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Leonard Cohen says goodbye with these final poems

The Flame is the final collection of one of the world’s greatest lyricists, Leonard Cohen.

Posthumously published by Allen & Unwin with a foreword by the late artist’s son Adam, The Flame features an extensive collection of poetry, prose and illustration and offers an unprecedented insight into the profoundly talented artist’s mind.

Photo: Jack Robinson, the Jack Robinson Archive, LLC

The Flame is the final work from the late and great Leonard Cohen, who passed away back in 2016.

Read an extract from The Flame below.

Happens to the Heart

I was always working steady
But I never called it art
I was funding my depression
Meeting Jesus reading Marx
Sure it failed my little fire
But it’s bright the dying spark
Go tell the young messiah
What happens to the heart

There’s a mist of summer kisses
Where I tried to double-park
The rivalry was vicious
And the women were in charge
It was nothing, it was business
But it left an ugly mark
So I’ve come here to revisit
What happens to the Heart

I was selling holy trinkets
I was dressing kind of sharp
Had a pussy in the kitchen
And a panther in the yard
In the prison of the gifted
I was friendly with the guard
So I never had to witness
What happens to the Heart

I should have seen it coming
You could say I wrote the chart
Just to look at her was trouble
It was trouble from the start
Sure we played a stunning couple
But I never liked the part
It ain’t pretty, it ain’t subtle
What happens to the Heart

Now the angel’s got a fiddle
And the devil’s got a harp
Every soul is like a minnow
Every mind is like a shark
I’ve opened every window
But the house, the house is dark
Just say Uncle, then it’s simple
What happens to the heart

I was always working steady
But I never called it art
The slaves were there already
The singers chained and charred
Now the arc of justice bending
And the injured soon to march
I lost my job defending
What happens to the Heart

I studied with this beggar
He was filthy he was scarred
By the claws of many women
He had failed to disregard
No fable here no lesson
No singing meadowlark
Just a filthy beggar blessing
What happens to the heart

I was always working steady
But I never called it art
I could lift, but nothing heavy
Almost lost my union card
I was handy with a rifle
My father’s .303 We fought for something final
Not the right to disagree

Sure it failed my little fire
But it’s bright the dying spark
Go tell the young messiah
What happens to the heart

June 24, 2016

She Was Protected by Rays of Light. Leonard Cohen.

I can’t break the code

I can’t break the code

Of our frozen love
It’s too late to know
What the password was

I reach for the past
Keep coming up short
And everything feels Like a last resort

Tho’ we’ve called it quits
And there’s nothing left
Still I hear my lips
Make these promises

Though we’ve squandered the truth
And there’s little left
We can still sweep the room
We can still make the bed

When the world is false
I won’t say it’s true
When the darkness calls
I will go with you

In a time of shame
In the great Alarm
When they call your name
We’ll go arm in arm

Revised August 21, 2015

Full Employment
For V.R. 1978-2000

Vanessa called
all the way from Toronto.
She said that
I could count on her
if ever I was down and out.
After I hung up the phone
I played
the six-holed wooden flute
she gave me
on the occasion of our parting.
I figured out the fingering
and I played it better
than I had ever done.
Tears came out of my eyes
because of the sound,
and the recollection
of her extraordinary beauty
which no one could avoid,
and because she said
a song had gone missing,
and I had been selected,
out of all the unemployed,
I had been selected to recover it.

I see you in windows
that open so wide
there’s nothing beyond them,
and nothing inside.

You take off your sandals
you shake out your hair,
your beauty dismantled
and worn everywhere.

The story’s been written.
The letter’s been sealed.
You gave me a lily,
but now it’s a field.

When She’s Not Calling You. Leonard Cohen.

Kanye West is not Picasso

Kanye West is not Picasso
I am Picasso
Kanye West is not Edison
I am Edison
I am Tesla
Jay-Z is not the Dylan of anything
I am the Dylan of anything
I am the Kanye West of Kanye West
The Kanye West
Of the great bogus shift of bullshit culture
From one boutique to another
I am Tesla
I am his coil
The coil that made electricity soft as a bed
I am the Kanye West Kanye West thinks he is
When he shoves your ass off the stage
I am the real Kanye West
I don’t get around much anymore
I never have
I only come alive after a war
And we have not had it yet

Montreal 2015

Grateful

The huge mauve jacaranda tree
down the street on South Tremaine
in full bloom
two stories high
It made me so happy
And then
the first cherries of the season
at the Palisades Farmers Market
Sunday morning
“What a blessing!”
I exclaimed to Anjani
And then the samples on waxed paper
of the banana cream cake
and the coconut cream cake
I am not a lover of pastry
but I recognised the genius of the baker
and touched my hat to her
A slight chill in the air
seemed to polish the sunlight
and confer the status of beauty
to every object I beheld
Faces bosoms fruits pickles green eggs
newborn babies
in clever expensive harnesses
I am so grateful
to my new anti-depressant

To Tinkie

you walked me to school
you slept under my bed
you watched me masturbating
with interested eyes
you protected me
from my enemy loneliness
even in your old age
you greeted me
every time I saw you
you left the house
and died in the snow

under the neighbour’s porch
and you were lost
until the late summer
when I was out of town
and they cleared away
your body
I didn’t believe them
and even today
I stop every scottie
to claim you back

These poems are extracted from Leonard Cohen’s The Flame, published by Allen & Unwin.

Via The Sydney Morning Herald.

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November 13, 2018