‘Wild Geese’ by Mary Oliver


Mary Oliver won prizes for her poetry such as the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

She died in January 2019 at the age of 83 and remains one of the most beloved American poets.

An artist who used her words to paint pictures of the natural world, her verses express deep reverence for nature as a source of beauty, wisdom and solace.

‘Wild Geese’ first appeared in her 1986 anthology called ‘Dream Work‘.


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 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.

Mary Oliver-