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Saturday, November 19, 2016


by David Chorlton

But I think there's an appetite for seriousness. Seriousness is voluptuous, and very few people have allowed themselves the luxury of it. Seriousness is not Calvinistic, it's not a renunciation, it's the very opposite of that. Seriousness is the deepest pleasure we have. But now I see people allowing their lives to diminish, to become shallow, so they can't enjoy the deep wells of experience. Maybe it's always been this way, when the heart tends to shut down. If only the heart shut down and there were no repercussions, it would be O.K., but when the heart shuts down, the whole system goes into a kind of despair that is intolerable." —Leonard Cohen to Anjelica Huston in Interview, November 1992

Strange, how a voice
can stay beside a person
for forty years without
its owner ever
stepping forward to be
introduced. On a cold night
in Vienna the vinyl
sang “Suzanne” for company
in a small apartment
with no view except
onto a lonely courtyard
starlight could not reach.
“It’s four in the morning . . . “
and always was
even on the radio
AM show. “Howdy”
said the host in his best
Austrian-English before
pronouncing Le-on-ard Co-hen
to introduce a song
that matched the weather.
Years later, in an Arizona
mining town
entering retirement
a poet set the needle down
and “One by one the guests arrived”
across the desert hills.
Deeper now
and deepening, the timbre
ripened with experience
passing through years
stained by war until it
could “run no more
with that lawless crowd
while killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.”
Everybody knows
what he referred to
while few could say it
with such elegant simplicity.
Out walking, when
a song came uninvited
to mind, it told me “We are ugly
but we have the music.”
It could plead
for “the light in the land of plenty
to shine on the truth someday.”
Whiskey warm
and cured in decades
of cigarette smoke
the voice endured
with a smile depression
can’t erase. In my Secret Life
I smile too, but in recognition
more than humor.
A man in his mid-seventies
ran skipping onto stage
to perform the soundtrack
for many of our lives. He was
still reading our collective minds
while opening his own.
He left the stage
the time I saw him
after three hours with a thousand
people, addressing us
one by one.

David Chorlton first heard Leonard Cohen songs on Austrian radio when he lived in Vienna. Since moving to Phoenix in 1978 he has kept up with new releases in between excursions to enjoy Arizona's landscape and wildlife. His Selected Poems was published by FutureCycle Press in 2014.