Jorrell Watkins

Nine Mile Rd.

________for Tyrell & Vadon


Every Friday Ty,
‘don and I nightcruise
other side of town, run-
down Fairfield mall dust dull
background soaking cookout yellow
glow trimmed artery red lit sign,
It’s Bo Time. Quarter-ten we pull in
greet cashiers with names
we dance to say, what’s your order?

For some reason, our chins tilt,
glares pan every item, each person
we searching their menu as if it knew
we buy Bojangles: 8pc chicken
4pc biscuits box, three
water cups or (depending on
who treating or who check us out)
one half-gallon
tongue smack iced tea.

Couple nail clinks intercoms our meal
we the only guests in here yet ‘don
finds our booth, Ty snatches napkin
after napkin he knows I hate asking
in how I keep saying, forgot to ask,
even how habitual this may seem
we never think utensils, plates, prayer?
we sink our blunt-want in white-dark here.
we drain our hot-want with white/dark clear.

This comfort:
My arm cross ‘don’s arm
his hand Ty’s hand grazes
my thumb on ‘don’s knuckle
his wrist sheens slick Ty’s
fingertips rub oil, butter
another warm thing palmed
pulled closer warm want and I
can’t trace whose want goes where.

In separate homes, among same wilds
our mamas raised us Black and shamefree
she sacrificed to make our living mean
which means and has meant she didn’t
let no one go hungry even if she had to
yet over here, us three, string nocturnes
in my 260K miled lemon burn Nine Mile rd.
for hunger our mamas know will be
our demise if not shone as boyish delight.

The chicken ain’t all that bad
we clean bone, leave no mistake
save our doppelganger maroon cushion
slow-goes-it inflates plush as we rise up
well after close, we fold in and light rolls
this side of town into the next.
We surrender to night’s demands,
having staved off our want
without ever coming close to full.



Friends of Earth Alert Monarch Butterflies Endangered


I saw one June-spring,
flapping its cellophane heft—null effort
deft-hovering stairs I curse
for pushing me aware of sorry knees,
sigh bordering asthmatic elementary.

Gravel track around
Munford Blacktop, Mrs. Kulp
3rd grade class ran a mile some days.

Jogging          could’ve sworn
sprinting,      I’m reaching—
_____down from above,      pulling air
towards lungs.               Why couldn’t I bounce
_____and dash the mile as they?

Children pounding gritty dust,
Monarchs swapping pesticide, pollen—don’t mind
my coughing, special nebulizer mask
I siphon spite in. Let me have clear air,

_____those kids, those monarchs
_____our mascot, some symbol
_____I will not resemble. Am I still
_____holding on to something
_____that wasn’t there to be held?

Okay butterfly, I’ll fall
once more for your spell.
Aerial calligraphy, looping
symmetry of you ascending
me collapsing–repulsion
still inhabits our involvement.

Rotations ago, I’d stay inside.
Never knowing what’s endangering
you, wanted too, to be end of me.



In another America colder, whiter than home Styrofoam is banned


Thank goodness: air,
turned dirt, reservoir water—
I toekiss—one less pollutant.

Neighbors are militant
environmentalists mandate
recycle, reduce waste, repurpose

any, everything. Their lot
showers twice a week, totes groceries
in canvas, drives electric, does yoga

for breakfast, drinks hot tea
w/o sugar, honey. With Klean Kanteen,
ten-gallon recycling bin,
ethanol fueled Dodge I aspire:
friend them.

Among ceramic plattered
spinach turnovers, mason jars sloshing
kombucha, I laugh nervously

boy in me recedes, shrinks himself
stump. He slurping microwaved
cupped gunk, swallowing

chunks of Gwaltney dogs,
won’t leave hungry if he doesn’t have to—
I haven’t touched my napkin.

There are none
besides few I snuck in,
thieved earlier from gas station
where I’m taught
their cups are biodegradable. I’d ask,

Friends, what else can be conveniently made
biodegradable? Oh boy, this dumb,
erratic laughter, my hands

dimming my face, looking more
and more like mulch.



Jorrell Watkins hails from Virginia, is a 2020-21 Fulbright Japan Grant awardee, and is an alum of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. His chapbook, If Only the Sharks Would Bite, won the inaugural Desert Pavilion Chapbook Series in Poetry. His full-length collection Play|House was shortlisted for the 2020 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry.