Leonard and Me

Susan Musgrave

Death of a Lady’s Man had just been released. I was in Vancouver promoting A Man to Marry, A Man to Bury and my publicist invited me to a gathering that evening, in honour of Leonard Cohen.

We arrived early, and my husband cornered Leonard to tell him about one of his colleagues at law school, an Adolf Gerloff, whose mother had given him Cohen’s first album for Christmas-not because she loved Cohen’s voice, but because Cohen was a Jewish name and she wanted Adolf to know she could be open-minded. I left the kitchen and went out on the verandah to look for the moon.

Secretly, of course, I hoped Leonard would follow. My publicist had told me he admired my poetry, and I imagined him caressing a dog-eared copy of my first slim volume, and telling me, “I always read your poetry in bed.” But it was more than just my syntax I hoped he’d get excited about. Taking from his pocket an old schedule of trains he would look me in the eyes and say, “Greece would be a good place to look at the moon. ”

I would lower my needy eyes and tell him I wished to feed him tea and oranges that came all the way from China, and the next week Peter Gzowski would be interviewing us about our affair on national radio. Leonard would say how our visions complemented one another and 1 would give an example of finding lines from one of my poems on a dead friend’s bathroom wall: “Is there really this much desolation / or is it just that 1 have / found it all?” paired with a line from one of Leonard’s songs, “Then picking up the pieces that he left behind you would find he did not leave you very much, not even laughter.” Peter would say, ‘Where do you go now?” and Leonard would say, “I only read her poetry in bed.”

I watched him coming towards me out of the house, in his quiet way. He slid in close as if he felt the need to warn me I told you when I came I was a stranger. 1 would have given him head on an unmade bed in the Chelsea Hotel or any other hotel in town when he spoke to me in that voice full of broken whiskey bottles and desire. “I really like your husband,” he said.

Death of a ladies man.


Text is taken from the book, “Take This Walz, A Celebration of Leonard Cohen.” Edited by Michael Fournier and Ken Norris, published by The Muses Company, Ste. Anne de Belleview, Quebec, 1994.