The Pond, by Mary Oliver

    August of another summer, and once again

    I am drinking the sun

    and the lilies again are spread across the water.

    I know now what they want is to touch each other.

    I have not been here for many years

    during which time I kept living my life.

    Like the heron, who can only croak, who wishes he

    could sing,

    I wish I could sing.

    A little thanks from every throat would be appropriate.

    This is how it has been, and this is how it is:

    All my life I have been able to feel happiness,

    except whatever was not happiness,

    which I also remember.

    Each of us wears a shadow.

    But just now it is summer again

    and I am watching the lilies bow to each other,

    then slide on the wind and the tug of desire,

    close, close to one another,

    Soon now, I’ll turn and start for home.

    And who knows, maybe I’ll be singing.

    Mary Oliver’s beautiful poem, The Pond, comes from her collection Felicity, which was initially published in 2015.

    I’ve only recently gotten into poetry, so I’m not quite familiar with the works of Mary Oliver; however, this poem caught my eye as I find that it beautifully captures human existence using nature as an allegory.

    To me, The Pond is also about appreciating the transience of happiness. In other words, much like how happiness comes and goes, summer is also cyclical and seasonal. Summer has the brightest, warmest, and longest days of all seasons. With its advent, Ms. Oliver reminisces about drinking its sun, which is to say that she is happy.

    She also contrasts the symbolism about happiness and summer with the shadows that we all wear. As Ms. Oliver says, “Each of us wears a shadow.” I interpret this line to signify that even during the summertime, we carry shadows, symbolizing unhappiness. In other words, we cannot have happiness without sadness.

    In the poem, Ms Oliver also compares herself to the dichotomy of a crane with a croaking voice. A crane is elegant, beautiful, yet it croaks, but she wishes she could sing. A beautiful crane, which is another facet of summer, or happiness, contrasts with its croaking voice, which is another facet of the shadows of unhappiness. She wishes she could be happy without cycle, or succinctly, to know happiness without casting a shadow. An elegant crane that also sings is an embodiment of this wish.

    Within the first few lines of the poem, Ms. Oliver also realizes that the lilies that are spread out over the pond have been trying to touch one another. I interpret this as how we, similar to the lilies, are always attempting to touch the world. We are constantly trying to navigate the world, touching the nature that surrounds us, as well as each other. For all of our cruel, kind, wretched, and sometimes beautiful ways, we have only ever been trying to connect with each other..

    Overall, it’s a beautiful poem that speaks to the complexities of humanity and human emotions.

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