Portrait in Georgia
How we cite our quotes:
coiled like a lyncher's rope (1-2)
Long hair is usually considered a feminine feature, and this quote turns it into a form of bondage and oppression. This description of the victim's hair connects it to the lynching itself.
Lips—old scars, or the first red blisters, (4)
One way to read this is that the "or" of this line conveys the idea that the corpse is so badly mutilated that certain features are indecipherable, unable to be identified. The speaker has to guess at what these features are. The "old" of the scars suggests that this victim has seen violence before.
Breath—the last sweet scent of cane, (5)
Here our sense of smell is engaged, but the sweet smell seems wildly out of place and horrible in the context of such violence. But it does remind us of Billie Holiday's famous song, "Strange Fruit," about lynching in America. What is the effect of comparing the body of a lynching victim to fruit? Or to cane?