It was 1994. I sat in my grandmother’s bedroom, comprising poems on her old typewriter. The one she used for decades. It was that year I would travel to see my favorite songwriters and artists, time spent on a road that was so unfamiliar to this rural Indiana native.
That summer, I met Leonard Cohen, Henry Rollins, Tori Amos, Nick Cave, and a host of other musicians whose music kept me hopeful that there was a way. A way out.
Not only were these artists meaningful to me, they actually found meaning in what someone – a 20 year old poet – had to say. I spent hours talking over coffee, dodging chaos when opening acts like the Beastie Boys usurped Cave’s more intellectual performance, and hounding after their gifts like the young do. I even had late night calls from some of them who wondered who the hell I was to reach out in such a less-than-adoring way.
As a 20 year old, what loss could I expect from this interest in idol gazing?
There were no idols for me in the cornfields. Nothing, at that time, occurred to me to be worse than what I existed with and through.
Egoless and wonder-filled, I made contact. I rode through storms and uncertainty to meet them – people I longed to be.
It has been years since I have bothered riding tour buses, leaving comfort at the door to follow the lead of musical and poetic influences. Years, too, since I felt that same glistening, abundant hope that I could rise up from my status and be among them.
When Cohen died, it hit me – not the death, nor his honorable welcome to its touch. What struck me is that there is so much need for beacons among us. For those who take the time to call up the ones who are forgotten, to realize our deepest fears and noblest truths.
What gets you through is not what your experience is, past or present, but that which can be…like Diane Lawrence’s artwork for Cohen’s The Future album, the heart is guided by hummingbirds or handcuffs.
I wrote recently that I no longer believed in the value of hope. I take those words back.
So, thank you, Mister Cohen and all those who took the time to make my life bearable, believable, valuable. Our stories find the light, always.
There’s a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah