Leonard Cohen in London, 1960



he sits, monkish, at a desk a world away from Montreal –

cocooned above a grid of snowy streets.

Autumn’s wickered out.


The bottle tips towards the glass,

the moon is spindle to his silk of words:

I only imagine him to write by night

as, the clutter of self-consciousness all gutted out

by weed and whiskey, his page is stabbed with memories:

acoustically he plies his trade, penning every chapter like a trip,

nightmarish and full of physicality,

a conveyor belt of prostitutes and concentration camps –


holed up, house guest who holds the fort,

the garret poet, rent free, shackled to just one condition-

the completion of this twisted tale, this book, this favourite game.


Torn between his solitude and Londons factory of souls

the poet wanders, gauntly, through rib-cage roads,

a tear in the eye of the Thames, clings onto the handgrip,

shuttling through the Underground,

seeing out the early hours in bars and snooker halls.

See him cigarette in hand, among the faces, working girls,

gamblers and publicans, Kray-payrolled, the blacks

and bovver-boys of Canning Town and Whitechapel,

the beautiful losers drawn to darker places.


Hes quite at home past closing time, surveying London from the depths,

to drain his glass as morning threads the veins of frosted windows,

heading, hands in pockets, face down in cold blue dawns

along the Mile End Road to look for cabs, or up steep Victorian staircases

to the tomb-like safety of a bare-walled room.


Incense-shrouded, hell strain by candle-light,

and write till daylight faintly etches in.

The Sixties are as new

as a freshly piled bonfire.

Simon Zonenbick, a Leeds-born poet based in the Ryburn Valley, Yorks, has worked in mental health for Newham Social Services, He now works in libraries and runs occasional book stalls. His debut collection ‘Little Creatures’ (poems of insects, small mammals and micro-organisms) is available from Caterpillar Poetry (caterpillar His literary and nature blog is ‘Ryburn Ramblings’

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