“I see them place the hones
In their hip-pockets as a thing that’s done,
And start their silent swinging, one by one.”
Toomer’s poem, “Reapers”, explores the theme of loss with apathetic imagery. The quote above describes the monotonous work African American slaves typically did. They worked in fields all day. In the poem, Toomer describes how a field rat is accidentally killed by the work of an African American slave. The rat represents African Americans. The work process was continuous, no matter the conditions. Several slaves died on account of poor living conditions, dehydration, and the brutality that governed their lives. The fact that the worker continues working, even though he/she realizes the blood on the reaper, shows how indifferent slaves were to death. They were controlled, oppressed and thereby viewed themselves as property. The word “black” describes horses and reapers, which are property of farm owners, much the same as an African American before slavery was abolished.