The busier I get, the more I think about poetry...and how it can be challenging to find vintage Leonard on the internet. Here's one of his most epic pieces (I took a break from writing to type it - and I'd better not get the same kind of letter I got from Al Purdy's people for excerpting one of his poems).
THE END OF MY LIFE IN ART
- By Leonard Cohen
This is the end of my life in art. At last I have found the woman I am looking for. It is summer. It is the summer. It is the summer I waited for. We are living in a suite on the fifth floor of the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood. She is as beautiful as Lili Marlene. She is as beautiful as Lady Hamilton. Except for the fear of losing her I have no complaint. I have not been denied the full measure of beauty. Nights and mornings we kiss each other. The feathery palms rise through the smog. The curtains stir. The traffic moves on Sunset over painted arrows, words and lines. It is best not even to whisper about this perfection. This is the end of my life in art. I am drinking a Red Needle, a drink I invented in Needles, California, tequila and cranberry juice, lemon and ice. The full measure. I have not been denied the full measure. It happened as I approached my forty-first birthday. Beauty and Love were granted me in the form of a woman. She wears silver bracelets, one on each wrist. I am happy with my luck. Even if she goes away I will say to myself, I have not been denied the full measure of beauty. I said that to myself in Holston, Arizona, in a bar across the street from or motel, when I thought she would be leaving the next morning. This is drunken talk. This is Red Needles talking. It is too smooth. I am frightened. I don’t know why. Yesterday I was so frightened that I could hardly hand a Red Needle to a monk on Mount Baldy. I’m frightened and tired. I am an old man with a silver ornament. These stiff movements should not be accompanied by tiny silver bells. She must be plotting against me in my bed. She wants me to be Carlo Ponti. The black maid is stealing my credit cards. I should go sailing alone through the pine trees. I should get a grip on myself. O god her skin is soft and brown. I would sell my family graves. I am old enough for that. I better have another drink. If I could write a song for her I could pay for this suite. She saw the men in Afghanistan, she saw the elders, how can she stay here with me? It is true I am a hero of the Sahara but she did not see me under sand and fire, mastering the sphincters of my cowardice. And she could not know how beautiful these words are. Nobody could. She could not perceive the poignant immortality of my life in art. Nobody can. My vision of the traffic on Sunset Boulevard through the concrete lilies of the balcony railing. The table, the climate, the perfect physique for a forty-year-old artist, famous, happy, frightened. Six in the morning. Six-o-five. The minutes go by. Six-ten. Women. Women and children. The light gone from Los Angeles they say, the original movie light, but this view of Sunset Boulevard satisfactory in every way. My life in art closing down. Monica sleeping. All the wandering mind is hers. My devotions begin to embarrass me. She should grow tired of them soon. I am tired of them now. She is pregnant. Our love-making is sweet because of this. She will not have the child. Six-twenty. We drink Red Needles every night. She tells me of the gay San Francisco world. The weight of her beauty has become intolerable. People in the liquor store actually pop-eyed and double-took as she went by with her long hair and her sacrificial child, her second-hand clothes and her ordinary face mocking all the preparations for allurement here in the heart of Hollywood, so ripe she is in the forces of beauty and music as to frighten me, who has witnessed the end of his life in art. Six-forty. I want to go back to bed and get inside her. That’s the only time there’s anything approaching peace. And when she sits on my face. When she lowers herself onto my mouth This feels like doom. This is a pyramid on my chest. I want to change blood with her. I want her slavery. I want her promise. I want her death. I want the thrown acid to disencumber me. I want to stop staring. Six-fifty. Ruined in Los Angeles. I should start smoking again. I’m going to start smoking again. I want to die in her arms and leave her. You need to smoke a pack a day to be that kind of man. When we were on the road I was always ready to drive her to the nearest airport and say goodbye but now I want her to die without me. I started my exercises again today. I need some muscle now. I need a man in the mirror to whisper courage when I shave and to tell me once again about the noble ones who conquered all of this.