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Raising Cane and Backwater Graffiti

From: Southern Cultures
Volume 18, Number 3, Fall 2012
pp. 118-119 | 10.1353/scu.2012.0029

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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”

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.

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.

Copyright © 2012 Center for the Study of the American South
Project MUSE® - View Citation
Tammy L. Brown. "Raising Cane and Backwater Graffiti." Southern Cultures 18.3 (2012): 118-119. Project MUSE. Web. 8 Jan. 2014. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Brown, T. L.(2012). Raising Cane and Backwater Graffiti. Southern Cultures 18(3), 118-119. The University of North Carolina Press. Retrieved January 8, 2014, from Project MUSE database.
Tammy L. Brown. "Raising Cane and Backwater Graffiti." Southern Cultures 18, no. 3 (2012): 118-119. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed January 8, 2014).
T1 - Raising Cane and Backwater Graffiti
A1 - Tammy L. Brown
JF - Southern Cultures
VL - 18
IS - 3
SP - 118
EP - 119
PY - 2012
PB - The University of North Carolina Press
SN - 1534-1488
UR - http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/southern_cultures/v018/18.3.brown.html
N1 - Volume 18, Number 3, Fall 2012
ER -


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