Yesterday we learned that one of my “ultimate” poets, Leonard Cohen, had passed away. He had been part of my life for half a century. I read his poetry while I hung out in the library my junior and senior years of high school in the late 1960s.
For some serendipitous occasion our lives crossed one evening, in of all places, San Antonio, Texas…I call it serendipity not coincidence, for I believe things happen for a reason. My boyfriend learned about the event from someone on his drugstore delivery route.
It was in a tiny boutique in Alamo Heights that same night. There were about thirty young people our age and a few years older, sitting cross-legged on a square of carpet in front of a microphone and a folding chair. Everyone had a sort of glow about them-at least that is how I remembered it.
At around eight, he walked up to the microphone and the magic began. He opened a well worn book and began to read to a hushed group of starry eyed teens in a voice I never could get out of my memory.
He read for about an hour and if he had read longer, no one would have moved. He was gracious and tipped his hat when he was finished. We all rose from the floor and crowded around to shake his hand. The adulation appeared to make him uncomfortable. I was rapt as I smiled into the eyes of a living breathing poet; the voice of so many in the next half century of my life.
I cried many times before and after that magical evening while reading his poetry or hearing his voice that turned to song; a voice that only improved as the cigarettes and whiskey wore it down. I am not certain when the voice merged from the one that read “Suzanne” and the one that later sang it over and over on my record player.