You Do Not Have To Be Good

You do not have to be good.
– Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese”

Ain’t that a kick in the head!
After all the bunk about straights and narrows,
wrongs and rights, confessionals
where venial sins are laughable,
it’s come down to this: we’ve been duped.
Friday fish, forty fasting days, crownings
in the Mary month of May; rosaries,
callused knees, indulgences that smudge
our sins: they don’t add up to good.
Neither do tidy rooms, top grades in school,
nor mandatory modesty.

So let’s delete the snake behind the apple tree
and every bite of stale theology.
Let’s resurrect original wildness
and ramble through valleys scratched and scarred,
down unquiet streams, across raging fields
of blooms disguised as weeds.
Let’s celebrate every fleshy flaw,
each mistaken thought that turns out true.
Let’s race wild geese to the nearest star,
cheering on imperfect
nakedness with disheveled glee.


(Previously published in the Gyroscope Review)



Image Credits: James Jordan

Carolyn Martin

From Assistant Professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin has journeyed from New Jersey to Oregon to discover Douglas firs, months of rain, and dry summers. Her poems and book reviews have appeared in publications throughout North America and the UK, and her third poetry collection, Thin Places, was released by Kelsay Books in 2017. Since the only poem she wrote in high school was red-penciled “extremely maudlin,” Carolyn is still amazed she has continued to write.

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2 thoughts on “You Do Not Have To Be Good

  • February 7, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    Exploring beauty through your words is a gift you give to so many!
    Thank you Carolyn!!

  • February 8, 2018 at 7:12 am

    Thank so much, Joan!


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