2013 Bill Holm Poetry Contest Co-Winner, Jan Pettit
Jan Pettit’s poetry has appeared (or will soon appear) in The National Poetry Review, Water-Stone Review, Great River Review, South Dakota Review, Rosebud Magazine, Tusculum Review, Natural Bridge, and in Nebraska Presence, an anthology of poetry by native Nebraskans. Her nonfiction work was recently featured on the MnArtists.org audio segment, You Are Hear. Jan is a graduate of the MFA Program at Hamline University. By day, she writes advertising copy. By night, she writes poetry and prose. She is married to jazz guitarist, Paul Renz and is the mother of two beautiful almost-men. Jan is one of the co-winners of Variations in Winter: Bill Holm Poetry Contest with her collection “Lapses of Snow.”
Religion of snow
Not my usual, too-much-to-be-done stride
I walk slowly home from the store
as if I had invented time, and snow,
and they were just meeting.
The snow makes me think of brook, as in
I can’t brook that behavior
like snow could be responsible for words—
and why not? Nights like this
you could believe you are a writer.
Under a streetlight, the sky turns to fabric—
dotted swiss, each polka tumbling toward the open mouth
of earth. The city’s a virgin again—anger
and airplanes muffled. A Christmas tree, dragged to the curb
is ready to start over.
Somewhere between Kowalski’s market and home
I remember Sarah, breasts powdery white, suckling
her three-year-old. On her walls, paintings of Mexican women
nursing their children, in raw reds and blameless
oranges, so much happiness flowing
from their bodies it could melt snow.
watching things be themselves
the house is cold
early almost morning:
the moon hangs itself.
you are the only one alive
(do you want to be?)
you remember this from trains night trains buses hospital waiting rooms,
the almost morning your grandfather died grandmother died father died
and once, running along the river road in the cold before dawn.
oh, for the love of blankets, weight
oh, for the child
who still needs you in the night
for the love of dim light
oh, for the dog you wish you had.
Valentine to Self
I want to say something
un-critical about me,
reclaim the decades
squandered with self-
loathing, a kind of vanity
turned inside out.
I used to stand naked
between the folded mirrors
of the medicine cabinet, chase
my contempt to infinity.
The years spent counting
flaws could have earned
a degree. I might have read
The New Yorker.
There are holes in the ice
where you can see the creek
carrying on again, with purpose.
Warm day, woods lean
emphatically toward spring.
Nature has no use for introspection.
she is always only seeking out,
in February, we want snow
not the way we want it in November
dying for the taste of wet wool mittens.
we want the snow of reassurance,
soothing snow of mother.
in february, we don’t mind that you are married,
snow and cold, cold and snow,
we need you. make the world quiet again—
the politicians and sparrows won’t shut up.
snow we need you. in quilts
and coverlets, closets and armoires
full, settle upon our child-stiff bodies
laid out on the beds. so much needs erasing.
Thirteenth of March
It hadn’t snowed all winter and then it did and did, as if the sky finally remembered what it had forgotten, then found the letting go so sweet it could not stop, like telling your therapist the truth, then more—inventing calamity for the joy of giving it away. After, we shoveled our slim driveway and made on either side, foothills of snow, burial mounds of snow, great prairie dog towns of snow, and the children burrowed in until the whiteness had swallowed them, even the black soles of their boots. Later, they returned to their warren with candles, fixed them to the frozen walls and left them burning. All that
evening—from the artificial warmth of our too-large house, the refrigerator humming its envy—we watched the glow from the ice cave, watched through our glass windows, through our deep stucco walls, through our hands and clothing and hair. The glow permeated everything, even our winter hearts.
a lapse of snow
by sunday afternoon
the earth had already forgotten
pageant of ice,
as bony angels.
all of it art history now.
the snowball fight ended
when the artillery
melted—we moved on
to tennis in the sun.
this is how I want you and I
to live: out of ammo quickly,
forgotten in the warm p.m.
what a lesson for the world,
world. turn our weapons to water,
grant us the amnesia
of a shining afternoon.