RIP Leonard Cohen

Years ago I’d visit Irving Layton in Montreal. We had lively poetry discussions while eating peaches and drinking red wine. One afternoon Leonard Cohen called from Los Angeles. “I’m with a talented young poet,” Irving said– winking my way. I bristled and tried not to show it. I sat browsing a book of poetry. I don’t remember the book. I think it was Canadian poet Bliss Carman. I overheard vague comments about the transparency of time… meetings in Greece… wives… Irving laughed so heartily I knew they were great friends.

Montreal was magical from the first when complete strangers, these two guys from Bogota of all places, helped us move into our apartment not far from the Westmount Public Library– birthplace of Canadian poetry. One of the guys was a documentary filmmaker. We saw a film he directed about the death of beauty. That night they were angels come out of the endless night of wind and snow. Later in the week I saw Mordecai Richler at the library, though I did not want to disturb him. A week after that I befriended an old man in a cafe who turned out to be poet Louis Dudek. I haunted Mile End, trying to feel like Leonard Cohen. I soon met Layton and enjoyed the company of screenplay writer Bruno Ramirez. At the time Bruno was friends with American poet James Merrill. Through another friend I met an Australian composer. We ended up drinking ouzo all night with the staff at a Greek restaurant. He was brilliant on their upright piano and Orpheus when he sang. Just before dawn we shared a cab home. There were thousands of gulls in Westmount Park. I asked the Haitian cab driver to approach slowly but they all flew up like snow, like music, like light… 

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