Jean Toomer: Poems Poem Text

Jean Toomer: Poems Poem Text

Her Lips Are Copper Wire

whisper of yellow globes

gleaming on lamp-posts that sway

like bootleg licker drinkers in the fog

and let your breath be moist against me

like bright beads on yellow globes

telephone the power-house

that the main wires are insulate

(her words play softly up and down

dewy corridors of billboards)

then with your tongue remove the tape

and press your lips to mine

till they are incandescent

A Poem From Transatlantic

Stretch sea

Stretch away sea and land

We are following thee

Thy lead is dangerous

And glorius

Stretch thyself and us

And make us live

To mount the ladder of horizons

Until we step upon the radiant plateau.

A Portrait in Georgia

Hair-braided chestnut,

coiled like a lyncher's rope,


Lips-old scars, or the first red blisters,

Breath-the last sweet scent of cane,

And her slim body, white as the ash

of black flesh after flame.

Banking Coal

Whoever it was who brought the first wood and coal
To start the Fire, did his part well;
Not all wood takes to fire from a match,
Nor coal from wood before it’s burned to charcoal.
The wood and coal in question caught a flame
And flared up beautifully, touching the air
That takes a flame from anything.

Somehow the fire was furnaced,
And then the time was ripe for some to say,
“Right banking of the furnace saves the coal.”
I’ve seen them set to work, each in his way,
Though all with shovels and with ashes,
Never resting till the fire seemed most dead;
Whereupon they’d crawl in hooded night-caps
Contentedly to bed. Sometimes the fire left alone
Would die, but like as not spiced tongues
Remaining by the hardest on till day would flicker up,
Never strong, to anyone who cared to rake for them.
But roaring fires never have been made that way.
I’d like to tell those folks that one grand flare
Transferred to memory tissues of the air
Is worth a like, or, for dull minds that turn in gold,
All money ever saved by banking coal.


African Guardian of Souls,
Drunk with rum,
Feasting on strange cassava,
Yielding to new words and a weak palabra
Of a white-faced sardonic god--
Grins, cries
Shouts hosanna.

Cotton Song

Come, brother, come. Lets lift it;
come now, hewit! roll away!
Shackles fall upon the Judgment Day
But lets not wait for it.
God's body's got a soul,
Bodies like to roll the soul,
Cant blame God if we dont roll,
Come, brother, roll, roll!
Cotton bales are the fleecy way,
Weary sinner's bare feet trod,
Softly, softly to the throne of God,
"We aint agwine t wait until th Judgment Day!
Nassur; nassur,
Eoho, eoho, roll away!
We aint agwine to wait until th Judgment Day!"
God's body's got a soul,
Bodies like to roll the soul,
Cant blame God if we dont roll,
Come, brother, roll, roll!

Evening Song

Full moon rising on the waters of my heart,
Lakes and moon and fires,
Cloine tires,
Holding her lips apart.

Promises of slumber leaving shore to charm the moon,
Miracle made vesper-keeps,
Cloine sleeps,
And I'll be sleeping soon.

Cloine, curled like the sleepy waters whtere the moonwaves start,
Radiant, resplendently she gleams,
Cloine dreams,
Lips pressed against my heart.

For M.W.

There is no transcience of twilight in
The beauty of your soft dusk-dimpled face,
No flicker of a slender flame in space,
In crucibles, fragility crystalline.
There is no fragrance of the jessamine
About you, no pathos of some old place
At dusk, that crumbles like moth-eater lace
Beneath the touch. Nor has there ever been.

Your love is like the folk-song's flaming rise
In cane-lipped southern people, like their soul
Which burst its bondage in a bold travail;
Your voice is like them singing, soft and wise,
Your face, sweetly efflgent of the whole,
Inviolate of ways that would feile.

Georgia Dusk

The sky, lazily disdaining to pursue
The setting sun, too indolent to hold
A lengthened tournament for flashing gold,
Passively darkens for night's barbeque,

A feast of moon and men and barking hounds.
An orgy for some genius of the South
With blood-hot eyes and cane-lipped scented mouth,
Surprised in making folk-songs from soul sounds.

The sawmill blows its whistle, buzz-saws stop,
And silence breaks the bud of knoll and hill,
Soft settling pollen where plowed lands fulfill
Their early promise of a bumper crop.

Smoke from the pyramidal sawdust pile
Curls up, blue ghosts of trees, tarrying low
Where only chips and stumps are left to show
The solid proof of former domicile.

Meanwhile, the men, with vestiges of pomp,
Race memories of king and caravan,
High-priests, an ostrich, and a juju-man,
Go singing through the footpaths of the swamp.

Their voices rise...the pine trees are guitars,
Strumming, pine-needles fall like sheets of rain..
Their voices rise...the chorus of the cane
Is caroling a vesper to the stars..

O singers, resinous and soft your songs
Above the sacred whisper of the pines,
Give virgin lips to cornfield concubines,
Being dreams of Christ to dusky cane-lipped throngs.

Harvest Song

I am a reaper whose muscles set at sundown. All my oats are cradled.
But I am too chilled, and too fatigued to bind them.
And I hunger.

I crack a grain between my teeth. I do not taste it.
I have been in the fields all day. My throat is dry.
I hunger.

My eyes are caked with dust of oatfields at harvest-time.
I am a blind man who stares across the hills, seeking stack'd fields of other harvesters.

It would be good to see them . . crook'd, split, and iron-ring'd handles of the scythes. It would be good to see them, dust-caked and blind. I hunger.

(Dusk is a strange fear'd sheath their blades are dull'd in.)
My throat is dry. And should I call, a cracked grain like the oats...eoho--

I fear to call. What should they hear me, and offer me their grain, oats, or wheat, or corn? I have been in the fields all day. I fear I could not taste it. I fear knowledge of my hunger.

My ears are caked with dust of oatfields at harvest-time.
I am a deaf man who strains to hear the calls of other harvesters whose throats are also dry.

It would be good to hear their songs . . reapers of the sweet-stalk'd cane, cutters of the corn...even though their throats cracked and the strangeness of their voices deafened me.

I hunger. My throat is dry. Now that the sun has set and I am chilled, I fear to call. (Eoho, my brothers!)

I am a reaper. (Eoho!) All my oats are cradled.
But I am too fatigued to bind them. And I hunger.
I crack a grain. It has no taste to it.
My throat is dry...

O my brothers, I beat my palms, still soft, against the stubble of my harvesting. (You beat your soft palms, too.) My pain is sweet. Sweeter than the oats or wheat or corn. It will not bring me knowledge of my hunger.

November Cotton Flower

Boll-weevil's coming, and the winter's cold,
Made cotton-stalks look rusty, seasons old,
And cotton, scarce as any southern snow,
Was vanishing; the branch, so pinched and slow,
Failed in its function as the autumn rake;
Drouth fighting soil had caused the soil to take
All water from the streams; dead birds were found
In wells a hundred feet below the ground--
Such was the season when the flower bloomed.
Old folks were startled, and it soon assumed
Significance. Superstition saw
Something it had never seen before:
Brown eyes that loved without a trace of fear,
Beauty so sudden for that time of year.

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