Evening Poetry, February 18

The Riders

by Mary Oliver

When the Pony Express needed

riders, it advertised

a preference for orphans–

that way, no one was likely

to ask questions when the carriers failed

to arrive, or the frightened ponies

stumbled in with their dead

from the flanks of the prairies.

This detail from our country’s past

has no particular significance–it is only

a footnote. There were plenty

of orphans and the point of course

was to get the mail through, so the theory

was sound. And besides,

think of those rough, lean boys–

how light and hard they would ride

fleeing the great loneliness.

You can find this in Swan: Poems and Prose Poems.

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