New! a poem written after seeing the film, 
"Leonard Cohen — I'm Your Man"
     In the spring of 1968, as some of you remember—if your memory's
any good any more—the world seemed to burst forth with energies as
powerful as the sap of Nature itself, a tide that seemed about to leave
the "Old Order" behind forever. All over the world, students were in
revolt, commandeering the buildings on their campuses. They carried red
flags or black flags or flags that were flowers or the simple flags of
human faces.
     I was a confused 20 year-old, watching these human tides swirl
around me. I got caught up in the chaos, tried to take what stand I
could, aligning my actions and especially my identity, with the new,
surging, "visionary" world that seemed to be thundering its way down
onto the earth. This was, of course, the last year of Meher Baba's human
     Into this strange and portentous milieu came a record with a rather
handsome, thirty-something man's face on its front cover, surrounded by
black. The back cover was even stranger, depicting a naked woman,
chained by the wrists in some kind of sea of flames, seeming to look and
reach upward.
     The man's voice was deep and kind of monotonous. Sometimes it
became almost a wail, without losing that monotone. He intoned his songs
like chants or dirges, almost, accompanying himself with arpeggio-like
runs on an acoustic guitar.
     The songs were full of symbolism. It was hard to say "exactly" what
some of them meant. But they touched me, for some reason, deeply and 
mysteriously, like very little music I had ever heard.      Well, oddly, thirty-five years have passed and I just got out my battered Leonard Cohen Songbook and played and sang maybe six of the songs from that album and Cohen's next one.      The songs still do the same thing. Some of the ones I sang were "Stories of the Street," "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy," "A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes," "The Stranger Song," and "So Long, Marianne." I *still* don't, cognitively, completely grasp all the lyrics of "The Stranger Song." But these songs, many written in the emotional and spiritual pressure-cooker of the sixties, touch me in places not very many artists get to. Poignant and "prophetic," somehow, many of them with lots of minor chords.      Here's a verse from "Stories of the Street:" The age of lust is giving birth, and both the parents ask the nurse to tell them fairy tales on both sides of the glass. And now the infant with his cord is hauled in like a kite, and one eye filled with blueprints, one eye filled with night.      Here are the lyrics to "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy," about a high school friend of his—who doesn't have one?—who committed suicide: It seems so long ago, Nancy was alone, looking ate the Late Late show through a semi-precious stone. In the House of Honesty her father was on trial, in the House of Mystery there was no one at all, there was no one at all. It seems so long ago, none of us were strong; Nancy wore green stockings and she slept with everyone. She never said she'd wait for us although she was alone, I think she fell in love for us in nineteen sixty one, in nineteen sixty one. It seems so long ago, Nancy was alone, a forty five beside her head, an open telephone. We told her she was beautiful, we told her she was free but none of us would meet her in the House of Mystery, the House of Mystery. And now you look around you, see her everywhere, many use her body, many comb her hair. In the hollow of the night when you are cold and numb you hear her talking freely then, she's happy that you've come, she's happy that you've come.      I've rarely seen such longing expressed as in some of these songs.      As I posted a year or two ago, Leonard Cohen went to live awhile back at the Zen Center on Mount Baldy, in Southern California. He was meditating and serving the Roshi, whom he'd sort of "fallen in (spiritual) love" with.      I don't know whether Cohen's still there.     At any rate, it appears that all the lyrics of his songs are printed at , for any of you who might be interested.      This post may introduce some of you to an unique and wonderful artist, whose lyrics sound like they're written by one the "Beautiful Losers" who gave one of his novels its title.      And it may stir feelings in the bellies of some of you that you haven't felt that poignantly for a long time—like singing those songs just did for me.
August 1, 2006: Below is a poem I wrote a day after seeing the film,
"Leonard Cohen — I'm Your Man":

Tone Poem: the Finale,
"Leonard Cohen — I'm Your Man"

He stands at the mic,
craggy faded eagle
in a grey suit,
singing the verse
in a voice of smoke

surrounded by stark figures
black like spectres
from his own youth.

As he finishes, the band
picks up the chorus
and he stands there

smiling with his eyes
closed, just listening
and you feel his whole

life in that smile
and your life, too,

as though the silent
voice of the most beautiful
losers has given
birth to the whole world.

copyright 2006 by Max Reif

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