Ashley M. Jones



[1] Statistics from Tuskegee Institute

[2] How exquisite, this art, to cut the wood just so: a whisper, and poof! A canal erupts, lets the rope settle in as if tucked to bed. How exquisite, this etching. Nightly, we come to work—a line here, a line there—how much weight, we wonder, before the bough breaks?

[3] Struggle the wood away. Make the bark fall off in flakes. We fill the bark with night’s thick ink—in the print, our own smiling faces drip back at us. Father and son make the perfect artist pair: where one leaves the wood uncut, the other drags the splinters away.

[4] Echo Brown, did your branch reverberate when you fell, one last homage to your name?

[5] Mississippi could kindle the entire world with the fallout of its woodwork—five hundred thirty-nine piles of xylographic dust.





This poem wouldn't have been born without Maurice Manning's "proof" from his book, Lawrence Booth's Book of Visions. "proof" is an actual mathematical proof with poetic language instead of math-y language. That poem showed me that poems don't have to look like poems AT. ALL. I have wanted to do something with these lynching statistics for a long time, and the idea to do a bar graph came to me one afternoon while I sat in my parents' backyard. I wanted to portray the glaring difference in the number Black lynching victims and white ones, and something about the visual just seemed like the only accurate way to do that. You can't deny the statistics. I'll bet if I compiled numbers for police violence in the modern era, we might have a similar graph... The footnotes I blame on Alexie's poem, "Vilify."