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)