Published on Academy of American Poets (

The Snow Leopard Mother

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.

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


Jennifer K. Sweeney

Jennifer K. Sweeney is the author of Little Spells (New Issues Press, 2015); How to Live on Bread and Music (Perugia Press, 2009), winner of the 2009 James Laughlin Award and the 2009 Perugia Press Prize; and Salt Memory (Main Street Rag, 2006), winner of the 2006 Main Street Rag Poetry Award. She lives in California.

Date Published: 2014-06-27

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