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Raising Cane and Backwater Graffiti
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Raising Cane and Backwater Graffiti

Raising Cane

Sweetman cuts sugarcane Blistering sun—no sign of rain Stalks tower overhead Cutting cane ’til he dead

Caught hungry—chewing cane Juice drips from blue lips—sweet rain Sweetman ate ’til Mr. Seer’s whip cracked Red blooms cross his back

How can a stolen body steal cane? Blazing sun—no sign of rain Sweetman peers past husks and balk Sweetman soars over cane stalks

High table set with pressed white cloth King cake, red velvet, and pecan pie Sweets: gnarled hands, backs, and minds wrought Cutting cane ’til they die

Sugar fiends and ravaged land Gents and madames prance hand-in-hand Delta soil bathed in blood “Lord, send the fire ’stead the flood” [End Page 118]

Backwater Graffiti

what’s my name?   “L”  sometimes lula   sometimes belle some times lulabelle   i scratch L’s   on   sandstone   bark black bottom of syrup boiled vats   in lost love   holiness l o n e some     i crack twig-rich puddles like sunburnt bones tread mud-covered leaves   skip pebbles over icy silver   i build L’s out of licorice root and lilac     i steal lace to look like a lady       sometimes i’m holy         sometimes i’m wholey sinning   i call on the lord    i laugh through lashings    i be the lord    i like to sing:         Nobody Knows     i butterfly    i honeysuckle    i eel— scaleless slither in liquid lightning    i cane liquor— memory still licked from the rim   i am   i am the “L” carved on my left calf by my Ma to recall me. [End Page 119]

Tammy L. Brown

Tammy L. Brown is Assistant Professor of Black World Studies and History at Miami University of Ohio. Currently a postdoctoral fellow in the UNC Department of American Studies, she is a creative writer, visual artist, historian, and cultural critic, whose historical research informs her creative work. Her book, City of Islands: West Indian Immigrants in New York, is forthcoming from UNC Press.

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