Lennon Stravato from Avalanches in Poetry Writings & Art Inspired by Leonard Cohen

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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.

5 poems inspired by Leonard Cohen by Robert Frede Kenter

art by Geoffrey Wren (c)

(Passing Through) (for L. Cohen)

Crossing laneway between old colonial buildings,

remember reading about L. Cohen discussion of discipline

in his family before (leaving) his shoes neatly beneath the bed,

lined in rows the Westmount childhood house of  his

textile-merchant father.

Blossoms on the Plateau

      scatter towards St. Laurent. 

At a café, grab a late coffee, Mile End.

 – Elated. Artwork to hang at Gallery ___  of

new punk energy competing with empty lots.

A poet encountered Cohen right near here  chaotically sprawled

on a bench, static hat, shins crossed, 

institutionally bemused.

My father knew clothing, my father knew hats.

In every secret life,

Danceclatter   spirit  memories, 

Reanimated, the dead  no longer leave

Gather  under pelican shaped eaves

Refugees  –  taking leave, returning quickly as they arrive–

By harbour,  ships,  disembarking planes

At official hearings  destinies decided  by immigration board

 on appeal. O, CanadaWe  who betray everything

 –what are

We doing?

Searching landscapes  beyond mythic voice, 

first languages, anthologized wards

of mothertongue,  come alive

to holy gathering,   catchments of double-rainbows

above camera shop,

on The Main,    to St. Catherine’s Street, 

expanded histories,

Banging hammers,

gauntlet to throw  down   bargaining  for life

observing, photographing,

the Ascending of the

descending notes,

at the gated freight elevators

in a cessation of rain,  orchestral loft curtains

and a cacophony of rattling glass

in choreographic time,

threaded hum of industrial needles,  machines,

for fancy fabric, the manufacture of

ghost suits in factories.

 Did the street lineaments of longing  shape

an arc to the sun in melodic time,

Word became difference

– without a promised pound of flesh —

each visioning, wisteria proposing

darker awakening.  To bow and Curtsy.  The

– Oars of the St. Lawrence remaining as if

 Hallucinatory – at a farther reach –

  Prayer,  

Continuance.  Swirling,

persuasive designs for some new disguise.

                     In rupture             rapture————

 Graffitied,

the needle in thread, the lacuna.

 Stitches of erasure,

(by attendant lay  kept at bay)

  a homonym in nominal  space

Ofidentity

            en/closures.

When You Carry the Flag of Surrender

We aim for song. 
Tilt to embrace.
First embouchure, embrace of red, then blue, 
a burning white beneath the stair corrodes coruscating struts.

You waited to come back too long,
already threat gave you a name.
Beneath eyelids, the mourning bruised fifth notes.
Minor armies, advancing packs of card sharks,
upon arrival, slight a flock of black birds, ravens,
and your sister’s husband’s brutal conundrum commences. 

It’s a war against nature.
We guessed wrong.

Planning for a siege at a craps table
along the loneliest strip 
where hummingbirds dance a devious fandango,
on with nightclub nightmares. 
You lifted up with urgency,
the urge, to surrender,
to carry the flag of surrender.

 (And safely, the albatross of snow
glides ascending beyond Blake, 
rising to the Gate of Hell
Wings shorn with fire).
The yellowing book, it’s pages.

If you are tired enough, you will fall asleep,
fall into the arms of a boulder,
spreading the night moth’s wings around you.
On the ocean, the burning partisan’s ship 
sinks behind another neon moon.


Affair

Between the odd and even
I shall be a tailor, sewing pockets
with a wretched hand. 
A corruption,  failure 
of the terms of service. 

I gave them nothing, willingly,
I gave them nothing, undue dress.
A shaky signature,  handshake
under duress, erasing 
distressed seams.

The Committee of Horsemen
and their capital wives
Flying to a ceremonial, under
cloak, the war’s convoy’s coverings

Blanket the skies with parachutes.

I shall be the uninvited guest,
these twisted hands trembling, 
winter branches at calico windows, 
draperies.

Obscene broncho –
of obstreperous lineage.
Startling twilight of starlings.
Sinking Hesperus. 

Rain

1.

The plane goes down
It goes down

It makes the sun
turn a pale green
a pale green

Packages of jealous
nauseous waitresses

That know no limits
know no limits

In the charnel house
in the charnel house


2.

Confusion of smoke
Bodies alight
by the fairgrounds
All the kisses you can 
punch for a dollar twenty
five don’t be shy step
Right up 


3.

Bop bop  bopping
for the wormy wordy words
worthy apple of the jaundice
eye  another round 
of Government Propaganda
For the Shiny Happy People

4.

Free line dances
for the people
By the acid river backside
pouring out toxic sludge


5.

Captains of Productive 
Industrial stewardship
on sacred ground whose
ground sacred check
the grainy almanac
in the gun-sites of the 
Military Industrial complex


6.

We capture captions 
speak in thought balloons
Sometimes arrogant
overtalking even
The gentlest Master
slips outside benign
speaking behind a billboard
for mouth wash 
cattle in the fields, lowing

7. 
“It will rain soon,”
Mommy says to 
her six year old in Khakis
amidst the smoke beneath
the chocking ruins -- rains
down historical memory


8.
Insects rub their tentacled principal 
legs together make the beat
of some new music written
by the Karaoke Moon

9. 

We can count 
all of the ways 
that what was once here 
no longer is.

 Using an app with magic markers
 we make asemic marks 
on photographic paper.

 Is there hope of change?
 Are we impassioned? 

Poisoned?   What lies beyond
belief is belief in 
our own ability to change 
out of clothing

make the New Man
look possible 
available
fallible as Merchandise.

1985 (A Drum)

A Leonard Cohen concert 
New York, Carnegie Hall, 

At performance end, more people
than one might imagine prepare for Rapture. 

From handbags & from under
winter coats they rush towards the stage.

A price of admittance.
Recognizable is ritual.

My old friend, with whom I attend,
I shall never see again, while,

Field Commander Cohen,
Working for the Yankee Dollar,

Takes Manhattan. 
Graciously bowing,

catching in light and furious,  bouquets
of cornflowers and roses. The clarion call,
 
in spot lit time trumpet flowers 
opening up pollen in a thousand-handed balcony.

Twitter: @frede_kenter @icefloe_P

Instagram: @r.f.k.vispocityshuffle

Poems 2, 3 & 4 are inspired by Cohen’s poetry book “The Energy of Slaves”

Wolfpack Contributor: Robert Frede Kenter

Available Now: Before I Turn Into Gold Inspired by Leonard Cohen Anthology by David L O’Nan & Contributors w/art by Geoffrey Wren

4 poems by Robert Frede Kenter published in Fevers of the Mind Press Presents the Poets of 2020

4 poems from Robert Frede Kenter in Avalanches in Poetry

A Spotlight on IceFloe Press : Poetry, Art, Photography Creativity Sponge

4 poems from Fevers of the Mind Poets of 2020 by Moira J Saucer

2 new poems by David L O’Nan on IceFloe Press (click links) today “Those Hazels, they Slice” and “Living in This Toxic Coalmine”

Wonderful Artwork from Avalanches in Poetry Writings & Art Inspired by Leonard Cohen by artist/writer Geoffrey Wren

Available Now: Before I Turn Into Gold Inspired by Leonard Cohen Anthology by David L O’Nan & Contributors w/art by Geoffrey Wren

Here are the U.S. Links for Kindle & Paperback. Please check for availability for the links in your country on Amazon.

https://amzn.to/3rYO2uV

Features artwork by Geoffrey Wren, poetry & stories from David L O’Nan, Ethan McGuire, Tom Harding, Joe Kidd, Robert Frede Kenter, Joan Hawkins, Ankh Spice, Arthur L Wood, Sadie Maskery, Kari Ann Flickinger, ps pirro, Peter Hague, Lorna Wood, Benjamin Adair Murphy, Attracta Fahy, Christina Strigas, Barney-Ashton Bullock, John W. Leys, Amy Barnes, Jim Young, Elizabeth Cusack, Richard LeDue, Michael Igoe, Samantha Terrell, Lisa Alletson, Carrie Sword, Samantha Merz, Janet Beekman, Lennon Stravato, Catherine Graham, William Taylor Jr, Kat Blair, Adrian Ernesto Cepeda, S. Reeson, Shane Schick, Gerald Jatzek, Merril D. Smith, Jim Feeney

“Before the Bridges Fell” by me David L O’Nan Poetry book is out today on Cajun Mutt Press

Available Now: Before I Turn Into Gold Inspired by Leonard Cohen Anthology by David L O’Nan & Contributors w/art by Geoffrey Wren

Bending Rivers: The Poetry & Stories of David L O’Nan out now!

Fevers of the Mind founder bio: David L O’Nan (WolfPack Contributor)

Before I Turn Into Gold Online Anthology Poem by Jim Feeney: Driving Home with Leonard

(c) Geoffrey Wren

Driving Home with Leonard

also posted on Jim’s blog stopdraggingthepanda.com

Despite what he says
not everybody knows,
not everybody knows
like Leonard knows.
Not everybody knows
that the best songs
are about loss,
about endings;
about so long
ways to say goodbye
closing time,
and that age
can be laughed about
but not at,
if I had a hat
I would raise it to Mr. Cohen
perched up there alone
in his tower of song.

stopdraggingthepanda.com

Jim’s bio:

Jim was born in Dublin and has lived in Vancouver since 1979. He has published previously in Cyphers , The sHop , Oddball Magazine, the Galway Review, Anti Heroin Chic, The Basil O’Flaherty, Rat’s Ass Review and others.


	

Before I Turn Into Gold Online Anthology : I Told You by Norb Aikin

(c) Geoffrey Wren

I Told You

I hung us. I strung us. 
The rope-a-dope stylist is
the real alchemist.
Did you think it gave you 
     a new instinct? 
I’ve knives made 
from railroad ties 
and seen things besides 
the truth and its lies. 
I tried to warn you before 
but you wrote your life 
      unsure 
of its contents and missteps 
and flagrant regrets. 
The stylist is upset 
by things she can’t reset
while you sit knowing a youth 
misspent that you won’t accept 
and we all have the proof. 
I can cut you or cut you, 
      or cut you and cut you
but nothing will stop me from you 
as I tell you I told you so.



Twitter: @aikonnorb

Norb Aikin is the author of Mutants and 100 (Eliezer Tristan Publishing). He is a Mental Health activist
originally from Buffalo, NY and now lives in Cortland, NY. His work has appeared in various online publications,
including Pink Plastic House and Fevers of the Mind. 

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Norb Aikin

3 Poems from Anthologies by Norb Aikin

2 Poems from the Fevers of the Mind Press Presents the Poets of 2020 by Norb Aikin

BOOKS to Read in 2021: Mutants by Norb Aikin
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