Two Poems by Jean Toomer



Black reapers with the sound of steel on stones
Are sharpening scythes. I see them place the hones
In their hip-pockets as a thing that’s done,
And start their silent swinging, one by one.
Black horses drive a mower through the weeds,
And there, a field rat, startled, squealing bleeds,
His belly close to ground. I see the blade,
Blood-stained, continue cutting weeds and shade.



To those fixed on white,
White is white,
To those fixed on black,
It is the same,
And red is red,
Yellow, yellow—
Surely there are such sights
In the many colored world,
Or in the mind.
The strange thing is that
These people never see themselves
Or you, or me.

Are they not in their minds?
Are we not in the world?
This is a curious blindness
For those that are color blind.
What queer beliefs
That men who believe in sights
Disbelieve in seers.

O people, if you but used
Your other eyes
You would see beings.


Cover image by Takeshi Kawai.

About the Author:

Jean Toomer (1894-1967) is the author of the play “Natalie Mann” (1922), the classic modern novel Cane (1923), Essentials: Definitions and Aphorisms (1931), the long poem “Blue Meridian,” An Interpretation of Friends Worship (1947), The Flavor of Man (1949), and Problems of Civilization (1929, co-authored with Ellsworth Huntington, Whiting Williams, and others).