After Mary Oliver's Wild Geese

The pond I've visited nearly every day these past 12 years with my trusty dog, Blue.

In my most recent poem I mentioned that two poems came to me last week about softness. The first you can find here. The second began with a line borrowed from Mary Oliver's famous poem, Wild Geese: You do not have to be good.

And so I wondered, how I might use her poem - the structure, the pacing, and even some of her lines - as inspiration for this poem about the wisdom of knowing when to be soft, and when not?

Like Wild Geese, I wove in an image from the natural world, a crane near a beloved pond. And like Wild Geese, I hoped to communicate the belonging we find in the natural world, and the belonging we find when we honor our own knowing, and the belonging we find when we're gentle with ourselves.

After Mary Oliver's Wild Geese

You do not have to be soft.

You do not have to pry yourself open

for just any one who wants to enter.

You only have to crack the door open for those

who tread into your chamber with care.

Tell me about hurt, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile your heart beats on.

Meanwhile the rise and fall of your breath reminds

you that you breathe oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide

and this means that you matter.

Meanwhile the grey crane, making his arc

across the pond, searches for trout for tonight's dinner.

You remember the last time you saw the crane

as you sat on the pond's edge and tossed pebbles

into the water, looking for cleansing.

Whoever you are, no matter how confused,

the pond offers her milky waters, returning you

over and over to what you know is true –

what's yours and what's not, and what you need to toss

into the water so you can float again.

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