Last week was a week that will stick in the memory like a speed-bump that didn’t just rattle the frame and bang your head on the roof, but banjaxed the suspension and threw the car off the road. Leonard Cohen, the most authentic man on the planet, died and Donald Trump, cartoon figure, swept to power. The events left many raging and shouting, others raging and speechless. Myself, I said plenty but none of it coherent. If there is a crack somewhere there is no light getting in. Looking for perspective, I gave my (weekly) writing group the task of writing from the year 2116, looking back the 100 years to last week. The piece below is one of the offerings.
The discovery of the final pages of a journal kept by the Underground Writer who worked in secrecy and willed obscurity has shed much-needed light on the dawn of a time that has come to define our own.
This fragment of prose, which experts – who wish to remain anonymous – suggest may have been a suicide note[i], offers no information we do not already possess but is of passing interest all the same. The language is archaic, if not antique, and the writer’s typically eccentric choice of vocabulary may challenge today’s reader, but we persist in our belief that the works of the past are messages to the future. We leave the reader to judge its relevance and present it in full here for the novelty, for the sorrow, for the times to come.
11th November 2016
“Of course, it had to be today. What better time for the angels to fold in their wings and turn their faces to the wall, for the gods to be quietly exiting the skies? Leonard is gone. He didn’t wait to see how the dice would roll. He knew, and he knew it was time and we, the left-behind, are not so much damned as condemned.
I will confess. I am glad for him. How would he have lived, how would he have met us honestly on this? What could he have said when the words fell away as they fell from us, when words are missiles aimed straight at where they can do most harm? He would have been silent and that – that I could not have borne.
I feel it so near, a bereavement that touches me more closely than the loves I have lost, the friends I have seen die, and I find that grief is a strange visitant. I didn’t know that it releases you, that it gives its own permissions, that it allows you to find yourself in the desolation, bend into the despair, your elbows up around your ears while you crouch in a corner and howl.
So hear this, from the age of the charlatan, the liar, the gimmick-wide maw of the professional hater, hear this from the age in which we are asked not to think but only to feel, hear this as we pick our barefoot way across the shards of broken ideologies: it’s all too late. Nothing can be as it was.
They say, something will befall this man. He’ll be tamed, impeached, denied, assassinated. I dreamt a bawling bug-eyed goblin running the president through with little knives, air escaping flesh in low, sulphurous farts, I dreamt a harlequin-sleeved puppeteer snipping at the strings and heard the hollow clatter of wooden limbs on an empty stage, I dreamt all this and more. But the phials are open now, poison is in the air, and we can’t put it back. We must breathe it. We must live it. We won’t all survive it.
There are songwriters and poets who tell us what’s happening, but Leonard stood beside us while we endured it. No more. One man says, build walls, drain swamps, lock down. Leonard said this:
‘I said, Mother I’m frightened,
the thunder and the lightning,
I’ll never come through this alone.
She said, I’ll be with you,
my shawl wrapped around you
my hand on your head when you go.
And the night came on.
it was very calm.
I wanted the night to go on and on
but she said, go back.
Go back to the world.’
Only, I can’t go back.
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