Reapers

- 1894-1967

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 the ground. I see the blade,
Blood-stained, continue cutting weeds and shade.

More by Jean Toomer

Prayer

My body is opaque to the soul.
Driven of the spirit, long have I sought to temper it unto the
        spirit’s longing, 
But my mind, too, is opaque to the soul. 
A closed lid is my soul’s flesh-eye. 
O Spirits of whom my soul is but a little finger,
Direct it to the lid of its flesh-eye.
I am weak with much giving. 
I am weak with the desire to give more. 
(How strong a thing is the little finger!)
So weak that I have confused the body with the soul, 
And the body with the little finger. 
(How frail is the little finger.)
My voice could not carry to you did you dwell in stars, 
O Spirits of whom my soul is but a little finger . . . 
 

Conversion

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

Face

Hair—
silver-gray, 
like streams of stars, 
Brows—
recurved canoes
quivered by the ripples blown by pain, 
Her eyes—
mist of tears
condensing on the flesh below
And her channeled muscles
are cluster grapes of sorrow
purple in the evening sun
nearly ripe for worms.