You do not have to bear Mary Oliver’s lines on your shoulders
and squirm in deference to the Wild Geese.
It’s up to you to make your own goodness work for you
in the same way a bird of prey decides on its right moment to strike,
just as a cobra knows it does not have to visit venom on every passer-by.
You are authorised to be you.
Your God has made you the writer you are
– no matter whether you glow with pride
or hide with embarrassed sigh
– no matter whether your mother was over-bearing or underwhelming,
your father sarcastic or kind.
You do not have to be right at prayer or confession.
no neutrino too stout.
No atomic particle is bound to be accurate.
Mr Immediate Past President, for example,
you do not have to be dim.
Your light will fade,
your voice box fail,
your hair fall out
– in the end –
no matter how hard you try
to own the game,
to cook the books,
to fire the world.
As you’ve always known,
you do not have to be right or good
to succeed at being you.
Witness the berberis,
and your face in the mirror.