Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016


Jars of Clay

in Culture by

– After photo from the National Memorial for Peace
and Justice, Montgomery, Alabama


Labeled and lined-up on a wooden étagère
reminiscent of jars of vegetables
stored in grandmother’s root cellar
for the long cold winters to come.

Jars of Alabama dirt, Mississippi mud,
Georgia red clay.      Jars of home–
grown hate. Each one a place
marked by death, shame, a fall from grace.

Each one a name
in a secret society — initiation by death.

Elmore Bolling: the name on one jar.
One of many who’d been “lynched”
— shot in the back, left for dead in a ditch.

Left for dead for his son to find him.
Left for dead for his son to tug and tug and tug

until the boots came off his dead daddy’s feet
ensuring safe passage to heaven—
no sense making that journey to glory
any harder than life already had been.



‘The blood of lynching victims is in this soil.’ [National Geographic]
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice [Official Website]
A powerful memorial in Montgomery remembers the victims of lynching [The Washington Post]

Shawn Aveningo Sanders started out as show-me girl from Missouri and after a bit of globetrotting finally landed in Portland, Oregon. Shawn’s work has appeared in over 120 literary journals and anthologies. She’s a Pushcart nominee (2015), Best of the Net nominee (2017), managing editor for The Poeming Pigeon, and winner of the first poetry slam in Placerville, California (2012).

Photo taken by Bill Sutton of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.

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