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   Jacket 34 — October 2007        link Jacket 34 Contents page        link Jacket Homepage

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Leonard Cohen

Three poems:

Takanawa Prince Hotel Bar
The Cigarette Issue
Irving and Me at the Hospital

This piece is about 4 printed pages long.
It is copyright © Leonard Cohen 2006 and Jacket magazine 2007.

Takanawa Prince Hotel Bar

Slipping down into the Pure Land
into the Awakened State of Drunk
into the furnance blue Heart of the
one one one true Allah the Beloved
Companion of Dangerous Moods–
Slipping down into the 27 Hells
of my own religion my own sweet
dark religion of drunk religion
my bended knee of Poetry my robes
my bowl my scourge of Poetry
my final circumcision after
the circumcision of the flesh
and the circumcision of the heart
and the circumcision of the yearning
to Return to be Redeemed
to be Washed to be Forgiven Again
the Final Circumcision the Final
and Great Circumcision–
Broken down awhile
and cowarding
in the blasting rays
of Hideous Enlightenment
but now finally surrendered to the Great
Resignation of Poetry
and not the kind of Wise Experience
or the false kisses of Competitive
Insight, but my own sweet dark
religion of Poetry my booby prize
my sandals and my shameful prayer
my invisible Mexican candle
my useless oils to clean the house
and remove my rival’s spell
on my girlfriend’s memory–
O Poetry my Final Circumcision:
All the pain was in fearing
and ignoring the girl’s voice
and the girl’s touch and the girl’s
fragrant humbling girlishness
which was lost three wars ago–
And O my love I love you again
I am your dog your cat
your Cleopatran snake
I am bleeding painlessly
from the Final Formless Circumcision
as I push up your dress a little way
and kiss your miraculously
lactating knee
And may all of you who watch
and G-d forbid!
are in a suffering predicament
as I go sliding down to Love–
may you speedily be embraced by
the girlishness of your own
dark girlish religion

The Cigarette Issue

This is beginning again
and like the first time
the girl’s name is Claire
and she’s French
But this time
the boy’s name is Jikan
and he’s an old man

it’s not Greece any more
it’s India
the new place for unhappiness
but this time
the boy is not unhappy
with his unhappiness
and Claire has also noticed
that the boy
is sixty-five years old

But what is exactly the same
is the promise, the beauty
and the salvation
of cigarettes
the little Parthenon
of an opened pack of cigarettes

and Mumbai, like the Athens
of forty years ago
is a city to smoke in

Well, that’s enough for now
I will be able to love her
and also love the rest of my life
from my experience with books

Irving and Me at the Hospital

He stood up for Nietzsche
I stood up for Christ
He stood up for victory
I stood up for less

I loved to read his verses
He loved to hear my song
We never had much interest
In who was right or wrong

His boxer’s hands were shaking
He struggled with his pipe
Imperial Tobacco
Which I helped him light

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen is arguably the best-known and most popular Canadian poet of the 20th century, and is also a successful novelist (The Favourite Game and Beautiful Losers) and recording artist. He was born in Montreal, in 1934, studied at McGill University, and met Louis Dudek and Irving Layton, two presiding spirits for his work, there. He has since travelled widely, living in Greece, New York, and more recently, in California. As a singer-songwriter he has composed and performed many often-covered, classic songs, collected on many albums, such as Various Positions, I’m Your Man and The Future. His first collection of poems was published in 1956, Let Us Compare Mythologies. His most recent collection of poems is Book of Longing (2006), from which these three poems are taken, the first new poetry book by Leonard Cohen since Book of Mercy (1984). First published in 2006 by McClelland and Stewart, Book of Longing contains 167 previously unpublished poems and drawings, mostly written at a Zen monastery on Mount Baldy in California, where Cohen lived from 1994 to 1999, and in India, which he visited regularly during the late 1990s. Cohen’s witty, learned, bohemian manner, inflected with the cool savoir faire of Montreal’s St. Laurent district (The Main), has given Anglo-Quebec poetry one of its dominant styles.

Acknowledgments: “Takanawa Prince Hotel Bar”, “The Cigarette Issue”, “ Irving And Me At The Hospital”, From Book of Longing (McClelland & Stewart, 2006)

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