Sign up to receive an unpublished poem every day in your inbox.
today's poet
Elinor Wylie
Elinor Wylie

Fire and Sleet and Candlelight

About this Poem 

“Fire and Sleet and Candlelight” was published in Nets to Catch the Wind (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1921).

Fire and Sleet and Candlelight

For this you’ve striven
    Daring, to fail:
Your sky is riven
    Like a tearing veil.

For this, you’ve wasted
    Wings of your youth;
Divined, and tasted
    Bitter springs of truth.

From sand unslakèd
    Twisted strong cords,
And wandered naked
    Among trysted swords.

There’s a word unspoken,
    A knot untied.
Whatever is broken
    The earth may hide.

The road was jagged
    Over sharp stones:
Your body’s too ragged
    To cover your bones.

The wind scatters
    Tears upon dust;
Your soul’s in tatters
    Where the spears thrust.

Your race is ended—
    See, it is run:
Nothing is mended
    Under the sun.

Straight as an arrow
    You fall to a sleep
Not too narrow
    And not too deep.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 20, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 20, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Donate Today

Classic Books of American Poetry

This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.


To Live in the Zombie Apocalypse

The moon will shine for God
knows how long.
As if it still matters. As if someone

is trying to recall a dream.
Believe the brain is a cage of light
& rage. When it shuts off,

something else switches on.
There’s no better reason than now
to lock the doors, the windows.

Turn off the sprinklers
& porch light. Save the books
for fire. In darkness,

we learn to read
what moves along the horizon,
across the periphery of a gun scope—

the flicker of shadows,
the rustling of trash in the body
of cities long emptied.

Not a soul lives
in this house &
this house & this

house. Go on, stiffen
the heart, quicken
the blood. To live

in a world of flesh
& teeth, you must
learn to kill

what you love,
& love what can die.

Burlee Vang

The Iraqi Nights

In Iraq,

after a thousand and one nights,

someone will talk to someone else.

Markets will open

for regular customers.

Small feet will tickle

the giant feet of the Tigris.

Gulls will spread their wings

and no one will fire at them.

Women will walk the streets

without looking back in fear.

Men will give their real names

without putting their lives at risk.

Children will go to school

and come home again.

Chickens in the villages

won’t peck at human flesh

on the grass.

Disputes will take place

without any explosives.

A cloud will pass over cars

heading to work as usual.

A hand will wave

to someone leaving

or returning.

The sunrise will be the same

for those who wake

and those who never will.

And every moment

something ordinary

will happen

under the sun.

Dunya Mikhail
Glacier National Park

Things We Carry on the Sea

We carry tears in our eyes: good-bye father, good-bye mother

We carry soil in small bags: may home never fade in our hearts

We carry names, stories, memories of our villages, fields, boats

We carry scars from proxy wars of greed

We carry carnage of mining, droughts, floods, genocides

We carry dust of our families and neighbors incinerated in mushroom clouds

We carry our islands sinking under the sea

We carry our hands, feet, bones, hearts and best minds for a new life

We carry diplomas: medicine, engineer, nurse, education, math, poetry, even if they mean nothing to the other shore

We carry railroads, plantations, laundromats, bodegas, taco trucks, farms, factories, nursing homes, hospitals, schools, temples…built on our ancestors’ backs

We carry old homes along the spine, new dreams in our chests

We carry yesterday, today and tomorrow

We’re orphans of the wars forced upon us

We’re refugees of the sea rising from industrial wastes

And we carry our mother tongues
爱(ai),حب  (hubb), ליבע (libe), amor, love

平安 (ping’an), سلام ( salaam), shalom, paz, peace 

希望(xi’wang), أمل (’amal), hofenung, esperanza, hope, hope, hope

As we drift…in our rubber boats…from shore…to shore…to shore…

Wang Ping

Lesson Plans for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

As part of your celebration of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month in May—and all year round—take a look at this collection of lesson plans featuring poems by Asian American and Pacific American poets.

AASL Best Website for Teaching & Learning

How Alone Barbie Chang's Mother

How alone Barbie Chang’s mother
     must have felt doing
nothing but dying her mother actually
     stopped dying her hair
in January stopped being an actuary
     for her money she
must have known her time was limited
     did the diseased birch
tree know they were going to cut it down
     how quickly the air
around it filled in the space it does no
     good to know a mother’s
face who would have known that a 
     mother’s face could
be erased too at some point we are all
     eliminated from this
earth at some point most of us give birth
     at some point we lose
a mother at some point we are all
     disappointments who
can’t possibly care for others when
     our mothers die we
are all lost and there are no words for
     it some want to
name us as grieving others wrongly
     name us heroes
Victoria Chang

Teach This Poem: The Classics

Teach This Poem is a weekly series featuring a poem from our online poetry collection, accompanied by interdisciplinary resources and activities designed to help K-12 teachers quickly and easily bring poetry into the classroom. The following lesson plans from this series feature poems by classic poets, including Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and more.



A Poet's Glossary

Read about poetic terms and forms from Edward Hirsch's A Poet's Glossary (Harcourt, 2014), a book ten years in the making that defines the art form of poetry.  



            Night time is the right time . . .
                  —Ray Charles and Margie Hendricks

She had me in the car. I came forward like a song.
We did it before temple, after temple, between prayers.
The windows echoed her mantras, our cries warmed the air.
Two peaks merged, then sank below the clouds.

We did it before temple, after temple, between prayers.
Her stomach began to show and people asked us not to come.
Two peaks merged, then sank below the clouds.
Night and day, everything was changing.

. . . . .

Her stomach began to show and people asked her not to come.
My mother was all alone when I was born.
Night and day. Everything was changing.
The radio started playing rhythm and blues.

My mother was all alone when I was born—
The windows echoed her mantras, our cries warmed the air,
The radio started playing rhythm and blues.
She had me in a car. I came forward like a song.
Duy Doan
Spring–Summer 2018 issue of American Poets