At the Pond

One summer
I went every morning
to the edge of a pond where
a huddle of just-hatched geese

would paddle to me
and clamber
up the marshy slope
and over my body,

peeping and staring —
such sweetness every day
which the grown ones watched,
for whatever reason,

serenely.
Not there, however, but here
is where the story begins.
Nature has many mysteries,

some of them severe.
Five of the young geese grew
heavy of chest and
bold of wing

while the sixth waited and waited
in its gauze-feathers, its body
that would not grow.
And then it was fall.

And this is what I think
everything is all about:
the way
I was glad

for those five and two
that flew away,
and the way I hold in my heart the wingless one
that had to stay.

Mary Oliver has received numerous awards. Her fourth book, American Primitive, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984. She has also received the Shelley Memorial Award; a Guggenheim Fellowship; an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Achievement Award; the Christopher Award and the L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award for House of Light; the National Book Award for New and Selected Poems; a Lannan Foundation Literary Award; and the New England Booksellers Association Award for Literary Excellence. Oliver’s essays have appeared in Best American Essays 1996, 1998, 2001; the Anchor Essay Annual 1998, as well as Orion, Onearth and other periodicals. Oliver was editor of Best American Essays 2009. She has been awarded Honorary Doctorates from The Art Institute of Boston (1998), Dartmouth College (2007) and Tufts University (2008). Oliver currently lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts, the inspiration for much of her work.