Cane

“White folks feed it cause their looks are words. Niggers, black niggers feed it cause theyre evil an their looks are words. Yallar niggers feed it. This whole damn bloated purple country feeds it cause its goin down t hell in a holy avalanche of words.”

Toomer, Jean. “Kabnis.” Cane. New York: Liveright, 2011. 152. Print.

Cane- 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.”

When addressing a controversial, hotbed topic, many poor writer will skate around it. Not Toomer. He cuts straight to the bone, using powerful, violent imagery to portray the South, and the way it treats African-Americans. This could just as easily be called Portrait of the South

Cane: 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.”

This poem is a description of black life. Toomer presents features of a body that are neutral — call these shared properties (each person, regardless of race, bares the above properties). After listing a shared property, the poem comments on black ontology. The nature of being black is being unable to escape violence. To be black, this poem suggests, is to confront violence.   

Cane “Becky”

“When the first was born, the white folks said they’d have no more to do with her. And black folks, they too joined hands to cast her out.”

Toomer, Jean. “Becky.” Cane. New York: Liveright, 2011. 8. Print.

Becky is ostracized by both black and white members of her community for having two black sons. Becky’s seclusion stems directly from the social limitations in the south in 1923.

Cane – Kabnis

“White folks feed it cause their looks are words. Niggers, black niggers feed it cause theyre evil an their looks are words. Yallar niggers feed it. This whole damn bloated purple country feeds it cause its goin down t hell in a holy avalanche of words. I want t feed th soul – I know what that is; th preachers don’t – but I’ve got t feed it. I wish t God some lynchin white man ud stick his knife through it an pin it to a tree. Am pin it to a tree. You hear me? That’s a wish f y, you little snot-nosed pups who’ve been makin fun of me, an fakin that I’m weak. Me, Ralph Kabnis weak. Ha.” (152)

Toomer, Jean. “Kabnis.” Cane. New York: Liveright, 2011. 152. Print.