For Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

I heard of a man
who says words so beautifully
that if he only speaks their name
women give themselves to him.

If I am dumb beside your body
while silence blossoms like tumors on our lips.
it is because I hear a man climb stairs and clear his throat outside the door.

_____

Poetry is just the evidence of life … If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.

Leonard Cohen

The poet needs not the words of others to speak for him; his words sculpt, shape, mold … to read them, to listen, is to travel with them, to perhaps carry them, to befriend them.  For Leonard Cohen …

I do not know if the world has lied
I have lied
I do not know if the world has conspired against love
I have conspired against love
The atmosphere of torture is no comfort
I have tortured
Even without the mushroom cloud
still I would have hated
Listen
I would have done the same things
even if there were no death
I will not be held like a drunkard
under the cold tap of facts
I refuse the universal alibi

Like an empty telephone booth passed at night
and remembered
like mirrors in a movie palace lobby consulted only on the way out
like a nymphomaniac who binds a thousand
into strange brotherhood
I wait
for each of you to confess

“What I’m Doing Here” by Leonard Cohen
Flowers for Hitler, 1964

When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender
This I could not do
I took my gun and vanished.

I have changed my name so often
I’ve lost my wife and children
But I have many friends
And some of them are with me

An old woman gave us shelter
Kept us hidden in the garret
Then the soldiers came
She died without a whisper

There were three of us this morning
I’m the only one this evening
But I must go on
The frontiers are my prison

Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing
Through the graves the wind is blowing
Freedom soon will come
Then we’ll come from the shadows

Les Allemands étaient chez moi
Ils me dirent, “résigne toi”
Mais je n’ai pas peur
J’ai repris mon âme

J’ai changé cent fois de nom
J’ai perdu femme et enfants
Mais j’ai tant d’amis
J’ai la France entière

Un vieil homme dans un grenier
Pour la nuit nous a caché
Les Allemands l’ont pris
Il est mort sans surprise

Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing
Through the graves the wind is blowing
Freedom soon will come
Then we’ll come from the shadows

“The Partisan”, 1969
Written by Anna Marly, Hy Zaret

The birds, they sang
At the break of day
Start again, I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what has passed away
Or what is yet to be.

Yeah, the wars
They will be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
Bought and sold and bought again
The dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
The signs were sent:
The birth betrayed
The marriage spent
Yeah, the widowhood of every government
Signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places say their prayers out loud
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up a thundercloud
They’re gonna hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring …

You can add up the parts
You won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march
There is no drum
Every heart, every heart
To love, will come
But like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring…

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
That’s how the light gets in
That’s how the light gets in.

“Anthem” by Leonard Cohen
The Future, 1992

From bitter searching of the heart,
Quickened with passion and with pain
We rise to play a greater part.
This is the faith from which we start:
Men shall know commonwealth again
From bitter searching of the heart.
We loved the easy and the smart,
But now, with keener hand and brain,
We rise to play a greater part.

The lesser loyalties depart
And neither race nor creed remain
From bitter searching of the heart.
Not steering by the venal chart
That tricked the mass for private gain,
We rise to play a greater part.
Reshaping narrow law and art
Whose symbols are the millions slain,
From bitter searching of the heart
We rise to play a greater part.

“Villanelle for our time”

Words: Frank Scott (1899-1985)
Music: Leonard Cohen (2004)

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