by Ashley M. Jones

Ida Mae, Queen of Joy

-after RaMell Ross


This is no lost son’s funeral.

This is no Sunday jubilee. This

is no cause to wonder

if heaven is a place where freedom really

stretches out flat and yielding on its back.

This is a bit of sun stinging the star in my eye,

the sweat from a hot Alabama afternoon pooling,

dripping. A tear re-entering its tomb.


This is my good wig.


This is a day to wear it and not even clip it down,

because this is a delicate day.

No running from an angry gnarl and siren,

not today. And these pantyhose,

the polyester skin across my righteous knee

will only kneel before Jesus himself,

but he surely wouldn’t ask me that. Not today,

when He rolled out this cloudless sky,

so smooth I would spread it on a Saltine

and take it in my mouth–

the prayer it would make on my tongue.

Everybody knows all of us

whose first names are punctuated by Mae

know Jesus personally–right down to our cuticles.

Right down to the sharpest shadow he casts behind us–

so black, so deep, it shows the Beginning,

before “before.” It is the pause before God made the world.

It is the shine on my Sunday shoes

the holy guarantee of hard candy in my pocketbook.


And it’s joy, and it’s mine,

and it’s hallelujah, mine, mine, mine.

Ida Mae, 2012

RaMell Ross

Ashley M. Jones is Poet Laureate of the state of Alabama (2022-2026). Jones has been featured on news outlets including Good Morning America, ABC News, and the BBC. She received a 2015 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award and a 2015 B-Metro Magazine Fusion Award. Her debut poetry collection, Magic City Gospel, was published by Hub City Press in January 2017, and it won the silver medal in poetry in the 2017 Independent Publishers Book Awards. Her second book, dark // thing, won the 2018 Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry from Pleiades Press. Her third collection, REPARATIONS NOW! Was published by Hub City Books and is on the longlist for the 2022 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. She currently lives in Birmingham, Alabama, where she is founding director of the Magic City Poetry Festival, board member of the Alabama Writers Cooperative and the Alabama Writers Forum, co-director of PEN Birmingham, and a faculty member in the Creative Writing Department of the Alabama School of Fine Arts. Jones is also a member of the Core Faculty at the Converse University Low Residency MFA Program. In 2022, she received a Poet Laureate Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets.

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