The Coming of Night

(In the city)

The sun is near set 
And the tall buildings 
Become teeth 
Tearing bloodily at the sky’s throat;
The blank wall by my window
Becomes night sky over the marches 
When there is no moon, and no wind, 
And little fishes splash in the pools.

I had lit my candle to make a song for you, 
But I have forgotten it for I am very tired;
And the candle … a yellow moth …
Flutters, flutters, 
Deep in my brain. 
My song was about, ‘a foreign lady
Who was beautiful and sad, 
Who was forsaken, and who died 
A thousand years ago.’
But the cracked cup at my elbow,
With dregs of tea in it, 
Fixes my tired thought more surely 
Than the song I made for you and forgot …
That I might give you this. 

I am tired. 

I am so tired
That my soul is a great plain 
Made desolate,
And the beating of a million hearts 
Is but the whisper of night winds
Blowing across it. 


This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 16, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“The Coming of Night” appears in Others: An Anthology of the New Verse, edited by Alfred Kreymborg and published in 1917 by Alfred A Knopf. Skipwith Cannell’s poetry is anthologized alongside that of Mary Carolyn Davies, Jeanne D’Orge, T. S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, and others. His work has also been anthologized alongside that of Amy Lowell, William Carlos Williams, and Ezra Pound, in the first anthology of Imagist poets, published in 1914, Des Imagistes: An Anthology, edited by Pound. In the spring of 1957, The Kenyon Review published “Imagism and Poetesses” by British poet and essayist Al Alvarez, in which he wrote: “Literary historians often play the game of Coincidences; they point out how the great outburst of Elizabethan talent followed the defeat of the [Spanish] Armada, how the Romantic movement followed the French Revolution, and so on. Yet, so far as I know, no one has yet remarked [on] how the rise of the Imagist movement in England at least coincided with the enfranchisement of women. Only at this decent remove have we the hindknowledge [sic] to see that it was, in fact, no coincidence. For Imagism was the first full-scale feminist movement in poetry.”