Quite possibly we came together, he and I, not just for Leonard Cohen, not just for assumption-shattering sex, not just for conversations, hands on the back, and whispers in the dark, all of which have made me magnificently bigger. Quite possibly we also came together so that he could bring me face to face with an old, still smarting, thing.
I wrote Away several years ago, but it came to mind so strongly yesterday that I went and dug it up again. I didn’t originally write it about him. What makes it powerful now is that, in many ways, I could have. Which tells me that, whoever else it might be about, it is fully about me. Of course.
Knowledge is cheap, understanding is rare. Things in us that keep repeating, those variations on life-themes, must be wanting for something. They won’t give up! Clearly there is something about this theme of Away which I have not yet met with understanding.
I could see this thing, my Away Thing, as a tiresome bore to be gotten rid of. Or as something like what other composers did when they wrote variations on Paganini’s theme: gorgeous, and somehow, someway, always new.
Oh, my Love, by which I mean I, by which I mean he, by which I mean any lover with whom I’ve been or am yet to be, I draw a blanket around this thing and pray for understanding.
Um, Elisabeth? But you don’t believe in God–
Um, You? That don’t mean I can’t pray!
It’s been said that prayer is simply the sincerest cry of a heart. Here’s mine.
To have and to hold
are, to be sure,
quite different from
to hope and to dream
which are, also to be sure,
away — maybe somewhere with you
but away nonetheless
which is where I sense you
on your own.
I would not bind you to me (if even I could)
nor force anything ahead nor outside its time, and yet:
this little pigeon longs for you and for home
in one and the very same breath.
(Some blessing. Some curse. Who can say?)
Who am I to take where you are away from you?
It’s not wrong, it’s just not here.
In the beginning was away,
and away was with God
and away was God —
I long for a place to come home to,
a mat to stomp my dream-worn feet upon:
“This. Is Where. I belong.”
A hook for my coat,
a body to roll over into,
a “Pinch me, I am here,” to say,
a wide-eyed, “It’s you, really you!” to be cried out loud,
to which you might reply,
all bleary-eyed, all flesh and bones,
“Yes, now sleep, my little homing pigeon.”