The FlameThe Flame by Leonard Cohen
My rating: 5/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

fulfilling book riot’s 2018 read harder challenge task #1: A book published posthumously


I pray for courage
Now I’m old
To greet the sickness
And the cold

I pray for courage
In the night
To bear the burden
Make it light

I pray for courage
In the time
When suffering comes and
Starts to climb

I pray for courage
At the end
To see death coming
As a friend

i mean, it’s leonard cohen, and it’s the last leonard cohen book we’re ever going to get, so even though i didn’t breathlessly love every single poem, lyric, scrawled note-to-self he may have been planning to polish at a later date, it gets five stars cats for legacy.

this book covers a great chunk of time, and some of the early writing here does in fact become something else later in his career; there’s even evidence of that occurring within this collection – echoes, phrases repurposed, the underghosts of familiar songs peeking out elsewhere.

if there had to be a farewell at all, this is a fitting one – the whole range of his writing is on display; all of his wit and erotic spirituality, his self-deprecation and his gratitude, his respect and his delight in the fluidity of language.

the book is almost like being at a memorial ceremony – there are humorous moments to stave off getting too gloomy or somber:

I sincerely hope
you have not
come to believe,
that simply because
you ran off & got
married behind
my back, you
are somehow
entitled to keep

my tape measure



The huge mauve jacaranda tree
down the street on South Tremaine
in full bloom
two stories high
It made me so happy
And then
the first cherries of the season
at the Palisades Farmers Market
Sunday morning
“What a blessing!”
I exclaimed to Anjani
And then the samples on waxed paper
of the banana cream cake
and the coconut cream cake
I am not a lover of pastry
but I recognized the genius of the baker
and touched my hat to her
A slight chill in the air
seemed to polish the sunlight
and confer the status of beauty
to every object I beheld
Faces bosoms fruits pickles green eggs
newborn babies
in clever expensive harnesses
I am so grateful
to my new anti-depressant

and also the gentle regret and wistfulness of remembrances:

We will be forgiven
the crummy things
we did to one another
because we
didn’t enjoy them

We’ll be leaving now
we’ll be leaving
for a good long time
and we want to say goodnight
we want to say goodnight
we want to say farewell

We had a little love
we had it for a while
It wasn’t quite enough
but thank you anyhow

Thank you for your kindness
in the field
and thank you for your kindness
in the room

The horses ran away
but we were not to blame
and when they
turned so beautiful
in their silver flight
it wasn’t our idea
at least it wasn’t mine

I want to be with other people
now I’m growing old
I want to be another drunk
who’s given up the bottle
I want to watch the lonely men
who still go out with women
I want to see the bridal gown
cover up the sequins
This is my very night of nights
the past was a rehearsal


You must have heard it in my voice
the sound that I no longer love you
I would never disguise that sound
I would never do that to you
O shining one
you have moved beyond my love
you have turned your face to others
I was not strong enough for this test
I turned away
I wear an iron collar
and I give my chain to anyone
but I never pretend that they are you
O shining one
who held my spirit like a match
in your cupped hands
while I thought I was warming you
O shining one
who teaches with her absence


it’s a beautiful collection, and so much better than the janked-up scansion and garbage word-salad passing itself off as poetry these days. oops, who said that?

also, i am choosing to believe, since there is precedence, that leonard cohen wrote this one about me. i refuse to be dissuaded from this belief, so don’t send me any documentation about some “other” karen with whom leonard cohen had a more deep and abiding relationship than the one we had, or even that there is another karen in the world out there, if there is. i’m not hearing it LALALALALAAAAAAAA:

Karen’s beauty is very great
it lies on her heart like a paperweight
She haunts the edges of her beauty
like a ghost on sentry duty
If beauty is the motherland
she lives on the furthest strand
Her back toward the capitol
that the pilgrims call so beautiful
She hears them make a joyous sound
but she cannot turn around
The lover’s song and the victim’s rack
they soar and creak behind her back
Through her beauty many pass
like penitents on broken glass
But once inside there is no cure
for hearts so wounded at the door

Trying to find a place to kneel
between the poets of pain
Trying to find a world to feel
that feels like the world again
My darling says her love is real
then why does she complain

there’s not much more to say – if you like leonard cohen, you will like this book. if you don’t like leonard cohen, i’m sorry you are such a broken person.


oooh, goodreads choice awards semifinalist for best poetry 2018! what will happen?

if lang leav wins over leonard cohen, i will burn down the world.


a story that is one-half true

me when i did not win the goodreads giveaway for this book:

me when connor surprised me by having it shipped to my house the very same day:

one million ♥s

read my reviews on goodreads

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