Let your body love what it loves

Posted by Censor Librorum on Sep 15, 2007 | Categories: Lesbian in a Catholic Sort of Way

I was introduced to the poet Mary Oliver by a guide I met on Maui. She loved Oliver since her poetry stressed our connection to animals and the earth. Since that is a theme that resonates in me, too, I picked up a couple of books of her poems when I got back home. One of them was “Dream Work.” After reading them I thought, “she’s a nature poet.” However, I placed her writing on my bookshelves dedicated to spirituality and faith.

I didn’t realize Mary Oliver was a lesbian until I read about the death of her life partner, Mary Malone Cook. They were together from the late ’50s until Cook died in 2005. Oliver and Cook lived together for decades, mostly in Provincetown, MA where they owned the East End Bookshop.

Though Oliver revealed her deepest longings for connection to the earth and its creatures in her poetry, she never said much about her personal life. Only in 1993, when she accepted the National Book Award for her 8th volume of poetry, New and Selected Poems, did she publicly acknowledge Cook as “the light of my life.”

Her poem, “Wild Geese,” is the closest mention I interpreted of lgbt desires and dreams:

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.

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.

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