Jean Toomer's Writings
Most of these works are unpublished. At Waldo Frank's suggestion, Toomer took two poems out of Cane before its publication. He later regretted the action. The poems were For M. W. and . The rest of the poems below appear elsewhere..
poetry below - essays (click)
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.
A poem from Transatlantic
Note: Transatlantic  was Toomer's last and most ambitious novel in which he attempted to give the most extensive treatment of his theme of human development
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.
Full moon rising on the waters of my heart,
Lakes and moon and fires,
Holding her lips apart.
Promises of slumber leaving shore to charm
Miracle made vesper-keeps,
And I'll be sleeping soon.
Cloine, curled like the sleepy waters whtere
the moonwaves start,
Radiant, resplendently she gleams,
Lips pressed against my heart.
A Certain Man unpublished self-observational poem from The Lives of Jean Toomer
A certain man wishes to be a prince Of this earth; he also wants to be A saint and master of the being-world. Conscience cannot exist in the first: The second cannot exist without conscience. Therefore he, who has enough conscience To be disturbed but not enough to be Compelled, can neither reject the one Nor follow the other . . .
The Lost Dancer from The Collected Poems of Jean Toomer
Spatial depths of being survive The birth to death recurrences Of feet dancing on earth of sand; Vibrations of the dance survive The sand; the sand, elect, survives The dancer. He can find no source Of magic adequate to bind The sand upon his feet, his feet Upon his dance, his dance upon The diamond body of his being.
Unsuspecting from The Collected Poems of Jean Toomer
There is a natty kind of mind That slicks its thoughts, Culls its oughts, Trims its views, Prunes its trues, And never suspects it is a rind.
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, Hump. 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!
People fromThe Collected Poems of Jean Toomer
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.
Tell Me Tell me, dear beauty of the dusk, When purple ribbons bind the hill, Do dreams your secret wish fulfill, Do prayers, like kernels from the husk Come from your lips? Tell me if when The mountains loom at night, giant shades Of softer shadow, swift like blades Of grass seeds come to flower. Then Tell me if the night winds bend Them towards me, if the Shenandoah As it ripples past your shore, Catches the soul of what you send.
Song of the Son Pour O pour that parting soul in song O pour it in the sawdust glow of night Into the velvet pine-smoke air tonight, And let the valley carry it along. And let the valley carry it along. O land and soil, red soil and sweet-gum tree, So scant of grass, so proligate of pines, Now hust before an epoch's sun declines Thy son, in time, I have returned to thee, Thy son, I have in time returned to thee. In time, for though the sun is setting on A song-lit race of slaves, it has not set; Though late, O soil, it is not too late yet To catch thy plaintive soul, leaving, soon gone, Leaving, to catch thy plaintive soul soon gone. O Negro slaves, dark purple ripened plums, Squeezed, and bursting in the pine-wood air, Passing, before they stripped the old tree bare One plum was saved for me, one seed becomes an everlasting song, a singing tree, Caroling softly souls of slavery, What they were, and what they are to me, Caroling softly souls of slavery.
Reapers 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.
GEORGIA DUSK The sky, lazily disdaining to pursue The settling sun, too indolent to hold A lengthened tournament for flashing gold, Passively darkens for night's barbecue, 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 ploughed 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 fromer 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 footprints of the swamp. Their voices rise . . . the pine trees are guitars, Strumming, pine-needles fall like sheets of rain . . . There voices rise . . . the chorus of the cane Is carolling 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, Bring dreams of Christ to dusky cane-lipped throngs.
A Portrait in Georgia Hair-braided chestnut, coiled like a lyncher's rope, Eyes-fagots, 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.
Conversion 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 Amen, Shouts hosanna.
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
back to The Jean Toomer Pages
references and bibliography
aim for creatinmg these pages