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.

Poem “It’s Getting Darker” by John W. Leys in Avalanches in Poetry Writings & Art Inspired by Leonard Cohen

It's Getting Darker

I searched for salvation
I yearned for the light,
Looking for the stars
In the cloud covered night.
I fold my prayer like origami
And stuff it in the crack,
A missive to the almighty
Asking if the Flame is ever coming back.
I close my eyes, reaching out
Caressing the cold aging stone,
Trying to touch the ancient past
My soul has come to call home.
The Temple is in shambles
The Mercy Seat is lost,
2,000 years of homelessness
Trying to tally up the cost.
Looking past Mt. Moriah
To the light of the rising sun,
Warming windblown faces,
Dreams of a suffering undone.
The Messiah isn’t coming,
To save this damsel in distress,
It’s an uncomfortable truth to which
We cannot fail to acquiesce.
The clouds are growing darker,
But the deluge will never come,
The promise made on rainbow light
Will never be undone.
I yearned for salvation,
Searching for the light,
Is there nothing here to greet me –
Save the unending darkness of the night?

Bio from 2019:
John W. Leys has been writing poetry since he was 14 years old, inspired by the lyrics of Bob Dylan and the Beatles. In addition to posting poetry on his own blog, he is a frequent guest contributor to poetry-blogs such as Blood Into Ink, Free Verse Revolution, and The GoDogGo Cafe. His first poetry collection The Darkness of His Dreams: Poetry was published in July 2019. He currently lives in Redmond, Oregon with his wife, son, three dogs, and two cats.

Links:
Darkness of His Dreams (Blog) darknessofhisdreams.wordpress.com/ Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/eliyahu5733 FB: facebook.com/darknessofhisdreams/ IG: https://www.instagram.com/johnleys/ GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/jwleys Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/johnwleys

I currently have one book published that is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1733364501

3 Poems by Amanda McLeod from Fevers of the Mind & Avalanches in Poetry Anthologies

Ophelia, Drowned

in madness and sorrow
turn from the depths, child,
and bathe your face in sweet light
let the current be your baptism
instead of your death
emerge clean, shining
know this darkness is not forever
beyond shadow, there is always light
for one does not exist without the other
give the river your sadness
but not your soul
your beauty is needed here
your joy brings joy to others
an ending means a new beginning
but not this kind of end
there is more for you here
than what one man could take away
let another you come forth
stronger
reforged
glistening
make the water your mirror
what do you see,
when you search for yourself there?

Broken 

Broken
Brother night, take me -
Let me feel the coolness
Of your hands on my fevered skin
Sweet darkness -
Drop your midnight veil
The harsh light of the sun
Burns my eyes Sears my lungs Scalds my heart
Pour on me the countless raindrops
That become the flood
Let darkmoon silence
Hum in my ears a mute ritual
Float me womblike in
Comfortable ebony air
My lacquered bones holding
No weight
Glass splinters
Prickle my stomach
Pierce my skin
I pull them out one by one
Careful not to spill my own blood; watch
The glitter spread on towels
Mind my step
Crushed hearts are sharp when
Only stars light the way

Each shard wet with the broken promise
Of an empty vessel

For Leonard; You Freed Me

Someone else brought your words to me,
but I was mesmerized from the start.
Who was this stranger who seemed to know
all my secrets? Where had you been, 
on those endless nights I needed to feel
less alone?
Where were you when everything I wanted
to say was choking me, and the wellspring
threatened to drown the flame
that burned behind the bushel
of my heart?
No matter. A rare gift, pulled
from a shelf with a quiet hallelujah
and my life was never the same again.
The world needed beauty and dignity
and quiet strength, and so did I.
You gave me hope; showed me
the beauty in my cracks and taught me
how to love my damage.

Poems from Amanda McLeod in Fevers of the Mind Issue 1 (2019) “Inclimental Anger” “Day With Perfect Storm” “Anchor” “You Are My Sun, Except When I Am Storm”

Poem from Avalanches in Poetry Writings & Art inspired by Leonard Cohen (2019)by Barney Ashton-Bullock “Yet”

Yet

Just a blurry Instamatic of a beautiful oblivion;
your pulse of molten honeyed cuss splurged
amphet emphatic 'cross empathies so tautly gut
strung; aggressive passivities' midst the berserk
crosswinds of all our jading, estranging, ageing lives.
Yeh! We who'd meanly thrived a while
decrying those who'd run 'empty to depot'
or into sand-drags and cul-de-sacs headlong,
when we were wired and unreasoned,
when we were high and couldn't know
that for every passing night train seen,
there'd be many that ran slow
and yet still made their way to Jesus
on some hallowed old railroad.
Uninvited revenants
can sabotage their deities.
Ad hoc flash-mob choirs gnarl
their by-rote chew of your psalmic 'Hallelujah' as a
latterday laical 'Amazing Grace'
in a virtue-signalled, idolatrous, paean deadpan.
(With a side order of triple fried tears sigh-cried, m'dead dear!)
Their churn of appropriated hosannas amaze me.
Their strewn, flung flumes of approximated levities
that bomb-rush bang the tenderer quietudes of resolve.
It is such we meek and merciful fans are slain whilst
in smulchy meditative mood; our mourn allayed.
As a grazed petal in a wind buffed descent might
skitter its chapped whispers until its end around
the remnants of diminished sonant range, and
gruffer mauls of declarations made, so,
luscious lowing Cohen intoned, stentorian steady,
ethereal as an icicles last twist of gliss,
his proffered profundities so profoundly missed
and, yet,  by most ignored as we, forlorn
satellites, drift half kiss to half kiss within
the interstice of the self-same gyres of
the 'sacred' and 'profane', yet, tardily realise they
said of Madame Thatcher too, 'We will not know
their like again'...
Just a blurry Instamatic of a beautiful oblivion;
we remnant cones of desiccant, we debris of
disciples who burnt, with you, in you, for you,
In the immanent umbra, and in the protective Arc
of your sainted, yet secular, book of sensu-songs
that frond our hubris, our hubris frond.


Meet the Fevers of the Mind WolfPack: Barney Ashton-Bullock

Poetry entry for Avalanches in Poetry 2 by Barney Ashton-Bullock : L’anti-arriviste est parti

Bio: Barney Ashton-Bullock, is the poet/librettist in the ‘Andy Bell is Torsten’ music-theatre-poetry collective and he narrates his own verse on the Downes Braide Association albums. He is the founder of Soho Poetry Nights. He has poetry published, or pending publication, in a wide range of cult poetry journals**, in the ‘Avalanches In Poetry’ tribute anthology to Leonard Cohen, in the Dreich pamphlet ‘Famous’, in the Pilot Press ‘Queer Anthology Of Healing’ and in the 'Soho Nights' anthologies published by The Society Club Press who also published his first collection ‘Schema/Stasis’ in 2017. His latest poetry pamphlet ‘Café Kaput!’ was published by Broken Sleep Books in 2020.<br>(**the Wellington Street Review, the New River Press Yearbook, SPAMzine, Re-Side Magazine, -algia Press, Scab Mag, Pink Plastic House Journal, Lucky Pierre Zine, Poetry Bus, Neuro Logical Magazine and the Babel Tower Notice Board)

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

Geoffrey Wren

For more of Geoffrey’s amazing work with not only Leonard Cohen art, but other great art, check out his fb page https://www.facebook.com/GeoffreyWren/media_set?set=a.10214733692329782&type=3

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