The moon is your sister but if you take sleeping pills you will find yourself in the company of unhappy women.~ Leonard Cohen, “The Story Thus Far” from The Book of Longing recited in I’m Your Man (documentary)
I think Leonard Cohen got robbed this week.
I think, in any other week, in any other time, his passing would have been the big story for days, a fracturing impact on the zeitgeist equal to Bowie’s leaving us.
I never felt about Leonard Cohen the way I did about David Bowie. It wasn’t this day-in-or-out, ever-present, sometimes dormant but never weak and never not-there worship.
I didn’t worship Leonard Cohen.
I didn’t lose my shit when new Cohen music was released. I didn’t move heaven and earth to see him live. I didn’t devour his poetry or lyrics. I didn’t have this constant, ever-present sense of connection to a body of work the way I did for Bowie.
Whatever Bowie did, whenever he did it, I knew about it and I was there.
What am I trying to say? I didn’t like Cohen? No, God. Not at all.
But he was different somehow. I cannot say I wasn’t a fan. I was. I was just a different kind of fan.
He was like the strange woman of indeterminate age who always dressed in black and walked very tall and erect down Main Street of any town, the one the kids called “witch” but only in hushed whispers, the one with a strange parade of cats trailing behind wherever she went.
And since I don’t and never did know Cohen, obviously not in a personal sense and not even in a fandom sense, all of this says anything about him, and everything about me.
I almost analogized him to a mythical saint. I had this visual image of someone apart from the masses, dressed in robes, walking apart, with his own tangible aura wholly unlike our own.
That’s wrong. He’d have … well, I don’t know what he’d have thought about that. That’s the point.
The point is: I didn’t know Leonard Cohen. There was something deeply strange and unknowable and uncomfortable about him.
There was also something intensely familiar about his work, right?
Every song has something deeply personal about it. There’s a sense of the everyday, but it’s a heightened everyday-ness. Like he took all the myriad expressions of a thing or feeling or concept, the human experience of it, and boiled it down to a form that’s powerfully concentrated, then … I don’t know, rolled it in glitter, sewed on bird’s wings, gave it CPR and set it free. Or something.
And somehow this is all wrapped up in the overwhelming grief and rage that’s been my emotional context since the election this week.
It’s so hard not to take a deep breath and just … fall. Head first. Head long. Head over heels. Tumble into the darkness of all-is-lost depression. Give up. Embrace the dark arts, and the dark, and the arts.
I know I’m not built to do that for long. Or at least, I haven’t been able to swim in dark waters for very long. “Pathologically hopeful” is more my speed.
So maybe I’m just visiting to Cohen-land this week.
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long-stem rose
~Leonard Cohen, “Everybody Knows“