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A pandemic poem by Adrie Kusserow: a spin-off from 'Wild Geese' by Mary Oliver

Updated: Apr 29, 2020

I hope you enjoyed the Mary Oliver poem, 'Wild Geese,' that I shared yesterday. I woke to a message from a dear friend who shared the poem below--a spin-off from Oliver's 'Wild Geese' poem written as a reflection of the challenging times we are sharing during this pandemic. I feel these words will speak to and resonate with many of you. Mary Oliver passed away in January of 2019. I'm sure her reflections on the current times would coat our souls like thick, warm honey if she was still here to share her voice through poetry. I also feel pretty confident that she would appreciate Adrie Kusserow's fresh take on 'Wild Geese' which was first published by Oliver in 1986. I hope that reading this poem will warm every cell of your body and remind you that you don't have to do more to be of value in this world. You do enough, you have enough, you are enough. Even in your darkest moments, you are held and supported by the earth below. If you cannot feel this connection and struggle to feel grateful, loved and supported, reach out to someone and trust that connecting will uplift you and remind you that we are all in this together. If you know someone who struggles with anxiety, depression or addiction, reach out to them and reflect that they are not alone in their struggle and that it's important to ask for support when they need it. I lost a friend very suddenly and in a tragic way on Easter Sunday. His struggle with alcohol was deeper than his friends and family realized. My father also recently 'fell off the wagon' after a year of sobriety. I'm sure I'm not the only one seeing others struggle to cope with these challenging times. It feels helpful for me to sing and dance my prayers and to dedicate the energy from my yoga practice to others in need. There are so many prayers to say these days, but if we create enough energetic space for ourselves, we can hold everything, no matter how big or heavy the load. My daily yoga practice increases my capacity to hold a loving and compassionate space for myself and for all other sentient beings. I hope you also feel this divine power of yoga and will share its medicine with everyone around you. Enjoy another variety of tulip I photographed this week and Kusserow's radical poem below.

with love & care & deep bows, Sarah

Mary Oliver for Corona Times by Adrie Kusserow (Thoughts after the poem Wild Geese) You do not have to become totally zen, You do not have to use this isolation to make your marriage better, your body slimmer, your children more creative. You do not have to “maximize its benefits” By using this time to work even more, write the bestselling Corona Diaries, Or preach the gospel of ZOOM. You only have to let the soft animal of your body unlearn everything capitalism has taught you, (That you are nothing if not productive, That consumption equals happiness, That the most important unit is the single self. That you are at your best when you resemble an efficient machine). Tell me about your fictions, the ones you’ve been sold, the ones you sheepishly sell others, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world as we know it is crumbling. Meanwhile the virus is moving over the hills, suburbs, cities, farms and trailer parks. Meanwhile The News barks at you, harsh and addicting, Until the push of the remote leaves a dead quiet behind, a loneliness that hums as the heart anchors. Meanwhile a new paradigm is composing itself in our minds, Could birth at any moment if we clear some space From the same tired hegemonies. Remember, you are allowed to be still as the white birch, Stunned by what you see, Uselessly shedding your coils of paper skins Because it gives you something to do. Meanwhile, on top of everything else you are facing, Do not let capitalism coopt this moment, laying its whistles and train tracks across your weary heart. Even if your life looks nothing like the Sabbath, Your stress boa-constricting your chest. Know that your ancy kids, your terror, your shifting moods, Your need for a drink have every right to be here, And are no less sacred than a yoga class. Whoever you are, no matter how broken, the world still has a place for you, calls to you over and over announcing your place as legit, as forgiven, even if you fail and fail and fail again. Remind yourself over and over, all the swells and storms that run through your long tired body all have their place here, now in this world. It is your birthright to be held deeply, warmly in the family of things, not one cell left in the cold.


Adrie Kusserow is a cultural anthropologist with special interests in refugees, social inequalities, poverty, anthropology of religion, culture, illness and healing, social class, ethnographic poetry and anthropology of the child. She strongly encourages both service work and community engaged learning to be an integral part of her anthropology classes. She is also a strong proponent of study abroad and has taken students her to Sudan, Uganda and Bhutan.

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