by Jeff Bien

Jeff Bien


How little I understand of them
their tiny wild anguishes riddled into a flag-like joy
grinding lenses of the feeble hours,
wandering into Galilee on Jerusalem's blind mule
and bending a grace note into the unanointed light.

How they go on cheerfully rattling their cages
telling the same forgetful story
the penny songs of Baruch Spinoza
and how Leibnitz gathered horse feathers at the Rhine.

And how they sing against a public meaning
a pantheon of rumour warbling into homelessness
cleaving the light
with tin bugles and frost-like hands.

How they are orphans of everything
the brightness of blue and red
uncoloured ribbons tied
into bitter and solemn deed,
their purse of envy stolen
as half-dressed they go out into night.

Their language is any language
bits of starlight and a rainmaker's secret heart
mantra stones and bone orchards huddled in rags,
flame alphabets and salt ruins
in a sewing box of sparrow's names.

How they sit on the page
like old superstitions,
with their unusual lockets and chalk-like mercies
and the nagging story of what Moses saw.
A secret architecture blooming on their lips.

In the graceyards with the kettles singing
and the long sabbatical of the unnamed,
by the rat tail of morning
a pantomime of long skirted parables and autumn colour.

How they are punished by love's magisterial names
their likenesses exalted by a prisoner's song,
lulled to sleep like roses
in the bent hours and conference of their veins.

A sublime anarchy high above them, untitled
in the poor villages where they have lost their way.

Oh, I have torn from their hands a prickly night
fell in love with their scholarly fool's gold
tricked into a night of believing
the fruit more than the seed.

Then forgive them their hope
and ballerina-like faith,
the ramparts of silence
where they build their altars
to Valhalla and Rome.

In the still hours their fleets battering a shore
a flagless march upon a towerless name,
a song from the cliff dragged under
a travelling light.

Angels, beggars and rags (recently completed manuscript, unpsublished)

Jeff Bien's picture

Jeff Bien, • "A master poet, eloquent and erudite" CBC • "His poetry crackles with prophetic energy" Canadian, Literature • "Potent and persuasive" City Lights, San Francisco • “A ruthless truth-telling poet” John Millett, editor, Poetry Australia • “The silent prince of words…” Mercan Dede, Istanbul •, Jeff Bien is the author of numerous books and a critically acclaimed poet. His work has been widely recognized and his poems have been published in major literary journals and translated in more than 30 countries., He has received Canada Council and Ontario Arts Council Awards for recordings of his work as well as having been supported on numerous occasions by Foreign Affairs for readings in conjunction with the Canadian High Commission in London, and the Canadian Embassies in Paris and Havana., Over the years, his poetry has been the recipient of various distinctions including: most recently and most recently the 2014 Gwendolyn MacEwen-Exile Poetry Awaard for a selection of poems as well as poetry awards from Literal Latte (New York) and The New Welsh Review (Academy, Wales); a Canadian Authors Association and Stephen Leacock award for poetry; recognized by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes for inclusion in the Arvon Anthology (Great Britain); nominated for a National Magazine Award (Descant); shortlisted on several occasions for the CBC Literary Award and the 2010 Arvon Award, by Britain's poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, as well as a performance of one of his poems, by Live Canon (Great Britain) selected by Glyn Maxwell in 2011, and an Arc Poem of the Year editor's choice award, as well as other national and international literary honours., He has been called “an astonishing lyricist” (George Elliot Clark), “another Whitman has taken root in Canada” (George Whitman, Shakespeare and Company, Paris), “a clear and authentic voice" REC, Belgrade. His work has been called “the kind of poem that should not have been able to have been written” (Gary Geddes) and “a display of verbal pyrotechnics such as I've never seen before.” (Irving Layton)., His most recent work includes a forthcoming collection of poems, “The Poet Sings”, and “Undressing the Illusion: Letters to a Young Mystic”, a compendium of letters., www.jeffbien.com lw@lwcommunications.ca

Last updated May 23, 2011