Is it Tuesday? Every Tuesday a new poem appears in the box and on the blog.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Poem 16 Kate Lynn Hibbard

"Sweet Weight" by Kate Lynn Hibbard

This poem is a beautiful celebration of the female body and a sort of joyful lamentation (if that’s possible) at the process of aging.  And while the poem is clearly situated in a woman’s body—the epigraph from Sexton’s poem makes this clear—it is also a celebration of women’s lives and the ferocity of the life force.

The poem begins with an image of a breast.  Or is it a peach?  In its sweetness and its ripeness it is both.  This notion of ripeness is important throughout the poem.  The speaker later on states “the sweet weight of sugar/ beneath the skin draws the berry down/to the ground.”  Here again fruit is a metaphor for the body.  But most important is its ripeness; fruit is sweetest when it’s heavy with sugar, when it is no longer young and firm.  In this same way, the poem argues, the very process of aging is a process of ripening.  We see the sweetness accumulating in the bones, in the hips, in the “moons/ in every woman’s face,” and in the “sweet weight/of our need.” This ripening is an embrace of life, not a passive decline.

But it is also a process that leads us toward death.  The sugar draws the berry “to the ground.”  In the next line, we have, for the first and only time in the poem, a first-person statement from the speaker.  She says, “Sweet weight of the skin/ on the back of my hand, falling faster/toward the bone.” This acknowledgment of change within her own body and the move toward a time when the speaker will die is mediated by the beauty of the natural process she observes and lives.  In a culture that so strongly urges women to be young and thin until they die, this speaker instead celebrates the beauty of weight and the passage of time as processes that enrich and satisfy.  If we let them.

I must talk about the music in this poem.  Hibbard is singing her lament, which makes it joyful, and in fact makes it a song.  We hear the long “o” sounds of grief throughout—globe, chosen, bone, oceans, repose, hope, O—and we feel the longing within them.  But as they accumulate, they become a sort of prayer, too.  They move so slowly across the page that we must savor their sounds in our mouths like the sweet, ripe fruit we also find here.  The word ‘sweet’ is repeated six times.  It too is a word of long vowel, a slow word to say, especially when paired with the equally slow “weight.”  All those open sounds, the wonderful “w’s” create in their music the tension that exists in the poem:  we all move toward death.  But that story is not necessarily only a sad one.  In fact, in this beautiful poem, the process becomes art.

Sweet Weight
                                    Sweet weight,/in celebration of the woman I am
                                                Anne Sexton, “In Celebration of My Uterus”

Yes, of a breast, a peach lifted
in the hand, the fragrant globe chosen
from a plush pile of sweetness. 
Sweet weight lifted from the tension
of gravity, how sweet the hips are
to rise up and take it, to lift us upright,
our big heads balanced like globes
on tiny sticks.  The many moons
in every woman’s face.  O moon
of eye and moon of mouth, the perfect
oh of a rose.  Sweet weight
of a body in repose, limbs dense
with sleep, weighted to the sheets
with dream.  The gravity of fluid pulled
from us like prayer, like tears and other
humours, energy of metal, of air
and meridians, our bodies full
of oceans and latitudes.  Meanwhile
the sweet weight of sugar
beneath the skin draws the berry down
to the ground.  Sweet weight of the skin
on the back of my hand, falling faster
toward the bone.  The flesh of the arms
sloping away but close enough
to remember.  The hope of bone
and the glow of bone, the sweet weight
of our need. All our lives long
spent spilling toward earth
that rises to claim us again, and again. 

You can find information about Kate Lynn's forthcoming book, Sweet Weight, at 

Or go to her blog:

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