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 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’s poem begins with a statement to the reader. That we do not have to be good. Whatever guilt, shame, and whatever confessions we hold inside, can be let go. We do not always have to repent, either. Why? Because we, too, are animals. We are just like the wild geese. Instead of suffering, or spending our lives trying to find forgiveness, we only have to do what we love to do. This gives reassurance, and after reading the first few lines readers are given a sense of ease.
Then Oliver writes, “Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine…” Everybody has his or her own regret, but everybody needs to be told we do not have to be good. Talking about our troubles can help us heal from them, and hearing other people’s pain can create a primal connection between two people, like the strong bond between animals
The repetition of the word meanwhile is comforting, and in the poem, cyclical like rainfall in nature. This is also how Oliver’s natural imagery comes through: the reader can see the movement of the rain across America. Just as the geese travel across the US. The geese are travelling home again, but where is home? Are they flying ‘home’ south for the winter, or ‘home’ back north?
It is as if Oliver understands this question that her work asks, and so she writes, “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely…” Oliver has no specific direction that points toward home, but rather, notes that it does not matter where you call home. Oliver invites the reader to listen to what the world tells us, contrasting and comparing us with wild geese, who fly alone yet in an inclusive form, honking to keep in contact with each other in flight, connected in the family of things.
What I love about love is its diagnosis
What I hate about love is its prognosis
What I hate about love is its me me me
What I love about love is its Eat-me/Drink-me
What I love about love is its petting zoo
What I love about love is its zookeeper – you
What I love about love is its truth serum
What I hate about love is its shrinking potion
What I love about love is its doubloons
What I love about love is its bird-bones
What I hate about love is its boil-wash
What I love about love is its spin-cycle
What I loathe about love is its burnt toast and bonemeal
What I hate about love is its bent cigarette
What I love about love is its pirate
What I hate about love is its sick parrot
One of the more prominent elements of the poem is its use of parallelism to improve upon the various points being made. Parallelism is repetition of words in a piece of writing, and its presence here is quite obvious. Each line begins with the words “What I,” followed by either “hate” or “love,” and “about love is its,” which form a pattern. This becomes familiar to the reader as they explore the story, and helps the poem to feel logical and natural to the reader. Parallelism is especially effective when it is intentionally broken. The strong language in the first line of the second-to-last verse begins with “What I loathe” rather than what I love or hate. While “loathe” in itself is already a stronger idea of emotion, it is made especially prominent by the jarring feeling of corrupting the established pattern.
The various metaphors used to create feelings are what drive this poem. Each line compares or contrasts separate ideas about representations of love. Being diagnosed with something means coming to learn that you have it; having a prognosis. But it also means learning what that something’s course will be. In a similar way, realizing that you are in love is exciting and wonderful. By contrast, considering the idea of “the rest of your life” can be terrifying. The speaker here is saying they love the current present of being in love, but are frightened by a future present that includes it. Similarly, in the next part, the speaker examines the nature of love as a “give and take;” they hate the taking, but prefer the giving. Love can mean having to be selfless for another person’s selfishness, but the speaker doesn’t like that. They prefer for there to always be a balance.
Cain lifts Crow, that heavy black bird
and strikes down Abel.
Damn, says Crow, I guess
this is just the beginning.
The white man, disguised
as a falcon, swoops in
and yet again steals a salmon
from Crow's talons.
Damn, says Crow, if I could swim
I would have fled this country years ago.
The Crow God as depicted
in all of the reliable Crow bibles
looks exactly like a Crow.
Damn, says Crow, this makes it
so much easier to worship myself.
Among the ashes of Jericho,
Crow sacrifices his firstborn son.
Damn, says Crow, a million nests
are soaked with blood.
When Crows fight Crows
the sky fills with beaks and talons.
Damn, says Crow, it's raining feathers.
Crow flies around the reservation
and collects empty beer bottles
but they are so heavy
he can only carry one at a time.
So, one by one, he returns them
but gets only five cents a bottle.
Damn, says Crow, redemption
is not easy.
Crow rides a pale horse
into a crowded powwow
but none of the Indian panic.
Damn, says Crow, I guess
they already live near the end of the world. "
- Sherman Alexie.
‘Crow Testament’ by Sherman Alexie speaks on the hardships of Native Americans through seven parts. Each of these parts is divided into stanzas that range from one to four lines. The poem does not have rhyme scheme, but it does following a specific pattern of words. In each of these parts Alexie adds to the story of the 'Crow."
The poem begins with describing a famous scene from the Bible in which Cain kills his brother Abel. In this portion Crow is being used as a weapon. Additionally, the presence of Cain and Abel in the poem sets the stage for an intricate commentary about the way white men and women treat one another and the role made for Native Americans in this narrative.
The narrative follows crow as he is taken advantage of and abused by a falcon, a metaphor for the white men at the time.
The poem continues on, passing more commentary on the way that white men use the bible to justify their actions. Native Americans are placed in the battle of Jericho, and are born into the ashes of the fallen city. This is to represent past and future, as further represented in the following stanzas.
Alexie’s states that the Crow is able , through the collection of beer bottles, to make 5 cents at a time. This miniscule amount is gained through the suffering of the population, many of whom are afflicted with alcoholism, and the suffering of Crow who is only able to take one bottle at a time.
The poem ends with the Crow riding into a powwow on a pale horse. He is now representing Death, as represented in Revelations. No one is shocked to see him, it is as if it has been known from the beginning that “Death” is how their world would end.
My personal favorite poem from Counting Descent, “For the Taxi Cabs that Pass Me in Harvard Square”, is loaded with various writing techniques, and has some of Smith’s best storytelling. The general summary of the piece is Clint reflecting on an experience he had with taxi cabs whilst attending Harvard, and how his thought process worked in the moment. The insight Clint gives into his mind while experiencing such a moment creates character, and further develops his outlook on life.
Some of the more noticeable uses of poetic writing techniques were the use of Enjambment and Anaphora. Enjambment came into play during the multiple stanzas throughout the poem. It made the idea of this being a train of thought much more plausible, as ideas are generally convoluted while we are thinking of them. This makes the reading much more personal in my eyes, and adds to the authenticity of the reflection. Anaphora came into play during the multiple clauses before the aforementioned stanzas . This made the repetitive experience of the taxi cabs passing him much more annoying, and presents us with just how he felt during the the experience. He felt frustrated. Frustrated enough to count out each one that passed him, each on leaving a different imprint on him, and a different reflection.
"When the sixth cab passes you,
imagine yourself a puddle
existing as both transparency
& filth. Something that won't be there
by the afternoon."
This is the clause that i feel summarizes what exactly Smith's reflection on the scenario was. He felt like nothing more then a puddle, a ghost, to the drivers who chose to ignore and drive past him. And despite that feeling being in the moment, it is a feeling that many people have throughout their life. A mix of sadness and anger, but also confusion. But the worse part is that it truly doesn't have an answer. What caused those drivers to drive past will never be understood, but it can be reflected on.
My personal favorite clause is:
“When the fourth cab passes you,
Think of 5th grade. Mrs. Capperson holding
all the boys in for recess to tell us if we don’t
get tattoos, grow out our hair, pierce our ears,
sag our pants everything will be alright.’’
Not only does it have some of the best insight into how Smith’s outlook on his earlier education affected him, it shows how his mind works. It tells us Smith is man with a rich insight on life, and even with poor influence in his younger education, he can still look back on it. Although that look back might not be on a good memory, in a sense it had a more important affect on him later on in life. Not only did it open his eyes to discrimination and stereotypes, it showed him how not to let negative moments hurt him. Your mind and life will be much more easy living if they're not clouded with thought. The stanza captures that idea perfectly, as well as the rest of the poem.
1. i like movies. like a lot. i've wanted to be a film director since i was 5. i wont say im a a genius on film, but it is most definitely something i love and consider a hobby.
2. some of my favorite films are la la land, 12 angry men, amadeus, the diving bell and the butterfly, dunkirk, and like 100 other movies
3. although i don't love it quite as much as film, music is also something i consider a hobby of mine. i don't have many preferences, and honestly if something sounds nice i like it. i do sway towards hip-hop and electronic music the most tho.
4. some of my favorite artists right now are denzel curry, the cure, travis scott, brockhampton, sza, playboi carti, and a ton more
5. i love writing for both film and music. whether it be a script for a hypothetical film, or lyrics for a hypothetical song
6. my sense of humor is very flat and is sometimes not taken as a j0ke. that's mostly my fault but it makes for a lot of awkward conversations.
7. i work at domino's and it's mad stressful some days. you don't get breaks
8. i went to private school up until high school and not sure if im happy or sad about that. i heard public middle school was sorta bad but honestly i forget mostly all of private school. sorta like a fever dream of sorts.
9. im genuinely unsure of where i want to go to college. i used to only want to attend colleges in california, but now wvu seems like the perfect choice for me.
10. my biggest insecurity is my baggy eyes. i've had them since i was a kid but still i feel like there's something i can do to help em, despite it being mostly hereditary