Poetry by Mary Oliver

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 deep trees, 
The mountains and 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 

There is Something Deep Within You 
by Mary Oliver 

There is somewhere deep within you 
a beast shouting that the earth 
is exactly what it wanted. 
Each pond with its blazing lilies 
is a prayer heard and answered 
lavishly, every morning, 
whether or not 
you have ever dared to be happy, 
whether or not 
you have ever dared to pray 

When Death Comes 
by Mary Oliver 

When death comes 
like the hungry bear in autumn; 
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse 

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut . . . 

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering: 
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness? 

And therefore I look upon everything 
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood, . . . 

and I think of each life as a flower, as common 
as a field daisy, and as singular . . . 

and each body a lion of courage, and something 
precious to the earth. 

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life 
I was a bride married to amazement. 
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. 

by Mary Oliver 

My work is loving the world. 
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — 
equal seekers of sweetness. 
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums. 
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand. 

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn? 
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me 
keep my mind on what matters, 
which is my work, 

which is mostly standing still and learning to be 
The phoebe, the delphinium. 
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture. 
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here, 

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart 
and these body-clothes, 
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy 
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, 
telling them all, over and over, how it is 
that we live forever.