The Edgeless Sound and the Night Owl

2 Min read

Poetry for Emergencies

Leonard Cohen

Roshi’s Poem

The Poe Arch – Edgar Allan Poe Memorial Gateway

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TreeHouse view of dawn

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The book falls open to Roshi’s Poem. Though I had already read it, in my hurry up the stairs I had thrust my book mark in the wrong page.

Whenever I hear/ The edgeless sound / In the deep night / O Mother! / I find you again.

Whenever I stand / Beneath the light / Of the seamless sky / O Father! / I bow my head.

[Roshi’s Poem Translated by Leonard Cohen]

I read these two stanzas. Stop.

Hoo-hoo-hooooooot.

The edgeless sound from windows dark with night. Just after 4:00 in the morning. Is it mocking me, who does not sleep?

Hoooo-hoo-hoooooot. Hooooo-hooo.

Turning the pages, I had read that. And that. Roshi’s poem draws me back to it, for the third and final stanza.

The sun goes down / Our shadows dissolve / The pine trees darken / O Darling! / We must go home.

Hooooo-hoo-hooooooot. Hoooo-hooo from the deep night.

My fingers slide down the white page, edged with owl scratches of verse. Beautiful space, its softness.

I turn to the poems, Old Friends, The Apparent Turbulence, The Indian Girl.

…who let you make love to her secretly before she died in a car accident…

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And when I went back to my wife, my young wife, the one who would never thaw, who would bear me children, who would hate me for one good reason or another all the days of my life, who would know a couple of my friends a little too well.

*

Excerpt: The Indian Girl by Leornard Cohen 1980

Silence. The hooting stops. The pine trees darken outside the TreeHouse window, a dim neopolitan dawn.

*

Was she real, Cohen’s Indian lover?

Was the hooting real?

Or, in my mind?

We must go

home.

*

*

FOOTNOTES

*The Flame, Poems Notebooks Lyrics Drawings by Leonard Cohen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018). “There are very, very few people who ccupy the ground that Leonard Cohen walks on.” BONO “This is the final work from Leonard Cohen, the revered poet and musician whose fans span generations and whose work is celebrated throughout the world.” Notable songs include Hallelujah and Suzanne.

*Cohen was born into an Orthodox Jewish Family. Well into his music career he was ordained as a Zen monk according to Wikipedia: “In 1994, Cohen retreated to the Mt. Baldy Zen Center near Los Angeles, beginning what became five years of seclusion at the center.[59] In 1996, Cohen was ordained as a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk and took the Dharma name Jikan, meaning “silence”. He served as personal assistant to Kyozan Joshu Sasaki Roshi.”

*When I wake early, I sometimes read in the TreeHouse. The hooting punctuated my reading of Roshi’s Poem and stopped when I read The Indian Girl. It reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe and the Raven, perched above his chamber door. Was the call a portent of the not-too-distant future, the weekend, the year? I listened to the calls of common owls in the region and the sound was that of the great horned owl.

*The Poe Arch in the photo below is located in the special collections and archives at West Point. The day after reading Roshi’s Poem and hearing the owl, I visited this memorial for the first time. I feel a connection to Edgar Allan Poe: the poet and I share the same birthday, 160 years apart. Poe also attended West Point though he left, something many are not aware of. Poe died not far from my childhood home. The Poe inscription is beguiling and Sir Francis Bacon’s quote is fascinating. “There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.”

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The Poe Arch is a memorial to West Point’s famous dropout and is not open to the public. I took this photo during my first visit to see it this weekend, the day after hearing the Night Owl.

Mar 4, 2023

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About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

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