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  • Leonard Cohen

Montreal 375


Sainte Catherine Street

Towering black nuns frighten us

as they come lumbering down the tramway aisle

amulets and talismans caught in careful fingers

promising plagues for an imprudent glance

So we bow our places away

the price of an indulgence

How may we be saints and live in golden coffins

Who will leave on our stone shelves

pathetic notes for interventions

How may we be calm marble gods at ocean altars

Who will murder us for some high reason

There are no ordeals

Fire and water have passed from wizards' hands

We cannot torture or be tortured

Our eyes are worthless to an inquisitor's heel

No prince will waste hot lead

or build a spiked caskets for us

Once with a flaming belly she danced upon a green road

Move your hand slowly through the cobweb

and make drifting strings for puppets

Now the tambourines are dull

at her lifted skirt boys study cigarette stubs

no one is jealous of her body

We would bathe in a free river

but lepers in some spiteful gestur

have suicided in the water

and all the swollen quiet bodies crowd the other

prey for a fearless thief or beggar

How can we love and pray

when our lovers' arms

we hear the damp bells of them

who once took bitter alms

but now float quietly away

Will no one carve from our bodies a white cross

for a wind-torn mountain

or was that foresaken man's pain

enough to end all passion

Are those dry faces and hands we see

all the flesh there is of nuns

Are they really clever non-excreting tapestries

prepared by skillful enuchs

for our trembling friends


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