The Journey, a poem by Mary Oliver

I find that many people ‘shape shift’ their lives to meet the expectations of others. That may be a short term personal gratification strategy, but it’s not one for the long haul. In the end you lose who you are, and it may take a while for your GPS to recalculate.

The Friday poem is ‘The Journey’ by Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Mary Oliver. The poem is included in the collection, ‘New and Selected Poems, Volume One’ published in 1992 and recognized with the National Book Award.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver, 1986  First published in Dream Work, Atlantic Monthly Press. Reprinted in New and Selected Poems, Volume One, Beacon Press.

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