#DiGiWriMo – November 11

Events of the day snatched my attention away from unhealthy dwelling on election post-mortem discussions.

I woke up early to do some reading (I generally go to bed around 9, then get up around 2 to do a couple hours of reading, then back to bed until sunrise) and discovered that Leonard Cohen had passed away. I have been a huge Leonard Cohen fan for many years, but it all started late in the 70’s with the Roberta Flack covers of Suzanne and That’s No Way to Say Goodbye. From there on, I was a die-hard Cohen fan. Years later, my friend Noha Fekry did a cover of Dance Me To the End of Love, a Leonard Cohen song I had never heard up to that point, at a club in Zamalek (Cairo). The lyrics knocked me off my feet.

Never saw him in concert, though.

I came to appreciate Cohen as a poet, as a poet would appreciate another poet and his poetry. There is a lot to say, a lot of poetry to sample, but I’ve already posted a bunch to Facebook and Twitter today, so I’ll spare you, dear blog reader. Meanwhile, here is a poem from the archives that is part of a series I wrote following the death of a different poet. It may also be applicable today:

What if poetry is speaking in tongues,
and tomorrow – the tomorrow of our dreams –
is really yesterday, or the day before? 

And what if time dislocates itself
from time to time, like water,
always seeking its own level?

And what if we live and love inside
a closed box, where freedom and justice
are just optical illusions,
dream-like holograms of hope?

And what if poetry is speaking in tongues,
and homeless shelters and prisons
our true condition, an accurate depiction
of our feeble, temporal existence? 

And what if poetry is speaking in tongues,
and pure information our medium of exchange,
transmitted exclusively by a holy kiss?

Here is the whole series.

Today was Armistice Day, also known as Veteran’s Day.  By luck I stumbled upon this Leonard Cohen reading of a famous World War 1 poem by John McCrae, In Flanders Fields:

Not everybody gets to call themselves “veteran.” It is an honorable title, though often I look back and ask myself what the hell was I thinking when I decided to join up and when I decided to stay and get the commission. Maybe it is a common introspection. But hey, no regrets.

Still, in dreams 20 years later, I often am on a ship at sea, or scenes transpose (as they do in dreams) and I end up on a ship, in an engine room, or dealing with some shipboard equipment malfunction.  It is a debt I pay, and a benefit, and an inheritance of sorts.

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6 thoughts on “#DiGiWriMo – November 11

  1. Very touching. Memories of my big sister strumming the guitar and learning the lyric with her, “Suzanne takes you down to her place by the river…” And honoring my father’s memory today. He was a Korean War veteran that began to tell about his combat memories only once he turned 80, and then only to his fellow vets at a group at the VA hospital, and my to my husband. I still don’t know what all he experienced . Fueled by that and recent events, I read my poem “Bitter Tears (for Mahmoud Darwish , September 2016)” for an online radio show this morning. Poets reflecting and sharing work from Oakland to Florida to East St . Louis to Harlem. Yes, indeed, “what if poetry is speaking in tongues”–thank you Ray for that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, I sometimes wonder, what was I thinking when I signed the line. But I don’t regret my service in the Army National Guard. I learned more about how the world works … and learned about myself in the process.
    Kevin

    Liked by 1 person

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