2023 Bill Holm Winner, Jayne Marek

The winner of the 2023 Winter in Variations: Bill Holm Witness Poetry Contest is Jayne Marek with these poems.

What Did You Love About Sisley? Evensong Roll the Car You Might Want More New Friend A Second Storm Bio Note: Jayne Marek has published six poetry collections, with her next volume, Dusk-Voiced, due in 2024. Her writings and photos appear in Terrain, Rattle, The New York Times, Spillway, Catamaran, Salamander, Bloodroot, One, Calyx, Bellevue Literary Review, About Place Journal, and elsewhere. A former Midwesterner with a strong sensibility about winter, she now lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she writes, photographs, and learns about natural history.


What Did You Love About Sisley?
–for my father

Was it the torn daylight stringing
winter oaks, with their empty branches,
that spoke for you, whom you thought no one heard?
You liked the snowy paintings best,

in which a single trail of footprints wandered
through the drifted lanes of French villages.
Sometimes a garden wall prickly with vines
framed human figures, minuscule in the landscape.

Fog and mist, the frozen fields, a haze
of sun over a river. As the artist did, a viewer falls
in love, forgets, for a few minutes, to fear, forgets
the loneliness, the hard stones underfoot.




Roll the Car

windshield view yanks to one side, disappears,
axles lift, wheels freed of weight, spinning
past the highway bridge, the sky turning in winter black,
cold ankles freed of pant legs that bell open now
the body is upside down, hung from the shoulder belt
over the gulley of frozen night, eyes closed, a thud
on one side then overhead as the car spirals, stunned,
a thump hard against the shoulder of the ditch, car body
tipped against frosty weeds shimmering
shocked stars staring through the unbroken glass


You Might Want More

Mist filters through mossy limbs
as if silver night never ended
after the wolf moon slid across
the tops of cedars and firs, half-hidden
in clouds that tested and hoarded the light.

Lost on an unlit path, I waited
as darkness swept overhead, an owl
on the hunt that found this clearing good,
then folded, a single oracle, obscure.


New Friend

We stood on her back porch, our talk turned
to awkward leavetaking. A drift rimmed

the laps of wood chips around just-greening stalks.
From a line of willows, a sound flat

as the creak of a leather glove resisting
another gloved hand.

Tree frog? I asked, incredulous, in February?
A Steller’s jay,

she replied, pointed to a shadow with a blue crest.
And sometimes, yes, there are frogs.

We nodded. Snow shifted its precise silence
at what the bird told us to say.


A Second Storm

Snow melted in the false repose of afternoon,
loosed by twigs and stiff pompoms of alliums
gone to seed during autumn. Water seeped at a rim
of ice in the birdbath. Fussing bloomed
from finches arguing their vigor
under a bright sky. So tempting it was, to recline
in the memory of fat days, in this bowl of seeming spring,
to ignore the white swaths lingering on the lawn.

In the sheltered world of my backyard
and at my window, none of us seemed worried.

So when a steely cloud rolled hard
against distant firs that eagles had abandoned
and the fence shuddered against bucks of wind,
the small birds vanished into shelter, and I pulled
the curtains against this monstrous remonstrance,
the suddenly frigid air that seeped through glass
permeable and fragile as a wish