Mary Oliver Says You Do Not Have to Be Good
I wish I’d known her poem then,
known more confidently myself,
our bird-dog steps
the schlep of our worlds.
I would have shared it with you,
given it you to read, copy by hand,
decorate with roses or vine
in ways of your choosing,
stick with toothpaste
on your own empty noticeboard
with the corners torn and missing.
Better still graffitied it across the walls
of your prison cell -
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE GOOD
You did not have to cut yourself with broken
biro casings, push staples under skin,
kneel to scrub, tie a ligature to the bed.
You did not have to be his repository,
barrel, firkin, vat, vessel,
nor apologise to me for the hustle.
You did not even have to make an application-
You only had to be the soft animal of your body
and what it loves...tell me about despair,
yours, and I will tell you mine.
If you have any thoughts on this poem, Avril Joy
would be pleased to hear them.