By Joyelle McSweeney Joyelle McSweeney
Leaf-keep, un-sibyl; if the soul
Has the weight of a swallow, what less
Has the weight of a sip? You equal
This riddle, unposed in your dish
As a hand at rest in a lap. Held to,
You hold back what can't be
Prevented, what's no more palatable
For that: the unfine; formerly, our future.

Source: Poetry (July 1999).


This poem originally appeared in the July 1999 issue of Poetry magazine

July 1999
 Joyelle  McSweeney


Joyelle McSweeney was born in Boston and spent most of her childhood in suburban Philadelphia. She has a BA from Harvard University; an MPhil in English studies from Oxford University, where she was a Marshall Scholar; and an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

McSweeney’s collections of poetry include The Red Bird (2002), winner of the 2001 Fence Modern Poetry Series, and The Commandrine and Other Poems (2004). . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Eating & Drinking, Philosophy, Activities

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Epigram, Metaphor

Report a problem with this poem

Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.