Published on Academy of American Poets (

Fire Warnings

So much on the verge
of flame.
In a hot
wind anything
is tinder: paper, sage

feverish with bees,
your auburn
hair, my hand
that glows with a thought.

or sleepless dawn,
nothing is sure
but what’s already burned—
water that’s ash, steel
that has flowed and cooled,

though in the core
of a star, they too
would fuse and rage,
and even volcanic
glass and char,

and the cold seas,
and even    
what we once were
might burn again—
or in the heart.


Copyright © 2016 by James Richardson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 10, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“A fairly large part of me wishes that poems could be purely lyric and not contemporary, using the same 200 words over and over to say, over and over, the same old things. That part wrote this little poem about desire (well, maybe except for the stuff about nuclear fusion). The precipitous lines, with their lightly hit rhymes, are the mood itself, ‘on the verge.’”
—James Richardson


James Richardson

James Richardson is the author of During (Copper Canyon Press, 2016).

Date Published: 2016-05-10

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