I was living in California when Suzanne became popular. I remember listening to it over and over trying to puzzle out what the song was about “She feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China.” Beautiful imagery and a haunting melody. Sweeter and sexier than Dylan’s music, Cohen made me yearn for a lover who’d be like Suzanne’s. “…you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.” A man who saw that my body was perfect and who could touch my mind. Touch my mind–always the most important thing. But at the time I was musing on such things, I was a mother of two young boys and married.
“The sun pours down like honey.”
“There are heroes in the seaweed.”
Then came “Bird on a Wire.” I like Leonard’s version and Tim Hardin’s best, but probably owned and listened to Judy Collins’ version first since I bought almost all her albums. The drunk, the prostitute “Why not ask for more?”
“I have tried in my way to be free.”
It was only after I saw The Master–the movie about the Scientology movement–that I finally understood “Famous Blue Raincoat.”
“Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair, she said that you gave it to her that night that you planned to go clear.
Did you ever go clear?”
And then Chelsea Hotel and Janis Joplin and Leonard’s evocation of all that I had ever imagined Janis might be.
“I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel. You were talking so brave and so sweet. Giving me head on the unmade bed while the limosines wait in the street.”
The last line which always breaks my heart.
“That’s all, I don’t even think of you that often.”
And you know that he does.
Now that I’m much, much older I’ve grown to love “Dance Me to the End of Love.” The imagery of a wedding night, the breathless and anxious moments when you’re first alone in the bedroom. The lines that describe being inside your lover. As I move to that melody, the swaying beat, the thrumming heat, I dream that I might melt into the arms of a angel.
“Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin. Dance me through the panic til I’m gathered safely in. Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove. Dance me to the end of love.”