The Colours of Cane

(a collage of colours and language from Cane, by Jean Toomer)

It had the sound of the red dust that sometimes makes a spiral in the road.
Pushed up where a blue sheen God with listless eyes could look at it
purple in the evening sun
nearly ripe for worms.
I leave the men around the stove to follow her with my eyes
down the red dust road.
The sun, which has been slanting over her shoulder,
shoots primitive rockets into her
mangrove-gloomed, yellow flower face.


O land and soil, red soil and sweet-gum tree,
O Negro slaves, dark purple ripened plums
Curls up, blue ghosts of trees, tarrying low.
Under a sweet-gum tree, and where reddish leaves had
dammed the creek a little, we sat down.
Dusk, suggesting the almost imperceptible
procession of giant trees,
settled with a purple haze about the cane.
Her mind is a pink meshbag filled with baby toes.
Lips — old scars, or the first red blisters,
Red  moon. Sinner!
Silk stockings an purple dresses
The full moon sank upward into the deep purple of the cloud-bank.
Red  moon. Sinner
The clear white of his skin paled, and the flush of his cheeks turned purple.
Sizzling heat welled up within him. His feet felt as if they rested on red-hot coals.
Blue flash, a steel blade slashed across Bob Stone’s throat.
Red moon. Sinner!
thrusting unconscious rhythms, black reddish blood into the white and whitewashed wood
ribbons of wet wood dry and blow away. Black reddish blood.
Stage-lights, soft, as if they shine through clear pink fingers.
Bushy, black hair bobbing about her lemon-coloured face. Her lips are
furiously full, and very red. Her limbs in silk purple stockings are lovely.
I’d get a pair of silk stockings out of it. Red silk. I got purple.
gown splashed with lemon ribbons.
Lights, soft, as if they shine through clear pink fingers.
Soft lights, and warm.
whisper of yellow globes
like bright beads on yellow globes
They are bluish and watery from reading newspapers. The blue is steel.
His fingers and his palms, pink in the lamplight, are glowing irons.
Her face is close to him. It is hot and blue and moist. Ugly.
a cross between a washerwoman and a blue-blood lady,
a washer-blue, a washer-lady,
an orange dress. Its colour would clash with the crimson box-draperies,
its colour would contradict the sweet rose smile her face is bathed in.
Pale purple shadows rest on the
planes of her cheeks. Deep purple comes from her
thick-shocked hair. Orange of the dress goes well with these.
O washer-blue!
She pulled up her dress and showed her pink drawers.
This dance of his blue-trousered limbs thrills her.
His red-brown face –
He is a harvest moon, He is an autumn leaf.
Gray slanting roofs of houses are tinted lavender in the setting sun
see the slanting roofs of gray unpainted cabins tinted lavender.
It is a healthy pink the blue of evening tints a purple pallor.
His bubbles, too, are curiously tinted purple as he watches them.
Art is a purple fluid, carbon-charged, that effervesces beside him,
this pale purple facsimile of a red-blooded Norwegian friend of his?
They are pink petals that fall upon velvet cloth. Black-hair curled staccato,
sharply contrasting with puffy yellow. White lights,
or as now, the pink lights of the Crimson Gardens
gave a glow and immediacy to white faces.
Into the Crimson Gardens. Would it look purple 
if he went out into the night and looked at it?
A girl dressed like a bareback rider in flaming pink,
makes her way through tables to the dance floor
for a man who wears blue pants on a gym floor in the daytime.
Water. Grow red about the rims.
She would like to tear away from him and dash across the clotted floor.
They know that the pink-faced people have no part in what they feel.
He sees the Gardens purple, as if he were way off. And a spot is
in the purple. The spot comes furiously towards him. Face of the black man.
That the Gardens are purple like a bed of roses would be at dusk.
And all the while the Gardens were purple like a bed
of roses would be at dusk. I came back to tell you, brother,
that white faces are petals of roses. That
dark faces are petals of dusk. That
I am going out and gather petals. That
I am going out and know her whom I brought here
with me to these Gardens which
are purple like a bed of roses would be at dusk. The walls, unpainted,
are seasoned a rosin yellow. And cracks between the boards are black.
Through the cracks, a powdery faded red dust sprays down on him.
God is a profligate red-nosed man. Dirty red mud.
its that red mud over yonder
Like purple tallow flames, songs jet up. They spread
a ruddy haze over the heavens.
Twists his thin blue cloth-covered limbs.
White paint on the wealthier houses has the shill blue flitter of distant stars.
Negro cabins are a purple blur. –
White faces, pain-pollen, settle downward through a cane-sweet mist
and touch the ovaries of yellow flowers.
Black roots twist in a parched red soil beneath a blazing sky.
My ancestors were Southern blue-bloods –And black. –
aint much difference between blue an black.
White folks feed it cause their looks are words.
This whole damn bloated purple country feeds it
cause its goin down t hell in a holy avalanche of words.

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