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.
I almost feel like a cheat posting this poem. But when "good" came up as the prompt at Sunday Scribblings, I couldn't resist. Of course I thought of the opposite. I thought of how the terms good and evil have been corrupted in the War on Terror. I thought about my son, trying to explain the gray area between good and bad. I even thought about Sheryl Crow's song "Good Is Good," and idea that if you're not looking for love you could miss it. But in the end, this poem calls me back to the things of this world.
I wonder if Mary Oliver knew how powerful this first line would be when she wrote it.
I don't think I give myself enough room to fail and start again, hence my quote in the page header from Sam Becket. I don't have to be good, I just have to be myself, or "let the soft animal of [my] body love what it loves." I have to remember that in those moments of doubt, I am never alone. And as a writer, I only have to lend myself to the world to find something to write about.
This poem reminds me that every day is an opportunity to do good, to do better.