Mary Oliver Poems

Wild Geese

Wild Geese


wild geese


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" by Mary Oliver is a beautiful and profound poem that invites readers to embrace the inherent connection between nature and the human spirit. With its gentle yet powerful imagery and lyrical language, Oliver's poem encourages us to find solace, acceptance, and belonging in the natural world. The poem opens with the iconic line, "You do not have to be good," immediately challenging societal expectations and inviting us to let go of self-imposed limitations. Oliver reminds us that we are part of a larger tapestry of existence, urging us to shed our burdens and find our place within the grander scheme of nature.


Through the metaphor of wild geese, Oliver paints a picture of freedom and resilience. She encourages us to embrace our true selves as the geese soar through the sky, unapologetically following their instincts. The poem reminds us that we all deserve love, belonging, and forgiveness, regardless of our past mistakes or perceived inadequacies.


Oliver's words prompt us to let go of our worries and fears and surrender to the natural world's rhythm. She emphasizes the importance of being present in the here and now, urging us to immerse ourselves in the beauty surrounding us, even amid life's challenges.


"Wild Geese" is a gentle call to rediscover our wildness, reconnect with nature, and embrace our most authentic selves. Oliver's poem resonates deeply, offering solace and a sense of liberation. It reminds us that we are not alone in our struggles and that the world, with all its complexities, holds space for our growth, healing, and belonging.