The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Jess Williard



       Even in the slate-cold January
dawn he boxes the brick wall.
      Puffs of breath. Awning billowed
below snow: YMCA on Midvale.
      I have been swimming with Jordy
for a week. Mornings we drink coffee
      and walk the eight blocks,
nod to the man who fights shadows
      before sunrise, stunts his silly
mitted fists against the building.
      Empty fight. Empty song
in the click of salted wingtips.
      He cannot escape his best efforts.



Jess Williard



As a drum stripped of its head
he inhales tempest blows,
a breeze wet through the back of his neck;

where once was vibration
comes empty the airy glance
of swing-minus-strike,

the pop and hiss of vertebra
just above the hip
to bend horizontal

and summon oblique, to righten and pounce back.

If you exist:
Are you sure you've made the right choice?

Your chin unsplit from swings magnificent.
Your face unbloodied in faux-knuckle splendor.
You're missing out.



Jess Williard

Watch For It Everywhere


Jordy ended up as jacked and crooked off weights

as that guy in that movie who tore off down route whatever

before being nabbed—the route being the important thing,

because on it he passed a turquoise Del Sol with a bumper sticker

that said Your Lucky Number Is 3579892. Watch For It Everywhere.


When I started speaking in phrases from bumper stickers

it was less of a surprise to me than it was to Jordy.

Don’t Drink And Park—Accidents Cause People,

I told Jordy. Horn Broke, Watch For Finger.

We took off on our own routes, moraines slumped

in rearviews like the shoulders of something

larger than we can speak about. Death Is God’s Way Of Telling You

Not To Be Such A Wise Guy. I could never be as funny

as Jordy. But the funny things were synapses

and when those left most everything did.


                                                            So there’s the route,

the moraine highway, and Jordy’s there and me

and God and we’re using our middle fingers

instead of the horn and we’re looking for the number,

watching for it everywhere. When we get into an accident

it’s because Jordy strafes into oncoming, craning his neck

to read a license plate. I close my eyes as the car flips,

still watching for the number. I can feel something soft on my face,

like the flat-lipped leaves of tulips falling up.




JESS WILLIARD's poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Third Coast, North American Review, Colorado Review, Southern Humanities Review, Barrow Street, december, Sycamore Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Lake Effect, Oxford Poetry, and other journals. He is from Wisconsin.



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