… That’s what you had to come back for: the lament that we omitted. Can you hear me? I would like to fling my voice out like a cloth over the fragments of your death, and keep pulling at it until it is torn to pieces, and all my words would have to walk around shivering, in the tatters of that voice; as if lament were enough.
But now I must accuse: not the man who withdrew you from yourself (I cannot find him; he looks like everyone), but in this one man, I accuse: all men. When somewhere, from deep within me, there arises the vivid sense of having been a child, the purity and essence of that childhood where I once lived: then I don’t want to know it. I want to form an angel from that sense and hurl him upward, into the front row of angels who scream out, reminding God.
For this suffering has lasted far too long; none of us can bear it; it is too heavy — this tangled suffering of spurious love which, building on convention like a habit, calls itself just, and fattens on injustice. Show me a man with a right to his possession. Who can possess what cannot hold its own self, but only, now and then, will blissfully catch itself, then quickly throw itself away, like a child playing with a ball. As little as a captain can hold the carved Nike facing outward from his ship’s prow when the lightness of her godhead suddenly lifts her up, into the bright sea-wind: so little can one of us call back the woman who, now no longer seeing us, walks on along the narrow strip of her existence as though by miracle, in perfect safety — unless, that is, he wishes to do wrong. For this is wrong, if anything is wrong: not to enlarge the freedom of a love with all the inner freedom one can summon. We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.
Are you still here? Are you standing in some corner? You knew so much of all this, you were able to do so much; you passed through life so open to all things, like an early morning. I know: women suffer; for love means being alone; and artists in their work sometimes intuit that they must keep transforming, where they love. You began both; both exist in that which any fame takes from you and disfigures. Oh you were far beyond all fame; were almost invisible; had withdrawn your beauty, softly, as one would lower a brightly colored flag on the gray morning after a holiday. You had just one desire: a year’s long work — which was never finished; was somehow never finished. If you are still here with me, if in this darkness there is still some place where your spirit resonates on the shallow sound waves stirred up by my voice: hear me: help me. We can so easily slip back from what we have struggled to attain, abruptly, into a life we never wanted; can find that we are trapped, as in a dream, and die there, without ever waking up. This can occur. Anyone who has lifted his blood into a years-long work may find that he can’t sustain it, the force of gravity is irresistible, and it falls back, worthless. For somewhere there is an ancient enmity between our daily life and the great work. Help me, in saying it, to understand it.
Do not return. If you can bear to, stay dead with the dead. The dead have their own tasks. But help me, if you can without distraction, since in me what is most distant sometimes helps.
[Translator: Stephen Mitchell]
Narrated by Leonard Cohen, this two-part documentary series explores ancient teachings on death and dying and boldly visualizes the afterlife according to Tibetan philosophy. Tibetan Buddhists believe that after a person dies, they enter a state of “bardo” for 49 days until a rebirth.
Program 1, The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Way of Life documents the history of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, tracing the book’s acceptance and use in Europe and North America. Included is remarkable footage of the rites and liturgies surrounding and following the death of a Ladakhi elder as well as the views of the Dalai Lama on life and death.
Program 2, The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation observes an old Buddhist lama and a 13-year-old novice monk as they guide a deceased person into the afterlife. The passage of the soul is visualized with animation blended into actual location shooting.
This information comes from the website of the National Film Board of Canada. NFB produced the documentary in co-operation with NHK Japan and Mistral Film of France.
My kind friend Anwar gave me a ticket to Abdullah Ibrahim’s solo concert last night at the Fugard Theatre. It was the quietly incandescent performance of an old man who has been so far and seen so much, whose heart remains rooted in this troubled land even as it hurts to be here, even as his fingers know he doesn’t have forever. His playing held such sorrow, yet such peace, and playfulness, too. Refusing easy resolution, defiantly free as ever. We imagined afterwards how incredible it would have been if the whole performance could have been broadcast live on loudspeakers, into every roiling corner of this country, for everyone to hear it simultaneously. A lament. A hymn. A balm. A lesson. Beyond the span of words’ expression.
Recorded live at Paste Magazine’s offices in Decatur, Georgia, on 16 January 2009.
“Among all the remarkable Usvyaty singers it is necessary, first and foremost, to single out the name of Olga Fedoseevna Sergeeva [I can’t find any English website for her]. We communicated with Olga Sergeeva for ten years and recorded over 300 songs in the most various genres performed by her. I brought the singer to Leningrad three times and she performed in ethnographic concerts in the House of Composers, on Leningrad radio and made some records with “Melodia” company.
“Sergeeva is an outstanding folk singer. Ritual songs and old lyric prevail in her richest repertoire which indicates the high artistic taste of Olga Sergeeva, as most of her contemporaries prefer singing new lyrical songs of the romance type. In the lyrical songs especially loved by the singer, her voice sounds plummy, deep–however, reserved at the same time and even subdued a bit, and from the very first sounds it spellbinds the listener with its beauty and cordiality.
“There is nothing outward, emotionally open in her performance, this is singing for herself with no relation to the listener. At the same time plainness, naturalness, strictness, is combined here with improvised freedom and excellence of micro variation. “Each song has one hundred changes”, the singer remarked once. It is not by chance that Andrei Tarkovsky chose the recording of Olga Sergeevas’s 1971/2 recording of the old song ‘Kumushki’ for his film Nostalghia.” (From HERE.)
The second version that follows here is also very beautiful, but a more contemporary interpretation, by singer Pelageya off her album Girls’ Songs in 2007.
Here is a translation of the words that I found:
Oh, my girlfriends, be sweet;
be sweet and love one another,
be sweet and love one another,
Love me too.
You will go to the green garden,
take me with you.
You will pick flowers,
Pick some for me too.
You will weave garlands,
take me with you.
You will go to the Donau,
take me with you.
You will offer your wreaths to the river,
offer mine too.
Your wreaths will float on the water,
but mine will sink to the bottom.
Your boyfriends came back from the war!
Mine didn’t return.