Leonard Cohen. Donald Trump.

12 Nov



I will not forget the day Donald Trump became President Elect of the USA, because it’s the same day Leonard Cohen died, and that is almost too much of a coincidence to bear.

It seems excessive, that one should have to deal with the arrival of Trump and the leaving of Cohen in the same twenty-four hours. As the poet departs the soulless prepare to take over: it’s a bad succession and I can’t help wondering if there are too many of us who took the poetry for granted and lost our focus, and while we weren’t paying attention the hollow men moved in.

The two men, Cohen and Trump, represent extreme points on a continuum of human possibility. The former mined the infinite richness of love, sex, loss, grief, joy: the mysteries of feeling, experience and meaning. The latter reduces human experience to its most crude and its most base: not for him the mystical transports of a thousand kisses deep, his desires are far more readily satiated.

It’s the poet’s task to find words that express the inexpressible. The poet/musician Cohen found the chords as well and while he didn’t think of himself as possessing a voice of any great interest, like Bob Dylan his voice, its timbre and rhythms, its hesitations and its forcefulness, its yearning, its anger and its joy, struggled to describe what it is to be here, to be human and divine, to love and to hate, to fully live this inexplicable life on earth.

While Trump knows the power of words as well as Cohen did, he uses them to conceal truths rather than unveil them, and there is no music to be found in him that makes any sense. Trump is discordant, senseless, unconnected, deadly. Cohen knows this darkness:

Give me back my broken night
my mirrored room, my secret life
it’s lonely here,
there’s no one left to torture
Give me absolute control
over every living soul
And lie beside me, baby,
that’s an order!
Give me crack and anal sex
Take the only tree that’s left
and stuff it up the hole
in your culture
Give me back the Berlin wall
give me Stalin and St Paul
I’ve seen the future, brother:
it is murder.

I’m mourning Cohen and I understand that this mourning is complex. That he should die at this precise moment in the history of the world is significant. It’s as if his death is an alert to examine what might have died unnoticed in us, leaving an absence of feeling that permitted the ascension of Trump and those like him. They represent a world without poetry, and I use the word in its broadest sense, that of a sensibility that permits the recognition of another’s humanity, vulnerability and frailty as being common to all of us rather than the characteristics of an alien other, to be despised and denied. A sensibility that recognises tenderness towards others and our earth as strength, and not as weakness ripe for exploitation. Cohen died, but what Cohen represents has been slowing dying in many of us, and perhaps a poet had to die before we could understand what we’ve been losing.

There’s a more personal sorrow: Arnie, my  husband, loved Leonard and bore a remarkable physical resemblance to him, especially, I realised today looking closely at images of Cohen, their hands and fingers. They shared a similar sensibility and they were both Jews, with a certain ambivalence towards their traditional culture and religion. Cohen spent five years living as a monk in a Buddhist monastery, Arnie cherry-picked his religious observances and like Cohen, never quite turned his back on his heritage. I think most days Cohen sang in our house.

So for me, Cohen is inextricably bound up with our love and our life. Losing Cohen is like losing another part of us, and I am staggered, still, to find that there are yet more aspects of us I must lose and grieve over.

Cohen left behind a body of work from which can be constructed a soundtrack for a revolution. This is the man’s miraculous gift: he created a soundtrack for the most intimate of relationships, and a soundtrack for a world that must, if it is to survive, find poetry again. In that poetry must be found the means to overcome the hollow men who today, the day after the poet’s death, the day after the most hollow of hollow men was appointed leader of the most significant country in the world, seem disastrously, unassailably powerful.

Come healing of the reason, come healing of the heart: 



16 Responses to “Leonard Cohen. Donald Trump.”

  1. lindacairnes2 November 12, 2016 at 3:42 am #

    As always…on the nail J. An untimely loss, a pivotal moment in our times, sadness amplified by our anticipation of what’s to come….the future is murder

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marilyn November 12, 2016 at 4:42 am #

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MDlMdu2gjw The majesty and elegance of Antony singing If it be your will on the Cohen tribute tour with Nick Cave to me summons up the very best of Cohen.

    Antony of course is now well known in Australia as an activist for this

    Liked by 4 people

  3. doug quixote November 12, 2016 at 8:27 am #

    Liked by 3 people

  4. diannaart November 12, 2016 at 2:59 pm #

    … and what really pisses me off, is that now Leonard Cohen has no chance of a Nobel Prize. Although he probably didn’t care.

    What a week, am struggling to type, hands are shaky, after a week of tension which I tried to quell by gardening – pruning and burning – clearing the way for the new?

    My ME does not treat such activity kindly, after resting up on Thursday in order to do my weekly shopping, I assisted 3 young women to push their 4WD off the road on Friday. Most of my shopping was done and managed to make it home.

    Today, I really, really, want/need to write here and elsewhere… learning as I have of Jennifer’s loved one’s resemblance to Cohen, learning more about Hilary and nothing surprising about Trump.

    Recommend: John Pilger You tube interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1Ho8OrBzig

    Off to collapse again, hoping to emerge tomorrow with a brain that can think.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson November 12, 2016 at 6:09 pm #

      Rest up, diannart. Sheep will still be here tomorrow with all our failings and our kindnesses 🙂


  5. samjandwich November 12, 2016 at 5:11 pm #

    It’s been a bad year. In addition to Leonard Cohen we have lost David Bowie, Prince, Merle Haggard and Alan Vega, Barack Obama, Malcolm Turnbull, Bob Ellis, the ambitious collegiality that was the EU, and one of the finest young people I’ve ever met in my personal life, Katie Kirk, age 34.We have also gained Trump, Duterte, Pauline Hanson, and a parliament that wants to legitimise the lifelong torture of asylum seekers. The conservatives are gloating over the triumph of their misanthropic world view, even though they don’t understand that Trump is not on their side. And me, I’m trying to isolate myself as much as I can from it all and sinking into nostalgic escapism…………………………………………..

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson November 12, 2016 at 6:11 pm #

      It’s almost over. This year I mean. I think we’re in the first stages of a darkness, unprecedented in my lifetime, and we have to find ways individually and collectively to survive it.
      Perhaps Sheep can be one small refuge.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Cat November 13, 2016 at 8:33 am #

    I, too, was struck by the stunning synchronicity of the departure of Cohen and the arrival of Trump. It is loaded with meaning: the legacy of the sixties counter culture trumped by a man whose youthful years appear to have been untouched by that time of social change.

    Cohen peered into the human soul and expressed its yearning with unflinching understanding.

    Trump understands what makes us tick too and, as his whole career and presidential electoral campaign shows so clearly, his insights are those of a salesman which he uses to prey upon our frailties.

    Just look at the pair.

    One has been dyed high viz orange and lemon in a ludicrous attempt to convey youthful vigor. So angry. So hostile. Flushed of face.

    The other, a decade older, remained so austerely handsome, serene, wise, still. And that voice.

    They say in old age people have the faces they deserve. Cohen and Trump are the living proof.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Jennifer Wilson November 13, 2016 at 8:35 am #

      I never heard that before, Cat. I guess the idea is that we earn the face we age with.
      Cohen’s face became more & more beautiful to me as he aged.

      Liked by 2 people

      • diannaart November 13, 2016 at 10:41 am #

        Leonard Cohen, aged with grace, departed with a legacy of poetry and song… I am grateful to my friends who, so many years ago, told me to check him out, “he’s, like really old, but you will love his music”.

        Thank you.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. mish of the catlady ascendancy November 14, 2016 at 3:19 pm #

    A little late, so apologies. This is a lovely tribute to Cohen and a disturbing reflection on current events.
    I read an article this morning that described 2016 as framed by Bowie’s death and Blackstar at the beginning, Nick Cave’s Skeleton Tree in the middle (Nick isn’t dead, thank the long absent lord, but the album is drenched in grief), and almost at the end, we have Cohen’s death but also his final album, You Want it Darker.

    Apparently the phrase “feeling 2016” has already entered popular lexicon. I’ll be using it a lot.

    Liked by 2 people

    • diannaart November 14, 2016 at 3:26 pm #


      a dark year indeed. The loss of a son, so young, I am glad that Nick Cave was able to poor his grief into his work.

      …and Leonard Cohen, surprising us with a new album and now he is at rest…

      Bowie planning his finale as well as he managed his life…

      the fool that is Trump simply provides a background for the creativity and genius of others.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Jennifer Wilson November 14, 2016 at 3:34 pm #

      Thanks, mish.
      I think I might be using that phrase as well. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

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