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.
This poem has called to me at so many different junctures in my life. Each time I read it, a new and different piece touches me. The first time I heard it, I was compelled by the possibility that I didn’t have to be good. Was she sure? Really, I didn’t have to be good? I’d spent the better part of a life doing just that. And then in the middle of an excruciatingly painful breakup, the reminder that regardless of my loneliness, the world offered itself to me if I was willing to accept, that I was indeed, part of something larger, this family of things.
May you find what you seek this day in these crisp, delicate words. Permission, love, grace. Whatever it may be, it can be yours.