Brandon Taylor

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 your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

—Mary Oliver, from “Wild Geese”

It’s been a stressful, difficult week, and to learn of Mary Oliver’s passing is so crushing. Hers were among the first poetry books I found as a high schooler, wandering the local library, starting to seek out poems on my own. Out of need. Today, I need these words of hers again.

Grateful also to Brandon Taylor for a beautiful essay on why this poem matters, “How Mary Oliver Helped Me to Breathe Again.”

& I’m thinking of, I’m breathing in, I’m saying out loud this line of Oliver’s (from “Don’t Hesitate”), as well:

Joy is not made to be a crumb.