Suzanne (Part I)

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river

You can hear the boats go by, you can stay the night beside her

And you know that she’s half-crazy, but that’s why you want to be there.

And just when you mean to tell her that you have no love to give her,

She feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China

Then she gets you on her wave-length and lets the river answer

that you’ve always been her lover.

And you want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind

And you know that you can trust her,

for you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.

————- Leonard Cohen

Alrighty then.  Why Suzanne?  Why Leonard Cohen?  All I can tell you is that my friend Donna and her partner Jenn served delicious fruit as a healthy dessert choice to go with the German chocolate cake unhealthy choice at their home two nights ago.  The fruit was partially seasoned by fresh-squeezed orange juice, they told us, and it was delicious.

The mind is a mysterious meandering maze of memories.  Somehow from that offhand reference to oranges, I have been singing the first lines of Leonard Cohen’s poem turned song that I heard Judy Collins sing at a UT concert in Austin in 1966.  Luckily, I have confined my singing to myself in my mind and haven’t annoyed Teresa with the repetitious melody in our shower or elsewhere. No matter how haunting I might feel it to be, I fear the possibility of getting on her last nerve.

The singer in my head is as good as I think it was in 1966 when I memorized those lines to Suzanne and strummed along on my tenor guitar, but the out-loud singer today has a strange vibrato and erratic cracking sound so I rarely use it.

Anyhow, I immersed myself this morning with the life and loves of Leonard Cohen.  It’s taken a while because he began writing poetry in his teens and is still giving concerts at the age of 79.  He is a prolific musician, singer-songwriter, poet and novelist who was born in Canada in 1934.  His personal life mirrors the life of most of us lesser mortals.  His financial fortunes have been won – and lost through a crooked trusted agent whom he sued and from whom he never recovered his money – and then changed for the better in his later life.

Mr. Cohen apparently never suffered from a lack of female companions.  As the decades of his life came and went, so did the women he loved and lived with.  Despite his successes in the music world and the realm of literature and his long-term relationships, he struggled all of his life with depression.  Many of my favorite songs written by Leonard Cohen reflect that struggle.

In 1994 he began a five-year seclusion at the Mt. Baldy Zen Monastery outside of Los Angeles, and he was ordained as a monk two years later.  He credited that time as a tremendous healing experience but never renounced his Judaism by becoming a Buddhist.

That must’ve been a long, long way from his touring Europe and Israel in 1972 with Charlie Daniels in a band nicknamed “The Army” and an even LONGER distance from his Beat Poet days in Montreal in the early 60s when he met the young woman who would inspire the poem that transformed his life.

Suzanne Verdal was something else.

I’ll save her for next time.

About Sheila Morris

Sheila Morris is a personal historian, essayist with humorist tendencies, lesbian activist, truth seeker and speaker in the tradition of other female Texas storytellers including her paternal grandmother. In December, 2017, the University of South Carolina Press published her collection of first-person accounts of a few of the people primarily responsible for the development of LGBTQ organizations in South Carolina. Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home will resonate with everyone interested in LGBTQ history in the South during the tumultuous times from the AIDS pandemic to marriage equality. She has published five nonfiction books including two memoirs, an essay compilation and two collections of her favorite blogs from I'll Call It Like I See It. Her first book, Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing received a Golden Crown Literary Society Award in 2008. Her writings have been included in various anthologies - most recently the 2017 Saints and Sinners Literary Magazine. Her latest book, Four Ticket Ride, was released in January, 2019. She is a displaced Texan living in South Carolina with her wife Teresa Williams and their dogs Spike, Charly and Carl. She is also Naynay to her two granddaughters Ella and Molly James who light up her life for real. Born in rural Grimes County, Texas in 1946 her Texas roots still run wide and deep.
This entry was posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, Random, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Suzanne (Part I)

  1. Pingback: Suzanne (Part I) | I'll Call It Like I See It

  2. Harvey Peck says:

    Thank you so much for sharing that piece by Mr. Cohen and for what you added of your own, I’ve had my share of “struggles” as well and that was food for my soul. – Bravo Sir and Thanks You again


  3. Harvey Peck says:

    I assumed Sir and it turns out Shiela that I did you an injustice.
    Bravo Shiela ! ! ! ! All of the rest was heartfelt and correct. You have my apologies and you have my admiration as well for your thoughts in print. – Peace be unto you, Harvey Peck


  4. Harvey Peck says:

    Ha…. You are a hoot…. Gotta love You


  5. Anne Boring says:

    Hi Sheila, You have a great gift for words. People feel really good when they read them. Thank you for sharing that gift with me. I really enjoy it.


    • Hi Anne,
      Gosh, you always seem to write when I need some reassurance that my words are a gift. Honestly, today was the day to hear that. 🙂
      Whenever I hear from you, I wonder why I haven’t made a better effort to visit you in Katy while I was in Texas. Shame on me.
      I truly hope you and your family are doing well. I also hope that you continue to hear good things from your friends in Hawaii. I’m sure leaving there was bittersweet, but I am glad you have returned.
      I will be in Texas in March and we need to get Billie and Fred to meet us for lunch somewhere!
      I hope bluebonnets are in bloom early this year.
      Thanks again and love to you all,


  6. Did you ever bring back memories with this post. I’m in suspense waiting for part 2. Now I’ve got to turn off the brain music – we should start a shower chorale! 😀



    • Hi Ann,
      Are you a (1) Leonard Cohen fan (2) Judy Collins fan or (3) Suzanne lover?
      Once that song gets in your head, it’s hard to turn off! 🙂
      The shower chorale is a splendid idea!!
      Thanks for “chiming” in!! 🙂


      • Judy Collins first, followed by Leonard Cohen. Suzanne always sounded like trouble – not worth the oranges. ;D

        What a crush I had on Judy Collins. I think I memorized at least 20 of her songs, probably amusing family and neighbors as I shamelessly worked my way through that repertoire while showering, walking the dog, gardening, standing at the bus the stop, etc. As soon as I read your post, I hummed “Suzanne,” then started in on “Albatross,” though my feeble brain can’t recall lyrics any more.

        Next up: “My Father” followed by “Fair Thee Well to Tarwathie.”

        Oh, Sheila! What have you started?! 🙂



      • Too funny, Ann! A Judy Collins devotee – who would have guessed?? 🙂 Next thing I know you’ll tell me you loved Carole King, too!! 🙂
        Singers appear to have gone the way of film stars these days – even Ellen is a rapper…good Lord.
        Hum away, my friend – the lyrics are always available to karaoke singers!!


  7. Reblogged this on I'll Call It Like I See It and commented:

    Thank you for Suzanne and all the other music you gave us. Rest in peace, Leonard Cohen.


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