Iron Poem by Elizabeth Acevedo Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English for Students


The poem “Iron” is written by Elizabeth Acevedo. The poem is a response to the videos of black people dying violently in the US.So, the poet has tried to put down the emotions of fear and love at the same time.

About the Poet:

Elizabeth Acevedo is a Dominican American writer and poet. She is known for her work The Poet X, which won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Some of her famous works include With the Fire on High, Clap When You Land

About the poem:

The poet has shared her thoughts about living in a society with both fear and love. She has said in an interview that this poem is written after watching a video of black people dying in the US. The poet is against the domination of people against black people in the US.


The poem “Iron” is a free verse poem. The term free verse refers to the poem with no specific rhyme scheme or metre. Free verse forms are used mostly in narrative or descriptive poems. 

Point of view:

The poet is the speaker of the poem. The poem has 19 lines in total. So, the poem is written from a first person point of view. It can be seen in the following lines

And although I am a poet, I am not the bullet;

I will not heat-search the soft points

The word “I” justifies that the poem is written from a first person point of view.


The poet has used an iambic metre to write this poem. The poet has used a stressed syllable preceded by unstressed syllable but it does not follow a similar metre form.

Poem Analysis:

Line 1-2:

And although I am a poet, I am not the bullet;

I will not heat-search the soft points.

The poet begins the stanza by stating that though she is a poet, she is not the bullet. So, she will not search for the weak points in other’s bodies to utilise.

Lines 3-6:

I am not the coroner who will graze her hand

over naked knees. Who will swish her fingers

in the mouth. Who will flip the body over, her eye a hook

fishing for government-issued lead.

The poet states that she is not the coroner who holds the responsibility to investigate the sudden, violent or suspicious death. So, she is not ready to investigate and conclude the reason for the death. She also states she will not check the dead body for bullets. Through this stanza, she talks about the power of people against black people in the US.

Lines 7-8:

I am not the sidewalk, which is unsurprised

as another cheek scrapes harsh against it.

The poet says that she is not a sidewalk but it is her nature. So, she is not surprised by her nature. But, she feels bad for the way the powerful people treat the other people who seem to them as weak.

Lines 9-13:

Although I too enjoy soft palms on me;

enjoy when he rests on my body with a hard breath;

I have clasped

this man inside me and released him again and again,

listening to him die thousands of little deaths.

In this stanza, the poet says that in spite of all the violent actions taking place in life, she looks at the soft nature of human touch and enjoys it. Despite all the brutalities happening around the world, she couldn’t hate the human connections and love. She then talks about the nature of love. The poet has grasped the hands of love and released it again and again. In the last lines of this stanza, the poet talks about the burden of love, yet how we cherish every moment in it.

Line 14:

What is a good metaphor for a woman who loves in a time like this?

The poet has used a rhetorical question in this poem. She asks and informs readers that there is no good metaphor that could justify a woman who carries all the emotions and continues to love in all the situations.

Lines 15-19:

I am no scalpel or high thread count sheet. Not a gavel, or hand-painted teacup.

I am neither nor romanced by the streetlamp nor candlelight;

my hands are not an iron, but look, they're hot, look

how I place them in love on his skin

and am still able to unwrinkle his spine.

In the last lines of the poem, the poet has built contrasting images. She is not a scalpel (a knife with small, sharoness) or a high thread sheet. She is not a gavel (a small hammer) or teacup with a painting. She declares that she is not romanticised with the presence of candlelight or streetlamp. The poet says that she is not iron but carries the heat in her hands. When she places the hands in his skin she is able to smooth down his spine