Squaw duck for the bard

by Jeff Bien

Jeff Bien

For Purdy

You were at the top of the world
where the high tides begin

foot-tangled in a thimble of moon,
the hatched song of the tiniest word

and that old squaw duck with her glockenspiel silences
pearling the long-tailed light.

Praising on your loom
the jeweled lichen and arctic flowers,

reeling the deathless bird song
hawking the wildest season.

Old bird, Old squaw, you sang
with a billy can of stars, dwarf willows

and spanless time. The stubby-eyed prairie tundra
lifted into the golden wheat in Christ’s eye

the dog song of the Sabbath angel craning
from your hands.

Hung over in the whisky glass morning
the cabin fever of blue yoked to blue

that grew into orange sunsets
and flockless geese lost in the god-minded stone.

There in the jackstraw of colours
the sun’s ropes like red garters

the snow daises and wedding frost
arrowed in the heel of night.

The toy sea, the church song of bees
the silk throwers with their broken winged gods.

Young night, first night, you chanted,
the snake rumour in you rhyming the days old

haggling with the fence straddling selves,
the high-winged logos and curling gondolas of snow,

the dog-eared blur of Faustian night
the onionskin largos that sheds its mighty sound.

You might find Jerusalem in the open air,
bone throwing miracles (winter turning the brown rabbit white).

The mewing letter of wordlessness
the horse-traders who lift their cups to that running emptiness,

wild combs of starlight, the colour of pea fowl,
in that jamboree of snow crystals and perfect light.

The blessed winter scholars
who made texts of its eyes,

and a singing bird
the ghost writer of their song.

(shortlisted for the 2010 Arvon Award, Great Britain, by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy,)

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 January 23, 2013