Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves

Browsing around on Autostraddle this morning I came across this poem, left by a commenterClearly it’s a famous one, but I had never seen it before. It brought me to tears.

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 your 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.

Mary Oliver

Watch and hear Mary Oliver reading this beautiful poem here.

Ten of Cups, from the Steampunk Tarot by Charissa Drengsen
Ten of Cups, from the Steampunk Tarot by Charissa Drengsen

This is love, and this is The Lovers and the Ten of Cups. This is your heart’s honest truth. It might be your true love or your best friend or your whole community, it might be the love of ‘home’ – whatever home is to you. Perhaps it is your safe space, perhaps it is your hobby, a painting or a song, a meditation ritual. It is wherever you are when you are honestly yourself, when you are truly in the world.

Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

Cards shown are from the Wild Unknown Tarot (first edition) by Kim Krans, and the Steampunk Tarot by Charissa Drengsen.

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  1. Mary L says:

    So, this portion of my comment is entirely irrelevant to the content of your post, except that you mentioned Autostraddle, but: I tootled over here after seeing your inaugural Tarot School post, and have already spent several hours perusing your archives, and now am even more excited for said Tarot School to begin. I’ve been reading as an occasional hobby for something like 15 years (a statistic that makes me feel aged, if not venerable). But I’m unexpectedly excited about the idea of taking my dilettante ways to a deeper level. In other words, yay, and thanks for bringing your writing to AS!

    And here is the relevant portion of my comment: A friend of mine recently put on a one-woman show about opera and queerness and growing up and Dealing With Things, and she used this poem as the lyrics for the closing song. By the end when the lights came up I was completely gutted and doing that thing where you try to pretend you just lost a contact lens while also suppressing an asthma attack, but definitely are not just crying in public because that would be weird. Anyway, I really like the idea of making connections between the tarot and poems like this that speak to something very visceral and intuitive. I might have to use it as an exercise for cards I’ve never quite clicked with.

    • Little Red says:

      Hey Mary!

      So glad you’re inspired to give your cards a bigger role in your life! I love how so many people have mentioned the fact that they sort-of-play-with tarot cards and are now excited to take things further. Also, you’ve been reading a lot longer than me! Can’t wait for your contributions on Autostraddle 😀

      I think part of what I love about tarot is also what I loved about doing a literature degree years ago. Looking for the subtext and seeking connections between things – symbolic, metaphorical, subjective or just totally in your face – noticing the interconnectedness of *things* is satisfying and beautiful and moving.

      Really often I hear a song or read a poem and I’m like ‘OMG that’s the Four of Pentacles’ or whatever. I started a Tumblr for this but I don’t tend it very well – go make some suggestions!! It’s specifically about songs rather than poetry in general.

      Also, crying in public ain’t just for Gwynneth Paltrow. Let’s join forces and make it cool!

      B xx

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