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Poets Corner: Death of a Lady's Man

Death of a Lady's Man

by Leonard Cohen

The man she wanted all her life

was hanging by a thread.

“I never even knew how much

I wanted you,” she said.

His muscles they were numbered

and his style was obsolete.

“O baby, I have come too late.”

She knelt beside his feet.

“I’ll never see a face like yours

in years of men to come,

I’ll never see such arms again

in wrestling or in love.”

And all his virtues burning

in the smoky holocaust,

she took unto herself

most everything her lover lost.

Now the master of this landscape

he was standing at the view

with a sparrow of St. Francis

that he was preaching to.

She beckoned to the sentry

of his high religious mood.

She said, “I’ll make a space between my legs,

I’ll teach you solitude.”

He offered her an orgy

in a many-mirrored room;

he promised her protection

for the issue of her womb.

She moved her body hard

against a sharpened metal spoon,

she stopped the bloody rituals

of passage to the moon.

She took his much-admired

oriental frame of mind

and the heart-of-darkness alibi

his money hides behind.

She took his blonde madonna

and his monastery wine.

"This mental space is occupied

and everything is mine"

He tried to make a final stand

beside the railway track.

She said "the art of longing's over

and it's never coming back"

She took his tavern parliament,

his cap, his cocky dance;

she mocked his female fashions

and his working-class moustache.

The last time that I saw him

he was trying hard to get

a woman's education

but he's not a woman yet.

And the last time that I saw her

She was living with a boy

who gives her soul an empty room

and gives her body joy.

So the great affair is over

but whoever would have guessed

it would leave us all so vacant

and so deeply unimpressed.

It's like out visit to the moon

or to that other star:

I guess you go for nothing

if you really want to go that far.

-from Death of a Lady's Man, 1978

death of a lady's man, poem, leonard cohen, 1978, howl magazine new york


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