There are certain lines or phrases or bits of writing that are just simply perfect. I'm not necessarily talking about quotes. Quotes have to be complete thoughts to be relevant. I'm referring more to pure poetic expression where the combination of words adds up as tightly and beautifully as a complicated math equation. These are phrases that stick in my mind for days at a time, year after year, as I contemplate their completeness. From now on, I plan to set Monday mornings aside to share some of these lines.
The inaugural entry comes from the second verse of Leonard Cohen's song "Bird on a Wire":
Like a baby, stillborn
Like a beast with his horn,
I have torn everyone who reached out for me.
The first time I head this song was during my first semester at NYU while chain smoking in a girl named Kate's bedroom as we drank bottomless mugs of coffee and tried to conjugate german verbs. Upon hearing these lines, the young poet in me was blown away. I had never heard of Leonard Cohen before that moment, but soon would go on to read his poetry, buy his albums, and encounter Beautiful Losers, one of the best novels ever written.
I was listening to Joe Cocker's version of "Bird on a Wire" this past Saturday and was reminded again of how perfect those lines are. Two completely different images of a stillborn baby and horned animal come together to encompass the full range of both physical and emotional pain. The use of the word "torn" is brilliant in bringing the imagery together. This could very well be my favorite stanza written in the English language.