Reapers

By Jean Toomer 1894–1967 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.

Jean Toomer, “Reapers,” from Cane. Copyright 1923 by Boni & Liveright, renewed 1951 by Jean Toomer. Reprinted with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. This selection may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Source: Cane (1923)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Jean Toomer 1894–1967

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Subjects Race & Ethnicity, Jobs & Working, Social Commentaries, Nature, Animals, Activities

Poetic Terms Couplet

 Jean  Toomer

Biography

An important figure in African-American literature, Jean Toomer (1894—1967) was born in Washington, DC, the grandson of the first governor of African-American descent in the United States. A poet, playwright, and novelist, Toomer’s most famous work, Cane, was published in 1923 and was hailed by critics for its literary experimentation and portrayal of African-American characters and culture.

As a child, Toomer attended both . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Race & Ethnicity, Jobs & Working, Social Commentaries, Nature, Animals, Activities

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Poetic Terms Couplet

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.