“Reverse: A Lynching”–A Poem by Ansel Elkins


By Elaine Magliaro

After reading the summary of the Equal Justice Initiative’s report LYNCHING IN AMERICA: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, I went looking for a poem on the subject of lynchings in this country. I came upon Reverse: A Lynching, a poem written by Ansel Elkins. It was one of the winners of the 2011 “Discovery” Poetry Contest. (NOTE: Elkins’s debut collection of poetry, Blue Yodel, was the winner of the 2014 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition.)

Reverse: A Lynching
By Ansel Elkins

Return the tree, the moon, the naked man
Hanging from the indifferent branch
Return blood to his brain, breath to his heart
Reunite the neck with the bridge of his body
Untie the knot, undo the noose
Return the kicking feet to ground
Unwhisper the word jesus
Rejoin his penis with his loins
Resheathe the knife
Regird the calfskin belt through trouser loops
Refasten the brass buckle
Untangle the spitting men from the mob
Unsay the word nigger

Click here to read the full text of the poem.




This entry was posted in American History, Crime, Equal Rights, Justice, Literature, Poetry, Racism, Society, United States and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to “Reverse: A Lynching”–A Poem by Ansel Elkins

  1. pete says:

    I can’t help but wonder how many little bigot babies were conceived that night. or wives who had to wear dark glasses with extra make-up the day after.

    I’ll correct myself on that, babies can’t be bigots, they haven’t been taught yet.

  2. Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit,” 1959

  3. Lynching and capital punishment – from the report:

    More than eight in ten American lynchings between 1889 and 1918 occurred in the
    South, and more than eight in ten of the nearly 1400 legal executions carried out in this
    country since 1976 have been in the South. Modern death sentences are disproportionately
    meted out to African Americans accused of crimes against white victims; efforts
    to combat racial bias and create federal protection against racial bias in the administration
    of the death penalty remain thwarted by familiar appeals to the rhetoric of states’
    rights; and regional data demonstrates thatthe modern death penalty in America mirrors
    racial violence ofthe past. As contemporary proponents ofthe American death penalty
    focus on form rather than substance by tinkering with the aesthetics of lethal punishment
    to improve procedures and methods, capital punishment remains rooted in racial
    terror—“a direct descendant of lynching.”

    ~p 21, http://www.eji.org/files/EJI%20Lynching%20in%20America%20SUMMARY.pdf

  4. pete once again illustrates the comedy is truth, only faster.

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