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. (Cane)
Reapers: Apathetic Human Automatons
The poem reapers has an AABBCCDD rhyme scheme; very simple very rigid. The arrangement of the poem in fashion indicates a certain mechanization and overall lack of feeling. It is as if the workers are nothing more than automatons, consistently working and never minding life (or the lack thereof). A machine has no care for anything but it’s work and regardless of what is in the way, it will continue on.
Even further than this, “black horses” refers to a specific group of people namely African-Americans, perhaps in a sense of slavery. That same line goes on to include “drive a mower through the weeds”, telling that the horses are indeed and work horses. The work horses are owned animals, in the same way plantation owners thought of the slaves that tilled and reaped the ground.