Friday, August 3, 2012

I Wish I'd Written This

Summer Haiku

For Frank and Marian Scott


and a deeper silence

when the crickets


Would it surprise you to know this was written by Leonard Cohen? It comes from his book The Spice-Box of Earth, first published in 1965. My copy, a Bantam edition printed in the seventies, is falling apart beyond repair, but treasured nevertheless. It's still available from Amazon‚ the hard cover version regarded as collectible and very expensive, but my 'mass market paperback' affordable.

He is of course much better known as a wonderful song-writer — one of those whose lyrics are true poetry. I first encountered him, however, through the printed words of his early poems, and through his two novels, also first published in the sixties, The Favorite Game and the astonishing Beautiful Losers.

I have been trying to write haiku for several years now, and consider it the hardest form to master. The above doesn't look like a haiku, the way we're used to seeing them written in English, but I think it's right up there with the best.

You certainly don't need me to tell you anything about so famous an artist as Leonard Cohen, so instead I'll treat you to a longer piece from The Spice-Box of Earth, a beautiful love poem. All his love poems are clearly man to woman, so I'll just say I could wish to have had something like this written for me.

Beneath My Hands

Beneath my hands
your small breasts
are the upturned bellies
of breathing fallen sparrows.

Wherever you move
I hear the sounds of closing wings
of falling wings.

I am speechless
because you have fallen beside me
because your eyelashes
are the spines of tiny fragile animals.

I dread the time
when your mouth
begins to call me hunter.

When you call me close
to tell me
your body is not beautiful
I want to summon
the eyes and hidden mouths
of stone and light and water
to testify against you.

I want them
to surrender before you
the trembling rhyme of your face
from their deep caskets.

When you call me close
to tell me
your body is not beautiful
I want my body and my hands
to be pools
for your looking and laughing.

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).


  1. I love both! He is great at different styles...
    I am in awe of his talent!
    The last one was beautiful and emotional, I'm so glad you showed us his diversity :D

  2. Each poem so incredibly the haiku, one can feel that silence.......and the love poem? I'm with you - would have been great to receive such a poem.

  3. This was absolutely breathtaking, Rosemary. what a wonderful tribute to Mr Cohen - another fabulous Canadian!

    His voice is made for words.

  4. Oh Rosemary, thank you so much. Leonard Cohen is one of my favorite poet/songwriters. What a treat to read this!

  5. I love Leonard Cohen: his poetry, his music, his voice. I enjoyed your post today. Thank you!

  6. Rosemary, thank you. What a treat this was to start my day.

  7. Love the haiku- tough to work well! Thanks

  8. Thanks to you all for your comments. Yes, he is such a master, isn't he?


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