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Jean Toomer: Additional Poems

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 to-night, 
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 profligate of pines, 
Now just 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. 

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 

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.

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