“On the Pulse of Morning” doesn’t take place in a single location. Instead, the poem offers an imaginative projection of the entire United States. Although at first it may appear that the speaker speaks of the earth in general, they make several references that locate the setting more specifically. For instance, they reference several Native American tribes, including the Sioux, Cherokee, Pawnee, Apache, and Seneca. Additionally, the speaker addresses the specific histories of European and Middle Eastern migration to the New World, as well as of African enslavement there (lines 63–66):

     You, the Turk, the Arab, the Swede, the German, the Eskimo, the Scot,
     You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought,
     Sold, stolen, arriving on the nightmare
     Praying for a dream.

The specific references to migration and slavery in these lines firmly locate the poem in the United States. Just as the poem takes place in an imaginative projection of the United States, it’s also set at an abstract moment in time. As its title indicates, the poem takes place “on the pulse of morning,” which is to say, on the cusp of a new day. Dawn is a transitional time that symbolizes hope and possibility for the day to come. The poem is therefore set in an abstract present, with an anticipatory sense of a better future soon to come.