About Leonard’s Inspiration to Lennon Stravato from Avalanches in Poetry Writings & Art Inspired by Leonard Cohen

56242696_2141096139261090_899596873130573824_o

I remember the moment as if it happened today. I remember it as if it was the moment which precedes every moment. At 10 years old I rode my bicycle to the South Huntington Library, in Long Island, New York. This library of the neighboring town had a superior selection, compared to our local Harborfields Public library. I walked in, found the poetry section, pulled a book off the shelf, and opened up to a random page. The book was “Selected Poems 1955-1968” and the author was Leonard Cohen, a “singer” whose music I had heard countless times, along with that of Bob Dylan, as a passenger in my father’s car. It was on page 233 that my life changed. It was a simple poem, entitled “A Person Who Eats Meat.” I read: “A person who eats meat wants to get his teeth into something. A person who does not eat meat, wants to get his teeth into something else.” The deep 10 year old that I thought I was, paused for a moment, reflected, found it fascinating. I returned to the final lines: “If these thoughts interest you, even for a moment, you are lost.” The cosmos had gently slapped me in the face, and it used Leonard Cohen’s hand. The message was very simple: dig deeper, little boy. When the cosmos speaks that clearly to you, only a fool would ignore it. I, who aspire not to be a fool, had no choice but to comply. I have not stopped digging.

In the nearly three decades since that time I not only hung on Leonard’s every word, but I also delved deep into world religions, theology, existentialism, and my own, at times rather tumultuous, life. His early work, which often contained suggestive and darker allusions, reflected his era, and was well suited to my teens and early 20s. His later work, which I have enjoyed as something of an adult, spoke to the ages. Leonard masterfully used the voice of God, and man in ecstasy and terror, in the face of the divine. He balanced delicately and piercingly the interplay between the sacred and the mundane, the holy and the demonic, the essential and the existential, meaning and meaninglessness. His lyrics: “a million candles burning for the love that never came,” “behold the gates of mercy, in arbitrary space, and none of us deserving, the cruelty or the grace,” “He wants to write a love song, an anthem of forgiving, a manual for living with defeat” are eternal and timeless descriptions of the human condition. They have also become the core themes of my own interior landscape. It is no wonder that as Leonard described poetry as “the constitution of the inner country” that his work has had such an enduring impact on me personally, and my writing, which attempts to communicate in what I called, in a poem published in the Bards Annual 2019 Anthology, “the inner dialect.”

For many years, writing has been a passion of mine. In early 2019 I penned a screenplay which has just completed production. I also previously published dense political articles for The Hill newspaper in Washington, D.C., though I no longer standby those opinions. It wasn’t until 2018, however, two years after Leonard’s passing, that I began to find my own poetic voice. Sitting on my patio, I lamented that I might not hear a new Leonard Cohen song ever again, I wrote the following, as one of my first poems, entitled “The Master”

Because his death was something, my heart could not withstand,
I asked the master for a final poem, and offered up my hand
I said “for many years, I’ve been a student of the word,

And if you speak to me, I’ll help your voice be heard”

Then the master softly spoke “did you think those words were mine to tell?

You must know that I procured them, from deep within that great communal well.

And there, young man, you may go fishing, but if anything retrieved,

I’m afraid you’ve got that burden, from which I’ve been relieved.”
And then the master did retreat, back into that great abyss

From which all beings spring, and into which we are dismissed.

Yet in departing, he did leave a final remnant, a tiny piece of dust

As if to say, that’s all a man can give, the beauty’s not from us

So, I sat there for a moment, and then found some fresh new pages,

Knowing that is all a pilgrim has, when he goes to meet the ages

And dutifully I will wait here, with that paper and my pen

And my little promise, that when the spirit speaks, I’ll transcribe all I can

___________

Midway through 2019, in response to a text message in which a friend mistakenly thought Bob Dylan had passed away, I went into a deep reflection about the loss of Cohen and the inevitable loss of Dylan. Early that day I dwelled for a period of time on Cohen’s suggestion that there are both a divine and a human will in each of us, and between the two exists the religious enterprise. I penned the following:

If the prophets all go home,

with no heir to hold their torch

may the oceans be reduced to foam

and we build museums with remorse

For if the will that burns in each of us

is not the one we choose to serve

to life itself we have become treasonous

And we get the hollowness we deserve

I heard Dylan and Cohen speak and sing

the voice of god was in their tunes

but the bells of freedom that did ring

belong to each and every moon

And while the spirit still blows where it will

and we cannot command it as our own

it may yet select our hearts to fill

and in our art make temporary home

And that is why I sit here with my pen and pad

Knee-deep in that finest meditation

indifferent to claims that I’ve gone mad

or that poetry is an unsuitable vocation

I never bought that brand of sanity

where culture was confused with marketplace

products are preferred above humanity

and unlived dreams are commonplace

But if that will which burns in each of us

becomes the only one we serve

self-doubt shall not bind the holy impetus

and that torch’s flame will be preserved

_______________________________

Finally, in response to my own lines above, I decided it was time to dedicate myself to poetry. In a poem that is in part the inverse of Cohen’s famous hymn “Hallelujah,” where unlike David, I do not please the Lord, and with allusions to “If It Be Your Will” and “Joan of Arc,” I wrote, what at the time of this writing, is my most recent poem.

I once reached into the ether

for sublime words that I could share

But each one did fall beneath her

to whom my best would not compare

She said: you are drenched in varnish

but all my people have no glare

Hear me, for I birthed the prophets

and you, young man, are not their heir

Well, I trembled at this trumpet

it shook me to my soul

but I was not made to crumble

and instead I raised my goal

So, I gathered all my kindling

then I trekked up old Mount Sinai

and said, if you be so willing

have this fire as our alibi

She said earth is temporary

just as those who seek its favor

they that seemed extraordinary

were forsaken like that savior

I said I know the truthsayers

and though unfit to walk their path

Indeed, I’ve come for this affair

as all, but you, to me is wrath

She said then join me in this fire

but know that varnish won’t survive

there is no room for false attire

if you wish in Truth to be alive

I pledged myself to love, not pride

to live and die in just your name

So here, right now, I’ll climb inside

I won’t resist this perfect flame.

By davidlonan1

David writes poetry, short stories, and writings that'll make you think or laugh, provoking you to examine images in your mind. To submit poetry, photography, art, please send to feversofthemind@gmail.com. Twitter: @davidLOnan1 + @feversof Facebook: DavidLONan1

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s