When I walked in the house, the sunlight was streaming brightly through the windows, yet there was a sense of dimness everywhere. The air stood still. An eerie, deep voice was rumbling through the apartment, its cadence seemingly penetrating the walls, the ceiling, the floorboards. It was Leonard Cohen, repeating the words of A Thousand Kisses Deep, stuck reminiscing of a deep, long lost love on a loop. Flowers drooped in a vase in the middle of the dining room table, the vase half-resting on a note. “I’m sorry; let’s try again?” it said. The tears came unbidden.
I came home to this scene one early spring evening three years ago. It was after a big fight, when my partner left our house to stay at his parents’ house. I told almost no one, thinking it was a hiccup. After all, if Leonard Cohen could come in and make things right again, it will all work out, no?
There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” – Anthem, Leonard Cohen
But sometimes, other things come in through the cracks. Sadness and anger and resentment. Pain and jealousy and disenchantment. And if we lose track of the cracks, those weeds proliferate… And before we know it, we’re left with a big, thorny bush that we don’t know how to cut.
I know you had to lie to me
I know you had to cheat
You learned it on your father's knee
And at your mother's feet
But did you have to fight your way
Across the burning street
When all our vital interests lay
A thousand kisses deep.” – A Thousand Kisses Deep, Leonard Cohen
Just like the description of a love we forgot to nurture, Leonard Cohen’s words speak to what happened in America this week. Except that it didn’t happen this week; it’s been growing and festering, the weeds growing through the cracks of a broken American Middle class, grasping at every living root and threatening to strangle the last bit of life out of everything pure and beautiful around us. There have been many wise words written on America and the latest election; I prefer not to add more.
Things are going to slide
Slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
The blizzard of the world
Has crossed the threshold
And it's overturned the order of the soul” – The Future, Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen’s raspy voice has been the soundtrack of my life. There when I was a rebellious youth, my jeans covered in patches and hand-drawn elves, the bells in my hair and in my ears tinkled in tune to Anthem. There when I was first discovering America from the top of the Chrysler Building as a 17-year-old on a mission, the ominous words of First we Take Manhattan firmly lodged themselves in my head. There when I was falling in love for the first time, Dance me to the End of Love pulled me under its spell like a siren’s call. There when I had my heart broken for the first time, Your Famous Blue Raincoat helped me navigate the streets of the city that no longer felt mine. There when, in attempt to get over that heartbreak, I sat at a bonfire with unknown men, singing all the words to Hallelujah as if my life depended on it – which at the time, it probably did. And there when, just over five years ago, I lay on a bed to the sounds of A Thousand Kisses Deep, gazing at a tall boy with deep blue eyes, who promised me the world if I would just love him back.
And then last night, when I sat surrounded by friends around a table in Montreal’s historic Plateau neighbourhood, there was Leonard Cohen again. Looking back at me from a thousand Facebook posts, from a million heartbroken words, from an infinite pool of heartache.
I have been listening to Leonard Cohen’s songs for as long as I can remember. They formed the soundtrack to a life well lived, loved and experienced. And I know that I will continue listening to them for many, many more years, as his prophetic words will continue to unspool me and countless others like me.
May he rest in peace.
The photo used above shows Leonard Cohen preparing food for his fellow Buddhists at the Mt. Baldy Zen Center.