Thursday, November 1, 2012

November Cotton Flower


Boll-weevil’s coming, and the winter’s cold,
Made cotton-stalks look rusty, seasons old,
And cotton, scarce as any southern snow,
Was vanishing; the branch, so pinched and slow,
Failed in its function as the autumn rake;
Drouth fighting soil had caused the soil to take
All water from the streams; dead birds were found
In wells a hundred feet below the ground—
Such was the season when the flower bloomed.
Old folks were startled, and it soon assumed
Significance. Superstition saw
Something it had never seen before:
Brown eyes that loved without a trace of fear,
Beauty so sudden for that time of year.


— Jean Toomer


Jean Toomer (1894-1967) eschewed labels of being black or white. He preferred to be called American. His first book of poetry, Cane published in 1923 is his best known work and speaks to life in agricultural Georgia, the industrialized North and concludes with the prose piece Kabnis. November Cotton Flower is an example of the poems to be found in the first section of Cane.

Though he was associated with the Harlem Renaissance, Toomer distanced himself from that label. Toomer's last published piece of poetry in his lifetime was Blue Meridian in 1950. A volume of poetry, fiction and autobiographical writings was published posthumously as The Wayward and the Seeking in 1980.