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Suzanne -- Leonard Cohen

(Poem #116) Suzanne
Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she's half crazy
But that's why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her
That you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer
That you've always been her lover
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you've touched her perfect body with your mind.

And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said "All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them"
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
And you want to travel with him
And you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you'll trust him
For he's touched your perfect body with his mind.

Now Suzanne takes your hand
And she leads you to the river
She is wearing rags and feathers
From Salvation Army counters
And the sun pours down like honey
On our lady of the harbour
And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she's touched your perfect body with her mind.
-- Leonard Cohen
Dylan's only serious challenger for the title of greatest popular
lyricist ever is a Canadian singer-songwriter-poet named Leonard Cohen.
Who happens to be a genius. Absolutely.

Cohen started his career as a poet and writer; indeed, he finds
prominent mention in any number of anthologies of contemporary verse,
while his second novel prompted the reviewer of the Boston Globe to say
'James Joyce is alive and well and living under the name of Leonard
Cohen'. But when barely getting into his stride as a writer, he switched
to performance; armed with a guitar and minimalistic (yet poignant)
tunes, he hit home with a series of impassioned, truthful songs. He
concentrated on exploring relationships - 'the battles of the boudoirs'
- yet he was never out of touch with the social context of his lyrics;
songs like "Please don't pass me by" (a stunning 14-minute
improvisation, which can be found on the album "Cohen Live") and "First
we take Manhattan" (from "I'm your man") stand out as the defining
classics of his genre.

Todays' poem/song grows on you. Cohen himself once described it as being
'the best song he'd ever written', and looking at the simple, frank
lyrics, it's not hard to see why. Just read it aloud several times, or
(better yet) listen to it... beautiful.


There are lots of Cohen websites out there (and I won't even mention the
number of Bob Dylan sites floating around in the ether :-)), but I think
the most comprehensive one is

For an interview with the Suzanne of the title, go to
[broken link]

For a rather gushingly written but nonetheless comprehensive Cohen
biography, go to
[broken link]

And finally, many thanks to Movin Miranda, Rajeev Chakravarthy and
Sheetal Bahl for their suggestions for poems to run this week.

Next week: Aboriginal Poetry.

51 comments: ( or Leave a comment )


one of the best
ever written

bart van oijen


suzanne is so abstract,
I do not understand her,
I love her-
I do not understand Leonard Cohen and I don't care, I hereby invite him to watch my abstactions at
where everybody is welcome to see my 'poetry'.
Thank you Leonard Cohen.

Dave Vigus said...

I knew her, she me; and we Him...

we shared, we loved, we are: free.

Regards, Dave Vigus
Cincinnati, Ohio USA
note: before this email was allowed to leave my computer, intended to be
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James (Jim) Christian said...

Even after all these years, it still sends chills through my mind.

Brother Wolf

Joseph Eshleman said...

Pls explain the relationship of this poem to june of 1999...I hope it's not being inferred thatis the date of the poem....this poem was song and broadcastas a top hit in ?1969?//jhe

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