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About this Poem 

“I’ve often thought about the way we are compelled to fill in our narratives before they happen, and our sense of future becomes shaded by fixed ideas about what we’ve determined is possible. Then something entirely large and unimagined enters—recovery, love, grief, illness—the security/burden of ‘futuring’ is suddenly relieved, and we are returned to knowing so little. This, to me, is levity. It was summer in the desert, and in poetry’s mysterious way, there was the snow leopard mother appearing as my archetype for this shift.”

—Jennifer K. Sweeney

The Snow Leopard Mother

Jennifer K. Sweeney

The snow leopard mother runs straight
down the mountain.
Elk cliff. Blizzard.
Hammers keening
into the night.
Her silence and wild
falling is a compass
of hunger and memory. Breath
prints on the carried-away body.
This is how it goes so far away
from our ripening grapes and lime,
coyote eyes rimming the canyon.
we paddle out in our ice boat
headed toward no future at last.
O tired song of what we thought,
stillness crouches like a prow.
We break the ice gently forward.
If I want to cling to anything
then this quiet of being the last
to know about our lives.

Copyright @ 2014 by Jennifer K. Sweeney. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on June 27, 2014.

Jennifer K. Sweeney

Jennifer K. Sweeney

by this poet

The Himalayan legend says
there are beautiful white birds
that live completely in flight.
They are born in the air,

must learn to fly before falling
and die also in their flying.
Maybe you have been born
into such a life

with the bottom dropping out.
Maybe gravity is claiming you
and you feel
Stupidity helps.
Naiveté that your hands will undo
what does perfectly without you.
My husband and I made the decision
not to stop until the task was done,
the small anemic tree made room
for something prettier.
We’d pulled before, pale hand over wide hand,
a marriage of pulling toward us what we wanted,
On average, odd years have been the best for me.

I’m at a point where everyone I meet looks like a version
of someone I already know.

Without fail, fall makes me nostalgic for things I’ve never experienced.

The sky is molting. I don’t know
if this is global warming or if the atmosphere is reconfiguring