Guest poem sent in by Matt Chanoff : Here's another song lyric that I love and think people will enjoy. Last year, a group of people did a show of Leonard Cohen songs, which they performed in New York and Sydney. It's the basis for a documentary about Cohen that's in theaters now, called 'Came So Far for Beauty'. I've been listening to the soundtrack, which is phenomenal, and particularly love the following song, performed on the album by Rufus Wainwright.
(Poem #1918) Everybody Knows
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 Everybody knows that the boat is leaking Everybody knows that the captain lied Everybody got this broken feeling Like their father or their dog just died Everybody talking to their pockets Everybody wants a box of chocolates And a long stem rose Everybody knows 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 Everybody knows, everybody knows That's how it goes Everybody knows Everybody knows, everybody knows That's how it goes Everybody knows And everybody knows that it's now or never Everybody knows that it's me or you And everybody knows that you live forever Ah when you've done a line or two Everybody knows the deal is rotten Old black Joe's still pickin cotton For your ribbons and bows And everybody knows And everybody knows that the plague is coming Everybody knows that it's moving fast Everybody knows that the naked man and woman Are just a shining artifact of the past Everybody knows the scene is dead But there's gonna be a meter on your bed That will disclose What everybody knows And everybody knows that you're in trouble Everybody knows what you've been through From the bloody cross on top of Calvary To the beach of Malibu Everybody knows its coming apart Take one last look at this sacred heart Before it blows And everybody knows Everybody knows, everybody knows That's how it goes Everybody knows Oh everybody knows, everybody knows That's how it goes Everybody knows Everybody knows
Here's what I love about this song. The first three stanzas let up this barbed, vicious view of human nature. The world is sick, they say, because people are crooked. Then with the next stanza the focus of all that hostility shifts from the world at large to an unfaithful lover. You automatically reinterpret the stuff in the third stanza about 'everybody wants a box of chocolates, a long stemmed rose' from belonging to the first sentiment to belonging to the second. More gradually, the meaning of the refrain, 'everybody knows' shifts too, from 'everybody knows the sad truth of the world' to 'everybody knows that you've been unfaithful to me.' This terrific conflation of the individual, personal hurt and the grand sense that the world is sinful works in a macro way - as a betrayed lover, you do feel that you've been betrayed by the whole world. Cohen emphasizes the theme by conflating big and small things throughout the song. For example 'Everybody got this broken feeling/ Like their father or their dog just died'. One would think that these would be different orders of grief, but not in this song. Another example is 'Everybody knows what you've been through/ From the bloody cross on top of Calvary/ To the beach of Malibu'. The other thing I love about the song is just simply the great lines. For example, the run up to the instance of 'everybody knows' where you suddenly realize it means 'everybody knows you've been unfaithful' goes like this Everybody knows you've been discreet But there were so many people you just had to meet Without your clothes And everybody knows I also love Everybody knows the deal is rotten Old black Joe's still pickin cotton For your ribbons and bows Leonard Cohen's got this deep unvarying monotone of a voice, that has turned me off to his music for years. This album of good (and some great) singers has given me an appreciation for what a great lyricist he is. Matt Chanoff