welcome to some poems of Leonard Cohen
Beneath My Hands
Do not forget old friends
I Have Not Lingered In European Monosteries
I Long To Hold Some Lady
I Wonder How Many People in This City
My lady can sleep
Now of Sleeping
Poem ("I heard of a man ...")
Poem 1 ("I stopped to listen, but he did not come ...")
Poem 17 ("I perceived the outline of your breasts ... ")
Poem 50 ("I lost my way, I forgot ...")
Poem 111 ("Each man ...")
Song ("I almost went to bed ...")
The Genius
The Next One
The only tourist in Havana turns his thoughts homeward
The Pro
Waiting for Marianne
When This American Woman

excerpts from The favorite game
excerpts from The New Step - A Ballet-Drama in One Act from "Flowers for Hitler"

The Genius ("For you I will be a ghetto Jew ..") from "The Spice-Box of Earth"

For you
I will be a ghetto jew
and dance
and put white stockings
on my twisted limbs
and poison wells
across the town

For you
I will be an apostate jew
and tell the Spanish priest
of the blood vow
in the Talmud
and where the bones
of the child are hid

For you
I will be a banker jew
and bring to ruin
a proud old hunting king
and end his line

For you
I will be a Broadway jew
and cry in theatres
for my mother
and sell bargain goods
beneath the counter

For you
I will be a doctor jew
and search
in all the garbage cans for foreskins
to sew back again

For you
I will be a Dachau jew
and lie down in lime
with twisted limbs
and bloated pain
no mind can understand

Beneath My Hands ("In my hands, your small breasts ...") from "The Spice-Box of Earth"

Beneath my hands
your small breasts
are the upturned bellies
of breathing fallen sparrows.

Wherever you move
I hear the sounds of closing wings
of falling wings.

I am speechless
because you have fallen beside me
because your eyelashes
are the spines of tiny fragile animals.

I dread the time
when your mouth
begins to call me hunter.

When you call me close
to tell me
your body is not beautiful
I want to summon
the eyes and hidden mouths
of stone and light and water
to testify against you.

I want them
to surrender before you
the trembling rhyme of your face
from their deep caskets.

When you call me close
to tell me
your body is not beautiful
I want my body and my hands
to be pools
for your looking and laughing.

Poem ("I heard of a man ...") from "Let Us Compare Mythologies"

I heard of a man
who says words so beautifully
that if he only speaks their name
women give themselves to him.

If I am dumb beside your body
while silence blossoms like tumors on our lips.
it is because I hear a man climb stairs and clear his throat outside the door.

My lady can sleep from "The Spice-Box of Earth"

My lady can sleep
Upon a handkerchief
Or if it be Fall
Upon a fallen leaf.

I have seen the hunters
kneel before her hem
Even in her sleep
She turns away from them.

The only gift they offer
Is their abiding grief
I pull out my pockets
For a handkerchief or leaf.

Millennium from "Flowers for Hitler"

This could be my little
book about love
if I wrote it--
but my good demon said:
'Lay off documents!'
Everybody was watching me
burn my books--
I swung my liberty torch
happy as a gestapo brute;
the only thing I wanted to save
was a scar
a burn or two--
but my good demon said:
'Lay off documents!
The fire's not important!'
The pile was safely blazing.
I went home to take a bath.
I phoned my grandmother.
She is suffering from arthritis.
'Keep well,' I said, 'don't mind the pain.'
'You neither,' she said.
Hours later I wondered
did she mean
don't mind my pain
or don't mind her pain?
Whereupon my good demon said:
'Is that all you can do?'
Well was it?
Was it all I could do?
There was the old lady
eating alone, thinking about
Prince Albert, Flanders Field,
Kishenev, her fingers too sore
for TV knobs;
but how could I get there ?
The books were gone
my address lists--
My good demon said again:
'Lay off documents!
You know how to get there!'
And suddenly I did!
I remembered it from memory!
I found her
pouring over the royal family tree,
I almost said,
'you've got it upside down--'
'Take a look,' she said,
'it only goes to George V.'
'That's far enough
you sweet old blood!'
'You're right!' she sang
and burned the
London Illustrated Souvenir
I did not understand
the day it was
till I looked outside
and saw a fire in every
window on the street
and crowds of humans
crazy to talk
and cats and dogs and birds
smiling at each other!

The only tourist in Havana turns his thoughts homeward from "Flowers for Hitler"

Come, my brothers,
let us govern Canada,
let us find our serious heads,
let us dump asbestos on the White House,
let us make the French talk English,

not only here but everywhere,
let us torture the Senate individually
until they confess,
let us purge the New Party,
let us encourage the dark races
so they'll be lenient
when they take over,
let us make the CBC talk English,
let us all lean in one direction
and float down
to the coast of Florida,
let us have tourism,
let us flirt with the enemy,
let us smelt pig-iron in our back yards,
let us sell snow
to under-developed nations,
(It is true one of our national leaders
was a Roman Catholic?)
let us terrorize Alaska,
let us unite
Church and State,
let us not take it lying down,
let us have two Governor Generals
at the same time,
let us have another official language,
let us determine what it will be,
let us give a Canada Council Fellowship
to the most original suggestion,
let us teach sex in the home
to parents,
let us threaten to join the U.S.A.
and pull out at the last moment,
my brothers, come,
our serious heads are waiting for us somewhere
like Gladstone bags abandoned
after a coup d'état,
let us put them on very quickly,
let us maintain a stony silence
on the St. Lawrence Seaway.

April 1961

Waiting for Marianne from "Flowers for Hitler"

I have lost a telephone
with your smell in it

I am living beside the radio
all the stations at once
but I pick out a Polish lullaby
I pick it out of the static
it fades I wait I keep the beat
it comes back almost alseep

Did you take the telephone
knowing I'd sniff it immoderately
maybe heat up the plastic
to get all the crumbs of your breath

and if you won't come back
how will you phone to say
you won't come back
so that I could at least argue

Poem 1 ("I stopped to listen, but he did not come ...") from "Book of Mercy"

I stopped to listen, but he did not come. I begain again with a sense of loss. As this sense deepened I heard him again. I stopped stopping and I stopped starting, and I allowed myself to be crushed by ignorance. This was a strategy, and didn't work at all. Much time, years were wasted in such a minor mode. I bargain now. I offer buttons for his love. I beg for mercy. Slowly he yields. Haltingly he moves toward his throne. Reluctantly the angels grant to one another permission to sing. In a transition so delicate it cannot be marked, the court is established on beams of golden symmetry, and once again I am a singer in the lower choirs, born fifty years ago to raise my voice this high, and no higher.

Poem 50 ("I lost my way, I forgot ...") from "Book of Mercy"

I lost my way, I forgot to call on your name. The raw heart beat against the world, and the tears were for my lost victory. But you are here. You have always been here. The world is all forgetting, and the heart is a rage of directions, but your name unifies the heart, and the world is lifted into its place. Blessed is the one who waits in the traveller's heart for his turning.

Do not forget old friends from "Selected Poems"

Do not forget old friends
you knew long before I met you
the times I know nothing about
being someone
who lives by himself
and only visits you on a raid

Vergiß die alten Freunde nicht

Vergiß die alten Freunde nicht
die du kanntest lang ehe ich dich traf
die Zeiten über die ich nichts weiß
da ich einer bin
der für sich lebt
und nur auf einem Raubzug zu dir kommt

I Wonder How Many People in This City from "The Spice-Box of Earth"

I wonder how many people in this city
live in furnished rooms.
Late at night when i look out at the buildings
I swear I see a face in every window
looking back at me
and when I turn away
I wonder how many go back to their desks
and write this down.

Wieviele Leute in dieser Stadt

Ich frage mich, wieviele Leute in dieser Stadt
in möblierten Zimmern wohnen.
Spät abends, wenn ich hinaus auf die Gebäude schaue:
ich schwöre, ich sehe in jedem Fenster ein Gesicht,
das zu mir hersieht,
und wenn ich mich abwende
frage ich mich, wieviele zurück an ihren Schreibtisch gehen
und dies aufschreiben.

most of Cohen's work was also translated into german

Song ("I almost went to bed ...") from "The Spice-Box of Earth"

I almost went to bed
without remembering
the four white violets
I put in the button-hole
of your green sweater

and how i kissed you then
and you kissed me
shy as though I'd
never been your lover

When this American woman from "Let Us Compare Mythologies"

When this American woman,
whose thighs are bound in casual red cloth,
comes thundering past my sitting place
like a forest-burning Mongol tribe,
the city is ravished
and brittle buildings of a hundred years
splash into the street;
and my eyes are burnt
for the embroidered Chinese girls,
already old,
and so small between the thin pines
on these enormous landscapes,
that if you turn your head
they are lost for hours.

I Have Not Lingered In European Monosteries from "The Spice-Box of Earth"

I Have Not Lingered In European Monosteries
and discovered among the tall grasses tombs of knights
who fell as beautifully as their ballads tell;
I have not parted the grasses
or purposefully left them thatched.

I have not held my breath
so that I might hear the breathing of God
or tamed my heartbeat with an exercise,
or starved for visions.
Although I have watched him often
I have not become the heron,
leaving my body on the shore,
and I have not become the luminous trout,
leaving my body in the air.

I have not worshipped wounds and relics,
or combs of iron,
or bodies wrapped and burnt in scrolls.

I have not been unhappy for ten thousands years.
During the day I laugh and during the night I sleep.
My favourite cooks prepare my meals,
my body cleans and repairs itself,
and all my work goes well.

I Long to Hold Some Lady from The Spice Box of Earth

I long to hold some lady
For my love is far away,
And will not come tomorrow
And was not here today.

There is no flesh so perfect
As on my lady's bone,
And yet it seems so distant
When I am all alone:

As though she were a masterpiece
In some castled town,
That pilgrims come to visit
And priests to copy down.

Alas, I cannot travel
To a love I have so deep
Or sleep too close beside
A love I want to keep.

But I long to hold some lady,
For flesh is warm and sweet.
Cold skeletons go marching
Each night beside my feet.

Now of Sleeping ("Under her grandmother's patchwork quilt ...)" from The Spice Box of Earth

Under her grandmother's patchwork quilt
a calico bird's-eye view
of crops and boundaries
naming dimly the districts of her body
sleeps my Annie like a perfect lady

Like ages of weightless snow
on tiny oceans filled with light
her eyelids enclose deeply
a shade tree of birthday candles
one for every morning
until the now of sleeping

The small banner of blood
kept and flown by Brother Wind
long after the pierced bird fell down
is like her red mouth
among the squalls of pillow

Bearers of evil fancy
of dark intention and corrupting fashion
who come to rend the quilt
plough the eye and ground the mouth
will contend with mighty Mother Goose
and Farmer Brown and all good stories
of invincible belief
which surround her sleep
like the golden wheather of a halo

Well-wishers and her true lover
may stay to watch my Annie
sleeping like a perfect lady
under her grandmother's patchwork quilt
but they must promise to whisper
and to vanish by morning -
all but her one true lover.

THE NEXT ONE ("Things are better in Milan ...)" from Death of a Lady's Man

Things are better in Milan.
Things are a lot better in Milan.
My adventure has sweetened.
I met a girl and a poet.
One of them was dead
and one of them was alive.
The poet was from Peru
and the girl was a doctor.
She was taking antibiotics.
I will never forget her.
She took me into a dark church
consecrated to Mary.
Long live the horses and the sandles.
The poet gave me back my spirit
which I had lost in prayer.
He was a great man out of the civil war.
He said his death was in my hands
because I was the next one
to explain the weakness of love.
The poet was Cesar Vallejo
who lies at the floor of his forehead.
Be with me now great warrior
whose strength depends solely
on the favours of a woman.


From the original version of My Life in Art:

I lost my tan in Italy and I got fat on pasta and the starch of loneliness. I must fast for forty days. Sabina wrote me from the temple in Germany. She said that the old books say you should fast once each year for the number of days corresponding to your age. She was on the eight day of an intended twenty-eight-day fast. Also I neglected to twist my feet so the heart went crazy. I must phone Patricia who was so good to me. The line is busy.

"cover of Greatest Hits was taken in a mirror of a hotel room in Milan - I rarely ever look this good, or bad, depending on your politics"
THE PRO 1973 ("Lost my voice ...") from "Death of a Lady's Man"

Lost my voice in New York City
never heard it again after sixty-seven
Now I talk like you
Now I sing like you
Cigarette and coffee to make me sick
Couple of families to make me think
Going to see my lawyer
Going to read my mail
Lost my voice in New York City
Guess you always knew


from the Nashville Notebooks of 1969:

I leave my silence to a co-operative of poets
who have already bruised their mouths against it.

I leave my homesick charm to the scavengers of
spare change who work the old artistic corners.

I leave the shadow of my manly groin to those who
write for pay.

I leave to several jealous men a second-rate legend
of my life.

To those few high school girls
who preferred my work to Dylan's
I leave my stone ear
and my disposable Franciscan ambitions

Summer-Haiku from "The Spice-Box of Earth"

For Frank and Marian Scott


and a deeper silence

when the crickets


Poem 17 ("I perceived the outline of your breasts ...") from "The Energy of Slaves"

I perceived the outline of your breasts
through your Hallowe'en costume
I knew you were falling in love with me
because no other man could perceive
the advance of your bosom into his imagination
It was a rupture of your unusual modesty
for me and me alone
through which you impressed upon my shapeless hunger
the incomparable and final outline of your breasts
like two deep fossil shells
which remained all night long and probably forever

Poem 111 ("Each man ...") from "The Energy of Slaves"

Each man
has a way to betray
the revolution
This is mine

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