Jessie Redmon Faucet was a black female poet, author and literary editor that wrote some of her most famous pieces during the Harlem Renaissance. During this time period, black women were able to write about themselves on an intimate level for the first time. However, in the 1920’s, interracial relationships were socially unacceptable. Couples who engaged in such activity were socially scorned. In 1927, Faucet wrote the poem “Touch’e, which gave voice to black women and their opinions regarding interracial relationships.(“A recording of Touch’e) This poem reflects “bad” love but has potential to transform into “good” love.
The poem begins with a black couple engaging in a love act. Apparently, the black male lover is not completely focused on his black female lover. The woman says to her lover, “What is the change that creeps sharp over you?/Just as you raise your fine hand to my hair/Bringing that glance of mixed wonder and rue” (Faucet lines 4-6)?As he strokes her lustrous black hair she knows that his mind is far away. He gives himself away with the commentary that he uses to answer her question. As they engage with one another, the man speaks of a former lover with golden hair. She asks her lover “Why do you say every night that same thing?/Turning your mind to some old constant theme,/Half meditating and half murmuring” (Faucet lines 10-12)? This is obviously not the first time that he has reminisced about the former blonde lover and she wants an explanation.
Even though she seeks an explanation, she is also quick to inform her lover that she is not affected by his actions. She is interested in the image of the ex-lover. She asks, “Tell me, that girl of your manhood’s dream,Her you loved first in that dim long ago-/Had she blue eyes? Did her hair goldly gleam” (Faucet lines 13-15)? Was his lover laced with blonde hair, blue eyes and pale skin? She wanted him to admit to her that he was formerly in love with a woman of a different race. The black woman responded to him by explaining that she does not care that he was in an interracial relationship. The attitude shown by the black female lover is not the typical attitude shown by a woman whose current lover speaks of another woman while he is making love to her. . However, the circumstances here are different. She says to him, “I knew a lad in my own girlhood’s past,-/Blue eyes he had and such waving gold hair” (Faucet lines 21-22)! She too has had an interracial relationship in the past, hence the title of the poem, "Touch’e" (Delabanco & Cheuse, 2012).
The word touch’e is a French word meaning “I’ve got you”. The black female lover was able to see into her lover and understand him as well as reflect on her own experiences. The man was so taken by the memories of his past lover that he is not fully committed to his current relationship The woman encouraged her lover to admit to his past affair. She is completely aware of his feelings due to having a forbidden past relationship herself, thus she has “got him”.
This poem is an example of “bad” love that could have a happy ending. The lovers in this poem are obviously not in love with each other at this time. They are simply engaged in an act of passion and touch. Not only is the male lover thinking aloud of a past lover during love making, she is a different race which was socially unacceptable during this time. Is it possible for his couple to fall in love with one another, leaving past lovers in the past? Can they find love with one another? In order for their relationship to grow and for them to fall in love they will have to find a way to combine their previous relationships with their current one. If they are successful, this poem would indeed fall into the “good” category of love. It is now up to the readers imagination to decide how this story will end.
Delabanco, N., & Cheuse, A. (2012).Literature craft and voice second edition. Faucet, Jessie Redmon, page 941.