Jess Williard


Jess Williard

The Spoils      


Winter in Wisconsin. Snowdrifts like the shoulders
of ancient and unspeaking creatures. A child wanders

among them, in love with the possibility of it all.
How the spoils are immense when there’s nothing

to measure against. After a slap-boxing match
with his brother, he chases him deeper 

into the woods. They are hot with laughter
and watch their breath curl into the branches

above their heads. Look, the brother says,
and pulls the mitten from his hand. The skin

is pink and wet, steams in the air. He bends
to a snowbank with his hand outstretched

as if offering it to be licked and holds it there.
Look. The boy is rapt. He watches his brother’s

hand hover. Slowly, the snow recedes. It pulls away
from the hand, away from the boys and the woods,

another season in the trenches of an axis tilt—
it goes until he is reaching for grass, then dirt,

layers of topsoil, water tables and stone deposits.
He reaches for the ruddy center of it all and that, too,

eludes him. I want to show you something, he says,
and grabs him by the collar. It just keeps going.



Jess Williard’s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Third Coast, North American Review, Colorado Review, Southern Humanities Review, Barrow Street, Lake Effect, Poetry Northwest, Sycamore Review, Bayou Magazine, Booth, and other journals. He is from Wisconsin.