In search of that beautiful calm

Fancy that. Leonard Cohen’s song “Suzanne” was not even owned by him.

He had brought forth much dark poetry and song,

Whittled each word using the hard edge of life,

Portioned out love, by loving often,

And survived the haze of raucous nights with friends when not

Hunched over a guitar or mic,

Dressed from head to toe in black

On stage.

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He managed somehow to fight through the gloom,

The loss of fortune, the sad clutch of despondency,

And turn the page.

Straight as a shabbat candle,

Poor as a Buddhist monk,

Helped by his stays in Mumbai,

He eventually broke clear, came into the light,

Saw that love was service,

And realised that his songs could be given over

To other women to sing.

No longer songs of seduction, or pathways to fame,

His later songs for Adjani, his muse,

Written under pressure of time,

Almost granted her custody of his genius,

But did not.

 

Nevertheless, something, somewhere, lit the fuse

Of transformation. He became an old man philosophising

Through a young woman’s voice,

As if allowing himself to step free of body and desire

To become a poet of this age. A mere shadow on the stage,

Even less of who he was than before,

He took to the long road and found his way home.

Brian Devlin

January 7, 2017

Sunrise Beach

At the close of day, December 31, 1970

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Photos by John Lucy, Carlton, 1970

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Picture if you will a white-washed room

Where seagrass matting covered the floor.

A few friends and I sat smoking, expecting no more,

Our evening unplanned, more bust than boom.

One of two wooden doors open to the east.

Two parties declined. No chance of a feast.

 

Two pairs of shoes clattered up the stairs

And two young women came into my loft

Seeking my friend Di Ruby, who was there,

For they had failed to find her anywhere.

First entered Margaret: hair curly, eyes soft,

Followed by Nancy. That caught me unawares.

“This reminds me of my parents’ place,” Nancy announced

After clambering up the steps. Then she stood, tall,

Quite regal, with striking long hair, but that was not all.

Waving her nut brown arms, she held us in thrall

With a rapidly told story about the Champs Elysees

And being stopped by some gendarmes from proceeding that way.

 

“Let’s find some parties,” they challenged, so I rose to go.

Crammed into an old Morris Minor, green and slow,

Lent by Margaret’s aunt, we reached two houses, almost empty,

Their kitchens short of food. I brushed her hair,

We talked without end then, just before first light,

We parted for the night.

I’d have to check with Nancy, but I’m fairly certain that’s right.

 

The next three days were full of truthful sharing:

Soul talk that is a little like poetry.

Lying side by side on coloured lengths of cloth outside, we

Conjured up the lives we’d lead and offered them for inspection,

Then more bright talk, silence, and soon introspection.

“What would you say if I asked you to marry me?” I ventured.

“I’d say yes,” she said, her ticket to Bali still on the sideboard.

“Should you ever wish to leave, remember it’s there,” I said.

“No need,” she replied. “From this moment forward

We can travel together and be of use to others.”

I, who would write and ceaselessly learn alone, agreed.

 

Betrothed so soon after three days. What a dope!

Let’s face it, everyone. This was a match unlikely to last

Though no-one would ever know until the years had passed.

As it turned out, although seemingly insubstantial,

There’s nothing quite as solid as trust and hope,

And the awesome power of kindness-in-togetherness.

It is enough to temper a man’s unsatisfying wildness!

Brian Devlin
Sunrise Beach

December 31, 2016

Photo by anonymous photographer, Mexico City, January 1972

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