Leonard Cohen’s “I Long to Hold Some Lady”

I Long to Hold Some Lady from The Spice Box of Earth
I long to hold some lady
For my love is far away,
And will not come tomorrow
And was not here today.

There is no flesh so perfect
As on my lady’s bone,
And yet it seems so distant
When I am all alone:
As though she were a masterpiece
In some castled town,
That pilgrims come to visit
And priests to copy down.
Alas, I cannot travel
To a love I have so deep
Or sleep too close beside
A love I want to keep.
But I long to hold some lady,
For flesh is warm and sweet.
Cold skeletons go marching
Each night beside my feet.

The scene is set in this song from the outset, longing for a body, any body (some lady) of not just the female kind, but one ascribed “lady” characteristics, suggesting manners and carriage, not just woman, which is neutral along the lines of female, a mere nominative term. In just the first line, a reader can see what Leonard Cohen is about in this song. Him.

His use of a mistress, the one night stand, a body, for his purposes, whether that is sexual or inspirational–the muse–is obvious. He refers to what he desires as “lady” and “flesh” and “bone”, which suggest the physical body and sexual desire, but he also uses words like “distant” and “perfect” and “masterpiece” along with religious figures of pilgrim and priest, suggesting the female figure as muse, on her pedestal, in his mental loins, a mere image for idolatry. But in the end of the poem, it becomes clear that woman is merely a placeholder for his own masturbatory lovemaking, the love he cannot travel to as it is so “deep”, I would posit inside of him, is the love of a woman….because he is so busy loving himself.

Leonard Cohen’s image as poet-lover is not unknown to others who know his music and writings, the lover who dabbled with so many women (Joni Mitchell one of the more famous of them), committing to none, and painted them on the walls of his imagination in his music and in his schtick, his gig, the crooner surrounded by the chick backup singers. Whether act or true story of his inability to attach/commit, he is devoted to promoting and expressing that romantic self image in just about everything he writes: Cohen as being Cohen. And that’s not a bad thing.

I like Leonard Cohen’s music and writing, most all of it. He is a caricature of a beat generation figure of freedom of expression and romantic love mid to late 20th Century style. He is historical. The brush strokes of his collage poetry is delicate and flavorful, like his last few lines: “For flesh is warm and sweet/Cold skeletons go marching/Each beside my feet.” The contrast of warm flesh, evoking the blood and bone imagery throughout, juxtaposed with the cold skeleton, life and death, is stripped purely in binary anatomical, biological terms. The romantic notion of craving someone gets reduced to blood, bone, and death. It is not macabre so much as a revelation that the “lady” was a mere idea in the first place–mistress muse of his imagination.

One may begrudge him for being a user and abuser of women for his purposes like any rapist, or one can judge him a showman plying his trade full of promotion and self-selfish love, or one can enjoy a poet using symbol and metaphor in his own style. Give him a break? For “there is a crack in everything (and everyone). That’s how the light gets in.”

Mistress Muse Has Left the Building

Theater, theater everywhere and not a jot to spare.
I awake to coffee spill and news-ful cancer’d glare.
And fire drill call to hurry up let’s go I’m gonna be late.
Flinging my body to stand from sleep, I jerk my gait.

O where is my morning muse with her golden hair?
She is cleaning the sick of crusted plates from night.
She is driving the pouting glum of stare to school late.
She is plumbing pieces of despair picked from market.

Theater, theater in the air and none too soon to bear.
I lunch on steering wheel carousel toast with shmear.
From work to work I go changing shoes at red lights.
And home again to gaze into supper’s dull delights.

O where is my afternoon muse with her flesh of dun?
She is quilting the patches of place to place and back.
She is feeding the abysmal depths of teenage hunger.
She is bickering the truth of decaying parental mind.

Theater, theater nowhere near the pleasure palace be.
I sleep in hollow cavern deep with laundered sheets.
And trace the catatonic trail of deeds that light leads.
To bed alone with fantasy flee’d I sweep seams free.

O where is my night late muse with her sleeping brow?
She is unloosing strands tied tight in day’s do and do.
She is fallowed dark in forms of wisp and trollop sims.
She is aloft in costumed stages of trim repair of dreams.

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Mistress Muse Where Are You?

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When the thought I seek doesn’t come
I sit poised, fingers frozen in mid-type,
waiting for the words to percolate down
from my brain to my digits in wait, ready

But when sentences flow without stop
when they pour onto pad seamlessly
is when there is no thought, only flow
flying letters flipping up the paged screen

The stretch of linguistic limbs of mind
and the barren desert of heart desire
produces no cave gem of the delightful
just a wrenched out, eked out word squirt

Drenched in the sweat of sexless desire
it hurts to turn the cogs and wheels on
to keep the grooves oiled and tea hot
I am no longer the poet I was ever before.

Mistress Mine

Come to me mine, my mistress,
in the early hours’ pre-day pleasure;
the Indian motel clerk with tossled hair
and somnambulant grin, smell of curry
and the rice crispy bars he displays
with the thinly brewed coffee in plastic,
dark and medium roast depicted
by milk chocolate or unsweetened cocoa
colored beans on the mini cups’ sealed
aluminum foil covering, slowly and
sullenly swaps a key for my hundred.

In the lunch time hour, I come to you
in your bed, while others no wiser for
not knowing as they wend through the
river of their days at school, in traffic,
at work, to whisper in your ear what a
great fuck my mistress is and ever she
is thus, in her leather stripes and boots
lace tongue and slippery warm fingers
that rifle my hair, trace the topography,
thick, hard rubber muscles of my back
labored strong on clay courts in my day.

On late Friday afternoon, I call you to me;
come lie with me and hold my slumber
in yours, in your touch as we bask
in the one-ply sheets of sweat and soap
inhaling cleaner fluid scented polish
and the wafting heat of our skin and breath,
a still life of absolution and post passion
slightly swaying bed of our beating chests
as I sink into pillows and you eye ceilings
waiting for the pulsing to subside so that
we can fall into spooned rhythm of sleep.

Nights I send you one word, a number,
a question mark or a letter you know,
my hot queen at the flash of a moment,
the ready response to my steady call
peppered in night and day fantasies of
owning you, possessing every morsel
of your mind for my own amusement,
making you my doll and my caged cunt
waiting, wanting, wishing for my return
and no one can see you, enjoy your
beauty, sex, or mind–for you are mine.

Two Johns

Sex as mystifying exploration, conquest, delight and wonderment in the body, and women (mistresses, Mayer’s room-getting lover, presumably female?) as the object of desire, objectified, as displayed in these two writings, one from the 16th Century and one from the 21st, displays the fascination and abnegation of the object of the gaze, at once giving the object presence (Donne’s specific articles of clothing that immortalize his mistress in the words of his poem) and absence, woman/desire as concept, the object of desire without face, language or representation, just catalyst for desire, erection and egocentric absorption (Mayer’s “one thing left to do, discover me discovering you.”

To His Mistress Going to Bed
BY JOHN DONNE
Come, Madam, come, all rest my powers defy,
Until I labour, I in labour lie.
The foe oft-times having the foe in sight,
Is tir’d with standing though he never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven’s Zone glistering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled breastplate which you wear,
That th’eyes of busy fools may be stopped there.
Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime,
Tells me from you, that now it is bed time.
Off with that happy busk, which I envy,
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.
Your gown going off, such beauteous state reveals,
As when from flowery meads th’hill’s shadow steals.
Off with that wiry Coronet and shew
The hairy Diadem which on you doth grow:
Now off with those shoes, and then safely tread
In this love’s hallow’d temple, this soft bed.
In such white robes, heaven’s Angels used to be
Received by men; Thou Angel bringst with thee
A heaven like Mahomet’s Paradise; and though
Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know,
By this these Angels from an evil sprite,
Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.
Licence my roving hands, and let them go,
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! my new-found-land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man mann’d,
My Mine of precious stones, My Empirie,
How blest am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds, is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.
Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee,
As souls unbodied, bodies uncloth’d must be,
To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use
Are like Atlanta’s balls, cast in men’s views,
That when a fool’s eye lighteth on a Gem,
His earthly soul may covet theirs, not them.
Like pictures, or like books’ gay coverings made
For lay-men, are all women thus array’d;
Themselves are mystic books, which only we
(Whom their imputed grace will dignify)
Must see reveal’d. Then since that I may know;
As liberally, as to a Midwife, shew
Thy self: cast all, yea, this white linen hence,
There is no penance due to innocence.
To teach thee, I am naked first; why then
What needst thou have more covering than a man.

Your Body is a Wonderland by John Mayer

We got the afternoon
You got this room for two
One thing I’ve left to do
Discover me
Discovering you

One mile to every inch of
Your skin like porcelain
One pair of candy lips and
Your bubblegum tongue

And if you want love
We’ll make it
Swim in a deep sea
Of blankets
Take all your big plans
And break ’em
This is bound to be a while

Your body is a wonderland
Your body is a wonder (I’ll use my hands)
Your body is a wonderland

Something ’bout the way the hair falls in your face
I love the shape you take when crawling towards the pillowcase
You tell me where to go and though I might leave to find it
I’ll never let your head hit the bed without my hand behind it

you want love?
We’ll make it
Swim in a deep sea
Of blankets
Take all your big plans
And break ’em
This is bound to be a while

Your body is a wonderland
Your body is a wonder (I’ll use my hands)
Your body is a wonderland
(I’ll never speak again… I’ll use my hands)

Damn baby
You frustrate me
I know you’re mine, all mine, all mine
But you look so good it hurts sometimes

Your body is a wonderland
(I’ll never speak again… I’ll use my hands)
Your body is a wonder (I’ll use my hands)
Your body is a wonderland
(I’ll never speak again… I’ll use my hands)
Your body is a wonderland

Pinched Green

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Where is my kelly green, my fern? You have moved back to the pines, and I cannot feel your colors visibly, not distinctly, only slippery shades melding one into the other, making my mind yearn for the malachite forest scene of your coming.

Lately, I hunger green, artichoke, asparagus and avocado, even the one that makes you shudder, olive. I walk hunter, drip sap, and smooth moss, the living greens. I ooze.

Last time, when I stuffed you in a box, you danced me among the seething slits and asses, the indecipherable bodies of flickering light, smoke and sweat, and yours in my mouth, on my tongue, salty and sweet scent of yellow-green sea, the hungering hiss of breath on my lips. We shone, our sheen emerald and gyrated hips of jade.

Those were extraordinary days, that caged time down south, when I watched you walk down the city street beside me, clasping the crook of my arm, or scraping your toes against the heat of the ocean smooth sand and then coming to me in your easeful stride and thin-lipped tolerance. The glint in your eye, teasing out desire, was utterly teal and mint tea.

We have traveled deep in the green of your grass, your trees, you in mine.

In moments like today, when either of us lulls and listens, when your mind is dark smoked with bedeviling thoughts of the other who sometimes sits in that bar stool beside me, the burning that bricks up your walls, dug in deep, show me Harlequin, rifle and army green. I hear silent Screamin’ green. Gut green.

There are places that curve around our minds and make your palms moisten in remembrance of lines drawn with your fingers pressed deep past muscle to bone, firing synapses of wince and grin. Back then, in a commercial cocoon waiting, you cradled the pulsing organ that once belonged to me but now rests full, bleeding warm vital viscous tears of soothing dreams and sighs, painfully powerful pounding love in your hands, your hands that I watched unfold my flesh, uncover the beating mass before my eyes. I crushed down in you, myrtle mine, ensavored, enslaved and succumbed, pinched green.

Mantis, Castleton, India, Persia, Russia and Pakistan, paint the air green, tinting the lens in my favorite hue, you. Courage me green to laurel the winter time til spring, the color of you.

Lesbos by Sylvia Plath

…Sylvia Plath’s husband, poet Ted Hughes, was having an affair during their marriage. They fought about it, but he refused to give up his mistress. Sylvia Plath committed suicide and four years later the mistress, Assia Wevill, also committed suicide. Both women left behind small children.

Lesbos

Viciousness in the kitchen!
The potatoes hiss.
It is all Hollywood, windowless,
The fluorescent light wincing on and off like a terrible migraine,
Coy paper strips for doors
Stage curtains, a widow’s frizz.
And I, love, am a pathological liar,
And my child look at her, face down on the floor,
Little unstrung puppet, kicking to disappear
Why she is schizophrenic,
Her face is red and white, a panic,
You have stuck her kittens outside your window
In a sort of cement well
Where they crap and puke and cry and she can’t hear.
You say you can’t stand her,
The bastard’s a girl.
You who have blown your tubes like a bad radio
Clear of voices and history, the staticky
Noise of the new.
You say I should drown the kittens. Their smell!
You say I should drown my girl.
She’ll cut her throat at ten if she’s mad at two.
The baby smiles, fat snail,
From the polished lozenges of orange linoleum.
You could eat him. He’s a boy.
You say your husband is just no good to you.
His Jew-Mama guards his sweet sex like a pearl.
You have one baby, I have two.
I should sit on a rock off Cornwall and comb my hair.
I should wear tiger pants, I should have an affair.
We should meet in another life, we should meet in air,
Me and you.

Meanwhile there’s a stink of fat and baby crap.
I’m doped and thick from my last sleeping pill.
The smog of cooking, the smog of hell
Floats our heads, two venemous opposites,
Our bones, our hair.
I call you Orphan, orphan. You are ill.
The sun gives you ulcers, the wind gives you T.B.
Once you were beautiful.
In New York, in Hollywood, the men said: “Through?
Gee baby, you are rare.”
You acted, acted for the thrill.
The impotent husband slumps out for a coffee.
I try to keep him in,
An old pole for the lightning,
The acid baths, the skyfuls off of you.
He lumps it down the plastic cobbled hill,
Flogged trolley. The sparks are blue.
The blue sparks spill,
Splitting like quartz into a million bits.

O jewel! O valuable!
That night the moon
Dragged its blood bag, sick
Animal
Up over the harbor lights.
And then grew normal,
Hard and apart and white.
The scale-sheen on the sand scared me to death.
We kept picking up handfuls, loving it,
Working it like dough, a mulatto body,
The silk grits.
A dog picked up your doggy husband. He went on.

Now I am silent, hate
Up to my neck,
Thick, thick.
I do not speak.
I am packing the hard potatoes like good clothes,
I am packing the babies,
I am packing the sick cats.
O vase of acid,
It is love you are full of. You know who you hate.
He is hugging his ball and chain down by the gate
That opens to the sea
Where it drives in, white and black,
Then spews it back.
Every day you fill him with soul-stuff, like a pitcher.
You are so exhausted.
Your voice my ear-ring,
Flapping and sucking, blood-loving bat.
That is that. That is that.
You peer from the door,
Sad hag. “Every woman’s a whore.
I can’t communicate.”

I see your cute decor
Close on you like the fist of a baby
Or an anemone, that sea
Sweetheart, that kleptomaniac.
I am still raw.
I say I may be back.
You know what lies are for.

Even in your Zen heaven we shan’t meet.

Jane Upchurch’s “Hagar”

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Hagar (Genesis 16.1-16)

I am an Egyptian
a long way from home,
travelling on an another’s journey,
following their dreams and destiny
with my service.

I am the one
who carries and cooks and cleans,
nurturing and caring
for someone else’s dwelling.

I am my work,
I am invisible for who I am.
I am a stray feather
acquired and used
but that never belongs.

I had learnt the skill
of neutral eyes
and lowered gaze
until today
when the quickening life within me
burst forth in a blaze
of pride.

I am carrying my mistress’s child.
I, not she, will bear
the gift of the promise
of their God.

She doesn’t like my look
for my eyes mirror
her shame and barrenness back to her
as they vaunt my expectancy.

I am scared.

No longer invisible
I am a target for
her sharp tongue and bile
as all the bitterness of her barren years
finds it’s mark in my condition.

I cannot stay.
The thing that seemed to raise me
has thrown me in the dust
like a broken pot .
My swelling pride
is a thorn in my side.

I have nothing.
I am no-one.
I am running from my mistress
with my unwanted child.

And that is how He found me,
in dirt at the side of the road,
all expectancy gone,
just left with the legacy
of her bitterness.

He knew my name.
He made me a promise
like Abraham’s,
a promise just for me,
for my child
not hers.

And He sent me back,
girded by His hope,
protected by His promise.

He saw me.
I am not invisible.
And I saw Him.

http://janeupchurch.co.uk/57/

Your Wishes Untrue

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Be mindful of wishing, careful with wanting.
The love you seek for warmth might overheat,
asp you in snuggle, strangling your sleep.
Be careful of what you wish for.
The vision of ever after with one love
may poison your spirit, hamper your peace
to think your own, think your thoughts
about everything from jihad to football to
brushing your teeth while watching t.v.
When wishing for one who windows your heart,
un lassos your long labial lust and
dances your daylight, flexible and loose,
don’t jail up in jealousy, secrete in sulking sorrow
or lay yourself down with loneliness
when she is loving you and the world,
living her life in joy without need, you or
an other, only enwrapping you in wide arms,
mind and heart. She is open.
Like her wandering will, she is free like words
she water colors and the sighs she speaks.
She is. Beware the love you dream in her.

Mecoptera Marxist Mistress (Sex as Commerce)

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“Food items such as caterpillars, bugs, and flies are offered to be eaten during copulation. The female is first attracted by a pheromone emitted by one or more vesicles or pouches at the end of the male’s abdomen. When the female is near, the vesicles are retracted. The female examines the offering while the male searches for her genitalia with his own. If the gift is rejected, the female flies away. If the gift is accepted, the genitalia of the male couples with that of the female, who lowers herself until she is hanging upside down. She consumes the offering during copulation. The male supports the female by holding her legs or the prey. Field observations show that both sexes mate several times per day. Small or unacceptable offerings result in no or a very short copulation time. Duration depends on the size of the gift. It has been observed that prey 3 to 14 mm long will provide 1 to 17 minutes of copulation in Hylobittacus apicalis. Larger H. apicalis give prey the size of houseflies in return for 20 to 29 minutes of copulation. This results in a maximum sperm transfer, increased oviposition, and a refractory period.” en.m.Wikipedia.org/wiki/Mecoptera

Three and Four

There are three who see me one who has not.
Four lovelorn in glee and sorrow share my lot.
One eyes me in the morning when I awaken.
Another looks to me for lunch time after ten.
Then there is high tea time tender one at four.
But one who meets me in darkness sees more.

Four who wonder where I have been stay true.
Three high limbs of the tree to share the view.
All have always been there prying at the door.
While none stay they sail from bay to shore.
Though two have left for lands far to the north.
Only one dims the light house and sees more.

There are three who bring me corpses to eat.
Four gallant greys who dance me complete.
No others can stand in none take their place.
For there are three to widen my arms’ embrace.
False lovers true friends there are three not four.
Yet one in blind reflective eyes I see me more.