for our beliefs and even whom we love.
“Wild Geese” is a reminder that you are enough. You don’t need to live someone else’s definition of what is “good”.
You can move past your mistakes. Each day begins anew. No matter your err of yesterday, the sun still rises and sets.
You need not be weighed down by guilt or shame. You can fly wild and free.
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.Wild Geese: Selected Poems, Gardners Books, 2004