10/30 Poems in November: For Leonard Cohen


“There’s no one left to blame. I’m leaving the table. I’m out of the game.”

— Leonard Cohen, September 21, 1934 — November 10, 2016, RIP

This is nightmarish.
My wife is crying next to me in bed,
listening to Leonard Cohen’s
Elegy for Janis Joplin–
racing the midnight train, all naked.

All day, reports from every corner
of this country — swastikas,
language we used to relegate
to neo-Nazi extremists
now showing up in dorm rooms,
in school bathrooms,
on mountaintops and on city buses,
middle-schoolers chanting,
“Build that wall” and “go back to Africa”
and “your time here is up.”

Lever-pullers who “didn’t mean for this
to happen,” see what you’ve unleashed?
The ones who voted for this didn’t care
about newspaper endorsements
or epic warnings. No, instead
they cheered at his rallies
or said we’re not bigots, we just want
a better America.
I was so naive, thinking we’d dance
each other to the end of love.
I really did!

As I draw the next breath forcing myself
to fill up all of the space
this body allows,
I stare blankly, unable to say anything
pretty or redemptive. We will play
cover after cover
of Hallejujah and Chelsea Hotel,
we will say we didn’t ask for it
to be darker, no no we didn’t want it
darker but he knew, he was
ready, my lord. He was ready
and I can only think
that today, day two
pushed him over the edge he’d been
walking towards.

I hope a million of his songs
are floating upwards to the sky
tonight. Some kind of send-off.
A grateful goodbye.



#30poemsinnovember is a literary fundraiser for Center for New Americans. Center for New Americans welcomes and serves immigrants in Western Massachusetts with free English classes and a range of support services. For more information, please visit cnam.org This year, we aim to raise $30,000.

Writers do their part by writing one poem each day in November. Friends and family do their part by donating to support this effort. Powerful new poems and financial contributions translate to community support for immigrants.

Visit my personal donation page here.


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