Jorrell Watkins (Brotha Jorrell)

I see the Children of Winter
           After Dylan Thomas’ “boys of summer”

I see the children of winter in their bliss
lift hot chocolate indulge its scent
quick sip maybe one or two droplets
dampen mittens, excite bare skin
of the child among children who scrapes
their name with a twig half their size.

These children grieve summer until
their first compressed snowball
hurling over frosted chalk hopscotch
smacks and crumbles wet delight
an unzipped coat soars and scores
of footprints thunder sidewalk clear.

The children of winter don't know
temperature don't care
about degrees grownups claim matter
what matters is questionable
they see water cycle through solid
liquid and gas! Can degrees do that?

Winter child recovers from candied yams
the Gma auntie mama spread help
themselves to candy canes, count days
left in the year at least one mother
eyes her holiday check's health past the 31st
thinks what or who to do without

Despite worldwide chorus shouting
the globe into New Year Shimmy children
know tomorrow everyone worth their flake goes
back to work, they themselves return to books
winter persists through the solstice
grownups’ catalog of complaints.

Here I see them living as I did
February draft conditioned for march
forward spring slurping pints of shine
venting heatwaves from horseplay
easing sweat’s stampede down my crown
harvested cool of gristly clouds.

Our fledgling selves distinguish shsh, shsh somehow.
Snow-bending branches from grownup hush
unanswered questions we ask: what happened
to the birds, the bees? Did Groundhog see
its shadow? Will deer scatter and lose their way?
It seems loss comes with season’s change.

We endure End and Beginning
on the brim of “cherish this now”
and “watch it perish” we’ve seen
our mother’s youth thaw
The melt, matter we chant mother
chance of answer below—

Unsure if you are leaving or left behind
I see you children of winter in your woe.



Heat Be

Relentless waves on summer days
sipping southern sweet tea to drown the heat away

steam rising from Gma’s apple pie,
mama spanking you before you even know why

skurt, skurt from tires bringing frozen
desserts to the neighborhood

older brotha giving you his only dollar
buy yourself something sweet

It’s the culprit for molten chocolates,
thankful for freezers, they reverse this awful process


Heat be the boombox blastin’ hip-hop classics, your pops
recollects the music they had back in his day

It’s your parents dancing
turned evenings concerts with Marvin Gaye

you remember "What's going on"
your parents been fighting on and on,

Heat be mama spanking you again because you
got in 'grown folks' business


Mama worked overtime so her baby
could go to school in style—
instead of wearing hand-me-downs
from third cousins across town

Heat be your daddy surviving the beat-
down from police that caught him being—
                     or was he fleeing…

Brotha teaching you things
you couldn't learn on your own like:

how to discern fake from a friend
difference between having pride
and having heart, how to believe
the little you had was plenty


Heat is energy. On the real
We know that heat be, everything.



Jorrell Watkins is an educator, writer, and martial artist from Richmond, VA. He is an alum of Hampshire College, and current MFA Poetry student at the University of Iowa, Writer’s Workshop. He has received awards from the VQR Writer’s Conference, and Echo Theater Company and fellowships from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities and Smithsonian Institution. His disability inclusive play, Meet us at the Horizon, was produced by Combined Efforts Co. for its 2019 world premiere. His chapbook, If Only the Sharks Would Bite, was selected by Aimee Nezhukumatathil as the winner of the inaugural Desert Pavilion Chapbook Series in Poetry. His poetry is published in Obsidian, The Amistad Journal, Juke Joint Magazine and elsewhere. Find him on social media @brothajorrell, and