Writing the Apocalypse: Waltzing with Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen’s (kneeling) last show in the United States, 04/07/13, Radio City Music Hall. | Photo by Puma Perl

“Writing the Apocalypse” is a weekly series featuring the poems, essays, and recollections of Puma Perl, with subject matter influenced by her experiences as a NYC resident during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Waltzing with Leonard Cohen | BY PUMA PERL

My last meal before the fast

Salmon with spinach

and spaghetti squash


I strive for humility

on this Day of Atonement

but I am proud

of my vegetables


Dogs and plants

must be fed

regardless of ritual


Sundown at 6:42


I’m a slow eater

and don’t finish until 6:51


One moderate shot

of Jameson

lasts until 7:32


I tell myself

Jews are flexible

and listen to Leonard Cohen


Poems written

and unwritten flow

through my mind

Lives unscripted


Emptiness fills me

more than food

or companionship


I think of Leonard Cohen

and why the world

doesn’t work for me either


I remember the night

we found out he died


It was at the 11th Street Bar


Mark had learned “Suzanne” the day before

Love IED and I searched for lyrics on our phones

I read “Anthem” and he did “Democracy”

Then the band played “Dance Me to the End of Love”

and we waltzed through the room


It was sad and beautiful, and darkly romantic

Like Leonard Cohen


On this Yom Kippur night

I think of Leonard Cohen,

how everything ends,

how love starts in the middle


I see you yesterday

But not tomorrow

Our hair is long and wild

We jump high, we fly

Over tenement rooftops

We dance until the end of love.


© puma perl, 09/30/20

Puma Perl is a poet and writer, with five solo collections in print. The most recent is Birthdays Before and After (Beyond Baroque Books, 2019.) She is the producer/creator of Puma’s Pandemonium, which brings spoken word together with rock and roll, and she performs regularly with her band Puma Perl and Friends. She’s received three New York Press Association awards in recognition of her journalism, and is the recipient of the 2016 Acker Award in the category of writing. Her most recent books can be found by clicking here.

SoulCake (L-R, Laura Sativa, Joff Wilson, and Sarafe)) playing on the roof just below Leonard Cohen’s Clinton Street apartment. Mural by Hendrik “ecb” Beikirch, a German who created this image of a young immigrant girl when he was 19. Below her image, it reads, “Starting Dreams.” | Photo by Puma Perl


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