As a bird, when tricked by a mirror image of itself in the sky, will fling its wings against the frame, hindering its inborn ability to fly, so too do the illusions in my vision injure my capacity to soar. My soul falls from its deathless star, and my body crumbles to the hard wet sand. I crawl underneath a parched plant to await the desert of absence, or recover the truth beyond the pall and pale, your miraculous resurrection. Find me here, my battered Lord, and beat your name in my chest like a drum. Find me here, and let me come to the blessed recognition of the Word beyond death, beyond fear.
Darkness and stillness
stake humble claims
in the ark of my heart.
We float together, three-in-one,
in a sea of trinitarian silence,
aware of the various elements,
at ease in the calm waters.
My soul receives the bread of dawn
and comes down to its own wisdom
of when to rise from the depths again
the next time my boat,
overwhelmed all of a sudden
by violent winds and vicious waves,
flips, spins, or floods.
I can’t write, I can’t rest
The night guard revisits my cell
With you I got out; we got out together
I doubt I’ll ever get well.
As a child, I liked to move. Play basketball, run around with my brother Collin, double-bounce him on the trampoline. But I would always want to do my homework first, and then I could let myself have fun. And this is still the case. I need to do my homework, and then I can have fun. What is my homework? My work is to be at home in my life, in my body, to embrace the place where I am standing in the present moment. To find the endless summer at the heart of this cold winter morning. I want so much to be in medias res, in the middle of things. I want to glimpse the center, to enter by the narrow gate, and to live from the core. Lord of my life, help me to feel this wish with my entire being. Point me toward you. Make my heart single. Let my voice sing of Life experienced, not by an isolated individual, but by a single soul united in the depths with all souls, by one man at one with your Oneness, in touch at last with your Is-ness. Do not let me forget what I want. Do not let me drift. Help me to stay directed, to finish my home-work, and to enjoy the journey home.
Inside the clarifying whisper of a bare room, I carry the gift of total engagement with a loose grip. I ask the god of clarity to open the ears of my heart, awaken the eyes of my mind. I surrender my conditioned hatred of trivial irritations, and I rivet my attention on a particle of dust a ray of light enlightens. I watch my soul return to the lake it swims in at dawn, and I watch dawn rise to the challenge of my chosen task. And I ask my master: may Time in its violent density lie down naked with Eternity in its eloquent silence. And out of their intangible union, from the annihilating depths of love, may the man’s true nature arise.
You are with me still. Even though I have been removed, and my place does not recognize me. Even though I have filled my heart with stones. And my beloved says, I will wait a little while behind this curtain – no, I have waited too long. You are with me still. Though I scorched away the tears of return in the forced light of victory, your rebuke still comforts me, you signify yourself among the dangers. Saying, Use this fear to know me, fix this exile toward my return. Though I am unwept, it is your judgement parches me. Though my praises for you are under ban, it is the balance of your mercy. And you are with me still. Saying, Search this out, it is you who have hidden yourself. Saying, Clear me in your troubled heart. Saying, I will come to you. Saying, I am here. Though I add membrane to membrane against your light, and heap up cities on the husk of your rebuke, when the sun and the moon are shining in the other pan, and you advance me through the solitude by such a kind degree, and you create the world before my eyes, and the one who hides in self-disgrace cannot say Amen, O slow to anger, you are with me, you are with me still.Leonard Cohen, Book of Mercy, 34
Not knowing where to go, I go to you. Not knowing where to turn, I turn to you. Not knowing how to speak, I speak to you. Not knowing what to hold, I bind myself to you. Having lost my way, I make my way to you. Having soiled my heart, I lift my heart to you. Having wasted my days, I bring the heap to you. The great highway covered with debris, I travel on a hair to you. The wall smeared with filth, I go through a pinhole of light. Blocked by every thought, I fly on the wisp of a remembrance. Defeated by silence, here is a place where the silence is more subtle. And here is the opening in defeat. And here is the clasp of the will. And here is the fear of you. And here is the fastening of mercy. Blessed are you, in this man’s moment. Blessed are you, whose presence illuminates outrageous evil. Blessed are you who brings chains out of darkness. Blessed are you, who waits in the world. Blessed are you, whose name is in the world.Leonard Cohen, Book of Mercy, 45
It is all around me, the darkness. You are my only shield. Your name is my only light. What love I have, your law is the source, this dead love that remembers only its name, yet the name is enough to open itself like a mouth, to call down the dew, and drink. O dead name that through your mercy speaks to the living name, mercy harkening to the will that is bent toward it, the will whose strength is its pledge to you – O name of love, draw down the blessing of completion on the man whom you have cut in half to know you.Leonard Cohen, Book of Mercy, 37
I look far, I forget you, and I’m lost. I lift my hands to you. I kneel toward my heart. I have no other home. My love is here. I end the day in mercy that I wasted in despair. Bind me to you, I fall away. Bind me, ease of my heart, bind me to your love. Gentle things you return to me, and duties that are sweet. And you say, I am in this heart, I and my name are here. Everywhere the blades turn, in every thought the butchery, and it is raw where I wander; but you hide me in the shelter of your name, and you open the hardness to tears. The drifting is to you, and the swell of suffering breaks toward you. You draw me back to close my eyes, to bless your name in speechlessness. Blessed are you in the smallness of your whispering. Blessed are you, who speaks to the unworthy.LEONARD COHEN, BOOK OF MERCY, 41
I draw aside the curtain. You mock us with the beauty of your world. My heart hates the trees, the wind moving the branches, the dead diamond machinery of the sky. I pace the corridor between my teeth and my bladder, angry, murderous, comforted by the smell of my sweat. I weakened myself in your name. In my own eyes I disgraced myself for trusting you, against all evidence, against the prevailing winds of horror, over the bully’s laughter, the torturer’s loyalty, the sweet questions of the sly. Find me here, you whom David found in hell. The skeletons are waiting for your famous mechanical salvation. Swim through the blood, father of mercy. Broadcast your light through the apple of pain, radiant, sourceless, source of light. I wait for you, king of the dead, here in this garden where you placed me, beside the poisonous grass, miasmal homesteads, black Hebrew gibberish of pruned grapevines. I wait for you in the springtime of beatings and unnecessary death. Direct me out of this, O magnet of the falling cherry petals. Make a truce between my disgust and the impeccable landscape of fields and milky towns. Crush my swollen smallness, infiltrate my shame. Broken in the employment of my soul, I have driven a wedge into your world, fallen on both sides of it. Count me back to your mercy with the measures of a bitter song, and do not separate me from my tears.Leonard Cohen, Book of Mercy, 12