michelle mcgrane – cento for leonard cohen (2006)

leonard-cohen-montreal-1973-photo-ralph-gibson

Leonard Cohen, Montreal, 1973. Photo: Ralph Gibson

once there was a path and a girl with chestnut hair – – – we met when we were almost young – – deep in the green lilac park – – you held on to me like i was a crucifix – – as we went kneeling through the dark – – – i loved you in the morning – our kisses deep and warm – – your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm – – yes – many loved before us – i know that we are not new – – in city and in forest they smiled like me and you – – – let me see you moving like they do in babylon – – show me slowly what i only know the limits of – – dance me very tenderly and dance me very long – – dance me to the wedding now – dance me on and on – – – there’s a concert hall in vienna – – where your mouth had a thousand reviews – – i remember you well in the chelsea hotel – – you were famous – your heart was a legend – – i thought you were the crown prince – – of all the wheels in ivory town – and everywhere that you wandered – – love seemed to go along with you – – – lost among the subway crowds – – i tried to catch your eye – – i saw you there with the rose in your teeth – – i’d been waiting – i was sure – – – but you’d been to the station to meet every train – – – i knew i was in danger of losing what i used to think was mine – – just dance me to the dark side of the gym – – chances are i’ll let you do most anything – – so we’re dancing close – the band is playing stardust – – balloons and paper streamers floating down on us – – – i know you’re hungry – i can hear it in your voice – – and there are many parts of me to touch – you have your choice – – – the women in your scrapbook – – – (i was in that army – yes i stayed a little while – – though i wore a uniform i was not born to fight) – – – now your love is a secret all over the block – – – i’m just a station on your way – – – where are you golden boy – – where is your famous golden touch? – – the sun pours down like honey – – and yes it’s come to this – it’s come to this – – hey prince you need a shave – – – i forget to pray for the angels – – and then the angels forget to pray for us – – – your letters they all say that you’re beside me now – – then why do i feel alone? – – i’m standing on a ledge and your fine spider web – – is fastening my ankle to a stone – – – everybody knows that you love me baby – – everybody knows that you really do – – everybody knows that you’ve been faithful – – ah – give or take a night or two – – everybody knows you’ve been discreet – – but there were so many people you just had to meet – – without your clothes – and everybody knows – – – and i can’t wait to tell you to your face – – and i can’t wait for you to take my place – – – i cannot follow you – my love – – you cannot follow me – – i am the distance you put between – – all of the moments that we will be – – – i choose the rooms that i live in with care – – the windows are small and the walls almost bare – – there’s only one bed and there’s only one prayer – – i listen all night for your step on the stair – – – i don’t like your fashion business mister – – and i don’t like those drugs that keep you thin – – – some women wait for jesus – and some women wait for cain – – i was waiting for a miracle – i waited half my life away – – – lately you’ve started to stutter – as though you had nothing to say – – – you don’t love me quite so fiercely now – – you’re weak and you’re harmless – – you’re sleeping in your harness – – – you thought that it could never happen – – to all the people you became – – the rain falls down on last year’s man – – that’s a crayon in his hand – – – like any dealer he was watching for the card – – that is so high and wild – – he’ll never need to deal another – – – (o you’ve seen that man before) – – his golden arm dispatching cards – – (but now it’s rusted from the elbow to the finger – – and he wants to trade the game he plays for shelter) – – – everybody knows that the dice are loaded – – everybody rolls with their fingers crossed – – everybody knows that 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 – – – well – i found a silver needle – i put it into my arm – – it did some good – did some harm – – but the nights were cold – and it almost kept me warm – – – in a dream of hungarian lanterns – – in the mist of some sweet afternoon – – some girls wander by mistake – – into the mess that scalpels make – – – morning came and then came noon – – dinner time a scalpel blade – – lay beside my silver spoon – – those who earnestly are lost – – are lost and lost again – – – i journey down the hundred steps – – the street is still the very same – – was i – was i only limping – was i really lame? – – – i can’t run no more with this lawless crowd – – – you say you’ve been humbled in love – – cut down in your love – – – you say you’ve gone away from me – – (i see you’ve gone and changed your name again) – – but i can feel you when you breathe – – – you stumble into this movie-house – then climb in to the frame – – – your pain is no credential here – – of course you’ll say you can’t complain – – you who wish to conquer pain – – love calls you by your name – – – why do you stand by the window – – abandoned to beauty and pride – – the thorn of the night in your chest – – the spear of the age in your side – – lost in the rages of fragrance – – lost in the rags of remorse – – lost in the waves of a sickness – – that loosens the high silver nerves – – – yes you who must leave everything that you cannot control – – it begins with your family – but soon it comes around to your soul – – – well i’ve been where you’re hanging – i think i can see how you’re pinned – – when you’re not feeling holy – your loneliness says that you’ve sinned – – – it’s four in the morning – the end of december – – it’s dark now and it’s snowing – – the cadillacs go creeping now through the night and the poison gas – – the cities they are broke in half and the middle men are gone – – – all the rocket-ships are climbing through the sky – – the holy books are open wide – – – the blizzard – the blizzard of the world – – has crossed the threshold – – – do you remember all of those pledges – – that we pledged in the passionate night – – ah they’re soiled now – they’re torn at the edges – – like moths on a still yellow light – – no penance serves to renew them – – no massive transfusions of trust – – why not even revenge can undo them – – so twisted these vows and so crushed – – – i’m cold as a new razor blade – – your shirt is all undone – – – will you kneel beside this bed – – that we polished so long ago – – your eyes are wild and your knuckles are red – – and you’re speaking far too low – – – you don’t know me from the wind – – you never will – you never did – – – the crumbs of love that you offer me – – they’re the crumbs i’ve left behind – – – and is this what you wanted – – to live in a house that is haunted – – by the ghost of you and me? – – – i’ve lain by this window long enough – – to get used to an empty room – – and your love is some dust in an old man’s cough – – who is tapping his foot to a tune – – – and why are you so quiet now – – standing there in the doorway? – – you chose your journey long before – – you came upon this highway – – remember when the scenery started fading – – i held you till you learned to walk on air – – so don’t look down the ground is gone – – there’s no one waiting anyway – – the smokey life is practised – -everywhere – – – looks like freedom but it feels like death – – – i balance on a wishing well that all men call the world – – we are so small between the stars – so large against the sky – – – and where do all these highways go – now that we are free? – – the age of lust is giving birth – and both the parents ask – – the nurse to tell them fairytales on both sides of the glass – – – there is a war between the rich and poor – – a war between the man and the woman – – there is a war between the ones who say there is a war – – and the ones who say there isn’t – – – there is a war between the left and right – – a war between the black and white – – a war between the odd and even – – – i can’t pretend i still feel very much like singing – – as they carry the bodies away – – – there’s blood on every bracelet – – you can see it – you can taste it – – – (every heart – every heart – – to love will come but like a refugee) – – – too early for the rainbow – too early for the dove – – these are the final days – this is the darkness – this is the flood – – and there is no man or woman who can’t be touched – – but you who come between them will be judged – – – so the great affair is over but whoever would have guessed – – it would leave us all so vacant and so deeply unimpressed – – – it’s like our visit to the moon or to that other star – – i guess you go for nothing if you really want to go that far – – – it’s over – it ain’t going any further – – i’m sick of pretending – i’m broken from bending – – i’ve lived too long on my knees – – – the river is swollen up with rusty cans – – and the trees are burning in your promised land – – – along with several thousand dreams – – – there’s nothing left to do – – when you know that you’ve been taken – – – it’s closing time.


(cento: a composition made up of quotations from other authors; latin: patchwork garment)

lyrics taken from:
songs of leonard cohen: suzanne; master song; winter lady; stranger song; sisters of mercy; so long marianne; hey, that’s no way to say goodbye; stories of the street; teachers
i’m your man: first we take manhattan; ain’t no cure for love; everybody knows; take this waltz
songs of love and hate: avalanche; last year’s man; dress rehearsal rag; diamonds in the mine; love calls you by your name; famous blue raincoat
the future: the future; waiting for the miracle; closing time; anthem; light as the breeze; death of a ladies’ man: iodine; paper thin hotel; memories; death of a ladies’ man
songs from a room: the old revolution; the butcher; you know who i am; tonight will be fine
new skin for the old ceremony: is this what you wanted; chelsea hotel #2; there is a war
various positions: dance me to the end of love
recent songs: the guests; humbled in love; the window; the gypsy’s wife; the smokey life

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