SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: LEONARD COHEN

DANCE ME TO THE END OF LOVE

by Leonard Cohen


Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We’re both of us beneath our love, we’re both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love


Leonard Cohen Is a world-renowned Canadian singer-songwriter, poet, and novelist.

Editor’s Note: This poem was by request. If you have a request of your own please feel free to post it as a comment. For me, the Leonard Cohen song that is pure poetry is Hallelujah, which is even more interesting for the many different versions of the lyrics in existence. I jumped at the opportunity to post this song today because it brings to light one of my favorite subject matters: Is music poetry? To me, the answer is yes, though it depends on the artist and on the piece. I do believe that poetry is an artful manipulation of language, so for a song to be poetry or an artist to be a poet I need lyrics that read, for me, like poetry. Bob Dylan tends to fall within this camp, as does Ani DiFranco. Of course there are countless others, and there are also pop songs that I am loathe to consider poetry, such as Britney Spears or Miley Cyrus songs. But poetry is subjective, and people view what is and isn’t poetry differently. What do you think? Are songs poems? Are lyricists poets?

Want to read more by and about Leonard Cohen?
LeonardCohen.com
Wikipedia
The Leonard Cohen Files

About Sivan Butler-Rotholz

Sivan is the Contributing Editor of the Saturday Poetry Series on As It Ought To Be and holds an MFA from Brooklyn College. She is a professor, writer, editor, comic artist, and attorney emerita. She is also the founder of Reviving Herstory. Sivan welcomes feedback, poetry submissions, and solicitations of her writing via email at sivan.sf [at] gmail [dot] com.
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5 Responses to SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: LEONARD COHEN

  1. maya elashi says:

    it’s tricky because poetry can be a Terebinth Tree or a desert (spring)ing into an oasis, and surely the symphony of a mockingbird zzz poetry…. so what differentiates poetry from song? Different nouns? Etymologies? With regard to specific songwriter/poets: Dylan’s work, definitely, Marc (sic) Knofler too. And Robert Hunter for The Dead … it’s endless. A Research project. Thanks for Leonard (piece), he’s saba (awesome)!

  2. Lisa says:

    A poet is someone
    Who can pour Light into a cup
    and raise it to nourish your
    beautiful parched holy mouth.
    ~Hafiz

    For me, Leonard Cohen is such a poet. Many thanks, Sivan 🙂

  3. Katia says:

    Me encanta Leonard Cohen, y este poema es de lo más romantico. Debes estar enamorado.
    Gracias.

  4. Matt says:

    The first Ani Difranco song/poem that came to mind when I read your editors note..consider this a request

    “Fuel”

    They were digging a new foundation in Manhattan
    And they discovered a slave cemetery there
    May their souls rest easy
    Now that lynching is frowned upon
    And we’ve moved on to the electric chair
    And I wonder who’s gonna be president, tweedle dum or tweedle dummer?
    And who’s gonna have the big blockbuster box office this summer?
    How about we put up a wall between houses and the highway
    And you can go your way, and I can go my may

    Except all the radios agree with all the tvs
    And all the magazines agree with all the radios
    And I keep hearing that same damn song everywhere I go
    Maybe I should put a bucket over my head
    And a marshmallow in each ear
    And stumble around for
    Another dumb-numb waiting for another hit song to appear

    People used to make records
    As in a record of an event
    The event of people playing music in a room
    Now everything is cross-marketing
    Its about sunglasses and shoes
    Or guns and drugs
    You choose
    We got it rehashed
    We got it half-assed
    We’re digging up all the graves
    And we’re spitting on the past
    And you can choose between the colors
    Of the lipstick on the whores
    Cause we know the difference between
    The font of 20% more
    And the font of teriyaki
    You tell me
    How does it… make you feel?

    You tell me
    What’s … real?
    And they say that alcoholics are always alcoholics
    Even when they’re as dry as my lips for years
    Even when they’re stranded on a small desert island
    With no place within 2,000 miles to buy beer
    And I wonder
    Is he different?
    Is he different?
    Has he changed? what’s he about?..
    Or is he just a liar with nothing to lie about?

    Am I headed for the same brick wall
    Is there anything I can do about
    Anything at all?
    Except go back to that corner in Manhattan
    And dig deeper, dig deeper this time
    Down beneath the impossible pain of our history
    Beneath unknown bones
    Beneath the bedrock of the mystery
    Beneath the sewage systems and the PATH train
    Beneath the cobblestones and the water mains
    Beneath the traffic of friendships and street deals
    Beneath the screeching of kamikaze cab wheels
    Beneath everything I can think of to think about
    Beneath it all, beneath all get out
    Beneath the good and the kind and the stupid and the cruel
    There’s a fire just waiting for fuel

    There’s a fire just waiting for fuel
    There’s a fire just waiting for fuel
    There’s a fire just waiting for fuel
    There’s a fire just waiting for fuel
    There’s a fire just waiting for fuel
    There’s a fire just waiting for fuel
    There’s a fire just waiting for fuel
    There’s a fire just waiting for fuel
    There’s a fire just waiting for fuel
    There’s a fire just waiting for fuel
    There’s a fire just waiting for fuel
    There’s a fire just waiting for fuel
    There’s a fire just waiting for fuel

  5. Lisa says:

    nice choice. i can’t help but compare the two songs, which feels a bit like placing a ready-made next to a painting by Goya. still, if your mission is to “democratize discourse” (or by extension, art), why not? is there a hierarchy of values that makes one work a poem and another something else? there are poems which exist outside the academic canon but are no less poetic. at any rate, artists have been tweaking the boundaries between genres for generations (Symbolists, Dadaists, Beats, etc). well, I have another request for you, but i can wait my turn: Martin Espada’s “Imagine the Angels of Bread”:

    This is the year that squatters evict landlords,
    gazing like admirals from the rail
    of the roofdeck
    or levitating hands in praise
    of steam in the shower;
    this is the year
    that shawled refugees deport judges
    who stare at the floor
    and their swollen feet
    as files are stamped
    with their destination;
    this is the year that police revolvers,
    stove-hot, blister the fingers
    of raging cops,
    and nightsticks splinter
    in their palms;
    this is the year
    that darkskinned men
    lynched a century ago
    return to sip coffee quietly
    with the apologizing descendants
    of their executioners.

    This is the year that those
    who swim the border’s undertow
    and shiver in boxcars
    are greeted with trumpets and drums
    at the first railroad crossing
    on the other side;
    this is the year that the hands
    pulling tomatoes from the vine
    uproot the deed to the earth that sprouts the vine,
    the hands canning tomatoes
    are named in the will
    that owns the bedlam of the cannery;
    this is the year that the eyes
    stinging from the poison that purifies toilets
    awaken at last to the sight
    of a rooster-loud hillside,
    pilgrimage of immigrant birth;
    this is the year that cockroaches
    become extinct, that no doctor
    finds a roach embedded
    in the ear of an infant;
    this is the year that the food stamps
    of adolescent mothers
    are auctioned like gold doubloons,
    and no coin is given to buy machetes
    for the next bouquet of severed heads
    in coffee plantation country.

    If the abolition of slave-manacles
    began as a vision of hands without manacles,
    then this is the year;
    if the shutdown of extermination camps
    began as imagination of a land
    without barbed wire or the crematorium,
    then this is the year;
    if every rebellion begins with the idea
    that conquerors on horseback
    are not many-legged gods, that they too drown
    if plunged in the river,
    then this is the year.

    So may every humiliated mouth,
    teeth like desecrated headstones,
    fill with the angels of bread.

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