Leonard Cohen died on Monday, November 7. The world did not know until the wee small hours of Friday 11th when the news started trending on social media. Driving on the N4 to my Friday class I tuned into RTE radio. Sean O’Rourke was reading a letter Cohen had written earlier this year to his muse Marianne when he heard that she was dying:
‘Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t have to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road’.
My teacher had heard it too. When I arrived she was deep in remembering how, in the early 70s, her brother had taught her child-self to play ‘So long Marianne’ on the guitar. She was remembering him bringing home vinyl from Dublin. Remembering falling asleep in the room next door to the record player. Remembering the night after he had gone out when the needle got stuck. Becoming hypnotised by an all-night rendition of ‘One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong.’
She is still hypnotised.
She sang it then so beautifully then that I too became hypnotised ……
I lit a thin green candle to make you jealous of me,
But the room just filled up with mosquitoes, they heard that my body was free
Then I took the dust of a long sleepless night and I put it in your little shoe
And then I confess that I tortured the dress that you wore for the world to look through
I showed my heart to the doctor. He said I'd just have to quit
Then he wrote himself a prescription, your name was mentioned in it
Then he locked himself in a library shelf with the details of our honeymoon
And I hear from the nurse that he's gotten much worse and his practice is all in a ruin
I heard of a saint who had loved you, I studied all night in his school
He taught that the duty of lovers is to tarnish the golden rule
And just when I was sure that his teachings were pure he drowned himself in the pool
His body is gone but back here on the lawn his spirit continues to drool
An Eskimo showed me a movie he'd recently taken of you
The poor man could hardly stop shivering, his lips and his fingers were blue
I suppose that he froze when the wind tore your clothes
And I guess he just never got warm, but you stand there so nice in your blizzard of ice
Oh please let me come into the storm.
Later I got stuck in traffic in Maynooth. I was stopped at the bottom of the town at the right angled bend. The one which presents a choice to either to follow the road to the National University or to continue straight to the Pontifical one. I tuned into RTE Liveline. This time the car filled with the harmonious tones of the writer Michael Harding. He was paying tribute to Cohen and he was at his best. He described him as a priest. ….. A Jewish, Christian, Zen priest….. A master of resistance…. He didn’t need a Nobel Prize…. He was a priest who incarnated what remains when the fire goes out….
I cannot find now find his beautiful words online – please, please Michael publish them for us @hardingmichael
When I finally got to my destination I tuned into RTE again. This time the poet Mary O’Donnell was speaking in the tones of my childhood. She was remembering a summer holiday when she was 13. She was remembering hearing for the first time the song Suzanne and becoming entrapped forever in Cohen’s lyrical web. The song awoke the poet in her. That summer she wrote her first poem. He danced her into poetry. He touched her perfect body with his mind ….
I cannot find her beautiful words online – please, please Mary publish them for us @maryodonnell03
Later I decided this day belonged to Leonard Cohen so I curled up on the couch with his life story. The book ‘I’m your man’ by Sylvie Simmons was a present given to me by the wisest man I know – a treasure not yet opened. As I settled I tuned into the RTE one more time to find that the programme Arena was dedicated to Cohen – I listened to Dave Fanning describing him as a philosopher – and the best interviewee he had ever talked to. And then there she was - Sylvie Simmons live and sharing her thoughts with the nation. Sometime I just love our national broadcaster. Thank you @RTEARENA and a million thanks to Sylvie Simmons for writing this book.
You stand there so nice in your blizzard of ice…..
Today I am back on the couch - this book – ‘I’m your man’ is my compulsory New Year reading
Today I also found this treat - a magical recording of Leonard Cohen and Marianne Ihlen talking about their life together. She describes him HERE as ‘a man with a tongue of gold.’
I cannot think of a better way to see out 2016 than to try to decide which is my favourite poem….