If you have a wall, a bare wall in your house
All the walls in my house are bare
And I love the bare walls
The only thing I would put up
On one of my beloved bare walls
Not beloved
It doesn’t need beloved
It’s doesn’t need an adjective
The wall is fine as it is
But I would put up a Rosengarten
A Rosengarten produced with a wooden
Comb and black ink
Going nowhere forever in a swirl of indelible parallel curves
Is it a letter or a woman?
It is another perfect startling black letter in a word
Among hundreds of words
In a continuing Rosengarten epic that celebrates
mankind’s holy and relentless desire for itself
Your heart is the same as the white paper
Upon which the woman is so carefully splashed
Both need her in order to become significant
If you had a vast white wall
And if you hung hundreds of his commanding women in a row
You would not have to study the calligraphy
For very long
To understand and to forgive yourself
For falling in love so often
And for championing our mysterious and radiant race
And it would silence whatever foolish argument
About beauty
You had been tricked into embracing

And it is the same with a piece of furniture
I have one or two wooden tables
That I bought for a song long ago
I’ve polished them for years
And I don’t want anything on them
Except elbows a plate and a glass
But I have a Rosengaten on one of them
Because a Rosengarten celebrates the wood it stands on
Because it is made with the same mind
That made the table a hundred years ago
The mind of honour and skill and modesty
That patiently manifests an artifact
Of unutterable usefulness
You would have to live with a Rosengarten
To know how useful it is
As useful as a table or a wall
To serve your helplessness
To locate your ‘wrecked life’ in a room
You have forgotten to explore
Just as there is no extra word in a great poem
In a Rosengarten
There is no extra volume
There is no gesture, no conceit, no winking eye
Soliciting a compliment
It is as it is
Respectful of the tradition from which it arises
But independent of it too
It stands there surrounded by the room
Establishing second after second
New alarming original friendships with the air and the light
Which the room so deeply needs
To irrigate and refresh your struggle

And if you have a garden or an acre
And you want it to flourish
Place a number of Rosengartens here and there
His great commanding Asheras
The streamlined female presence
Which men and women sought and worshipped
In the ‘high places’ of the Bible
And still do today
As we walk hand in hand
Through the bewildering and shabby insignificance
Of our official corrected public and private daily lives
And here She is:
Fully born from herself
Urgent and accommodating
A thrust of polished energy that does not cut the air
But softens it and ignites it softly
Offered up on a simple stone staircase
Which in itself is a masterpiece of escalating harmony
Offered to the mystery of beauty
Which no one dare explain
Offered up for the secret reasons
Which are known to all
Offered up in the usual conditions of distress
And the deep inner certainty of perfection
And now your garden
Does not need reminding

Ink on Paper by Morton Rosengarten

Copyright © 2014, 2015 Leonard Cohen.
Title photo © Morton Rosengaarten.
Cohen's portrait © Morton Rosengaarten.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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