Tag Archives | poetry

Alexandra Leaving – a short history

This song is based on a poem by the Greek poet, Constantine P. Cavafy. His source material was a story from Plutarch about Mark Anthony, as he watched his allies and supporters leave Alexandra before his enemy Octavian attacked the city. The original poem is called “The god forsakes Antony,” and is a meditation on the vagaries of fate. It’s a beautiful and poetic warning that casts Anthony in a tragic light and encourages him to accept his end in a manly way. And there’s no doubt: he’s losing Alexandra, but he’s losing his life too. [Poem here.] Mark Anthony was a larger-than-life guy, and he came to a larger-than-life end.

Cohen kicks it up a notch, of course, and retools this legend for the 21st century. He makes this about personal relationships, and how we should face their endings.

My favourite line is: “Do not choose a coward’s explanation that hides behind the cause and the effect.”

Co-written by Sharon Robinson, who sings it beautifully here:

Alexandra Leaving

Suddenly the night has grown colder
The god of love preparing to depart
Alexandra hoisted on his shoulder,
They slip between the sentries of the heart

Upheld by the simplicities of pleasure
They gain the light, they formlessly entwine
And radiant beyond your widest measure
They fall among the voices and the wine

It’s not a trick, your senses all deceiving
A fitful dream, the morning will exhaust
Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving
Then say goodbye to Alexandra lost

Even though she sleeps upon your satin
Even though she wakes you with a kiss
Do not say the moment was imagined
Do not stoop to strategies like this

As someone long prepared for this to happen
Go firmly to the window, drink it in
Exquisite music Alexandra laughing
Your first commitments tangible again

And you who had the honor of her evening,
And by the honor had your own restored
Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving
Alexandra leaving with her Lord

Even though she sleeps upon your satin
Even though she wakes you with a kiss
Do not say the moment was imagined
Do not stoop to strategies like this

As someone long prepared for the occasion
In full command of every plan you wrecked
Do not choose a coward’s explanation
that hides behind the cause and the effect

And you who were bewildered by a meaning
Whose code was broken, crucifix uncrossed
Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving
Then say goodbye to Alexandra lost

Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving
Then say goodbye to Alexandra lost

Songwriters: Leonard Cohen / Sharon Robinson
Alexandra Leaving lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Selected Media Fads Through the Ages

Von Willendorf venus statue, circa 24,000 bce

24,000-22,000 BC: chunky fertility goddess statues (pictured at right: notice the prominent and large brains.)

10,000 BC: cave painting

4,000 BC: ziggurat construction

3,000-1,250 BC: pyramid raising (later revived by Mesoamericans and I.M. Pei)

1480-1700: Witch burning

1500s: homoerotic sonnet writing

1600s: pirate singing

1700s: pamphleteering

1760-1762: spreading syphilis

1790s: opera

1800s: novel-writing

1900-1914: being optimistic about the future

1919-1922: cutting up pieces of paper and pulling them out of a hat, also, painting

1925: jazz music

1927: soap-based radio

1933: burning books (mostly in Germany)

1951: find-the-commie (kind of like peek-a-boo, but with Senators)

1964: screaming (usually Beatle-related)

1966: TV

1976: disco

1977: DIY pet rocks

1982-1988: taking odds on Reagan-related nuclear holocaust

1987-1997: making answering machine messages (see below)

1998: web sites about your cat

1999: cappuccino drinking (related to dot-com bubble)

2000: looking forward to the future (this didn’t last as long as the previous fad in this genre)

2003: Friendster

2004-2005: blogging

2006: MySpace

2007: Facebook

April 2008: Twitter

2009 (Jan.-Aug): talking/writing/broadcasting about Twitter in MSM.

2009, Sep. 15: Blogging (again, briefly, but only about Dan Brown’s latest “masterstroke of storytelling”

2010 (Jan.-Feb.):getting really excited about the release of the iPad.

2010 (Mar.): trying to remember what all the fuss about the iPad was all about.

2010: “winning

2011: pretending the British Royal family is important

2012: posting pictures of every frickin’ meal on Instagram

2013: twerking

2014: “binge-watching” TV

2015: laughing about Donald Trump’s presidential run

Jan-May, 2016: crying about Donald Trump’s presidential run

Some old-fashioned media here — satirical novels and flash fiction to keep you from the fads!

And yes, Answering machine messages were the most important creative outlet of the nineties!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KH7nJns39c[/youtube]

Video here if it doesn’t beep.

Alltop and enjoys their Bebo. From my collection, Pirate Therapy and Other Cures. Originally published in 2010, and updated every once in a while.

Did I Miss Anything?

Desks in classroom

Nothing. When you are not present how could something significant occur?


Question frequently asked by 
students after missing a class

by Tom Wayman
The Astonishing Weight of the Dead.
Vancouver: Polestar, 1994.

Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours

Everything. I gave an exam worth
40 per cent of the grade for this term
and assigned some reading due today
on which I’m about to hand out a quiz
worth 50 per cent

Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose

Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
a shaft of light descended and an angel
or other heavenly being appeared
and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
to attain divine wisdom in this life and
the hereafter
This is the last time the class will meet
before we disperse to bring this good news to all people
on earth

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?

Everything. Contained in this classroom
is a microcosm of human existence
assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
This is not the only place such an opportunity has been
gathered

but it was one place

And you weren’t here

Alltop never skips the funny class. You may also want to check out the author’s thoughts on the poem. Via Mandy Grzyb

A Bottle and a Friend

Robbie BurnsThere’s nane that’s blest of human kind,
But the cheerful and the gay, man,
Fal, la, la, etc.

Here’s a bottle and an honest friend!
What wad ye wish for mair, man?
Wha kens, before his life may end,
What his share may be o’ care, man?

Then catch the moments as they fly,
And use them as ye ought, man:
Believe me, happiness is shy,
And comes not aye when sought, man.

Other Titles Ta’ Raise A Brow

  • Bessy and Her Spinnin’ Wheel
  • Cock Up Your Beaver
  • The Fornicator
  • Nine Inch Will Please a Lady
Alltop will be raisin’ a wee dram this evening in honour of his birthday.