Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Idée d’jour

Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness.
— James Thurber

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Happy Birthday, St. Leonard

Revised version of previous post

Today is Leonard Cohen's 80th Birthday.

Shortly after he returned from 'Nam, Brother Dave brought several lps to the house to share with Padre and I. I especially remember Jefferson Airplane's Crown of Creation and Coltrane's Favorite Things and Other Songs. When he put the Cohen disc on the turntable, Dave told Padre and I that we'd need to listen carefully to the words.

I was immediately struck by the cover of Songs of Leonard Cohen: that black background; the machine photo brazenly addressing the viewer; the back cover art of a woman in chains being engulfed by flames. I was intrigued by these images alone, and knew something unique was in store. Songs from that album that still linger in my memory include "The Master Song", "The Stranger Song", and "Sisters of Mercy". I can sing snippets of these (and all of "Suzanne", of course) without reference to the lyric sheet or song book.

I had probably already heard Judy Collins' famous version of "Suzanne" by this point. I think I already had a copy of Judy's excellent live album, Living, which includes "Famous Blue Raincoat" and "Joan of Arc". But to hear that fractured voice sing his own words was like setting up camp in them, and learning to live there.

Sometime after Brother Dave introduced us to Cohen's debut album, I bought Songs of Love and Death. I believe that was the same year my stepmother attempted suicide. I was the first one home the day WL took her brand-new steak knife set into the master bathroom and cut both her wrists, length-wise, several times. The song "Dress Rehearsal Rag" from Love and Death soon became my theme song, although I did not catch the underlying humor of the song.

This was the summer between junior high and high school. I was around 16. WL's attempted suicide was probably too big for me to handle, but I counseled and comforted her until Padre got home. Leonard Cohen's songs taught me the language of the territory, so I could find the means to process the horror I had witnessed.

A number of other factors contributed to my use of poetry for self-expression, but WL's suicide attempt, and Cohen's profound linguistic cartography, were the primary catalysts.

Now, I sing so many of his songs, but not Dress Rehearsal Rag. Those days are so many years behind me. I much prefer "Hallelujah" or "The Guests". Or, a perfect psalm titled "If It Be Your Will":

If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
   I will speak no more
   I shall abide until
    I am spoken for
If it be your will

If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
   From this broken hill
   All your praises they shall ring
   If it be your will
To let me sing

If it be your will
If there is a choice
Let the rivers fill
Let the hills rejoice
   Let your mercy spill
   On all these burning hearts in hell
   If it be your will
to make us well

And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
   In our rags of light
   All dressed to kill
   And end this night
   If it be your will
If it be your will.

© 1984, Stranger Music

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Idée d’jour

It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.
— William Carlos Williams

Monday, September 15, 2014

Idée d’jour

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.
— Will Rogers

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Idée d’jour

To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead
Thomas Paine

A Founding Father, predicting the level of discourse on most social media sites.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Idée d’jour

Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees.
— Karle Wilson Baker