PoetryWinter 2023

adjust your hips | — W.J. Lofton


i’m thankful
for the dew on the grass.
for the praying mantis hidden there.
for the hungry bird gathering the green meal into its beak.

Heavenly Father,

you feedeth them. am i not much better than they?


i’m thankful
for the twig the fowl found you in.
for the branch bringing it into its bark like birth in reverse.
for the leaf being a generous force.

O’ oxygen occupying my lungs.
O’ Lazarus whistled back through his body’s keyhole.
O’ Renisha meaning reborn.
O’ in a sec she yet had been murdered.
O’ spectacle of the bees belly upturned below the plum tree.
O’ dragonfly drinking dew off the lunch pail of a man working the railroad.
O’ a time a boy from Tennessee placed teeth in me.
O’ what must whiskey gums warn us of?
O’ familial spat flattened into laughter.
O’ unsayable pleasure, metered into moans.
O’ this tongue touching like a tiger’s whisker on the pockmarked back of a lover.

for it is God who works in you.


i’m thankful
for the preaching scar.
for it being a temple of sound beyond sorrow.
for muscle resting on bone.

O’ you who saw the farthest into me.
O’ my wailing made room for another sound.
O’ midnights mentioning Janet Jackson cooing, cause ima be the queen of insomnia.
O’ the fag’s hips high-fiving a hand hanging by a bent wrist.
O’ relief runs a tonic river onto my tongue: peppermint, feverfew, rosemary.
O’ the haunting of a hip traced by a no longer lover.
O’ on time angel’s instruction: arch your back.
 O’ adjust your hips heavenward.
O’ August of 92’ and 48’.
O’ Fredrick, you panther of a man.
O’ everything felt possible with you here.

uphold the cause of the poor and oppressed.


i’m thankful
for Imani’s grandma shaking a sugar sky over a cradle of cornflakes.
for you, father.
for you, mother.
for the tambourine’s terror tearing up the silence.
for you, love.
for you, windgripper.
for you, tornado wind.

for the whirlwind and storm and the clouds dusting your feet.


W.J. Lofton is a Black, Queer, Southern, American poet. He is the author of the poetry book, A Garden for Black Boys Between the Stages of Soil and Stardust. Lofton is a 2023 Cave Canem Fellow. His work appears widely including TIME Magazine, wildness: a literary journal, Scalawag Magazine, and  Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora. He is currently working on his forthcoming memoir, Sue City, set to be published in Fall 2024 by Beacon Press. He is Chicago born and Alabama raised. Atlanta, GA is his home.

The author: Debra Marquart