Saturday, September 19, 2009

TWO WENT TO SLEEP

My contribution to the Leonard Cohen, You're Our Man anthology is a literary palimpsest of his poem "Two Went To Sleep", which I found in the
15 Canadian Poets anthology edited by Gary Geddes back in the early '70s.

A palimpsest is a manuscript page from a scroll or book that has been scraped off and used again -- where legible traces of the original writing are still visible. A literary palimpsest is a rewrite of a literary work, where the outlines of the original are still apparent, but which has been thoroughly altered or updated in some way. To my understading, a literary palimpsest is akin to a parody, but more of a tribute. I don't find this term in either of my literary dictionaries -- but the metaphor, and the critical term, have been around for some time, as Carmen Musat on this site attests. To some extent, he argues, all literary creations are palimpsests.

Since there was no room in the anthology to publish the original (nor, I imagine, time or means to deal with copyright issues), I took liberty to post both versions here. Contrary to popular rumour, Leonard and I did not share the same bed -- but I invite you take palimpsestuous delight.

LEONARD COHEN
_______________________________

TWO WENT TO SLEEP

Two went to sleep
almost every night
one dreamed of mud
one dreamed of Asia
visiting a zeppelin
visiting Nijinsky
Two went to sleep
one reamed of ribs
one dreamed of senators
Two went to sleep
two travellers
The long marriage
in the dark
The sleep was old
the travellers were old
one dreamed of oranges
one dreamed of Carthage
Two friends asleep
years locked in travel
Good night my darling
as the dreams waved goodbye
one travelled lightly
one walked through water
visiting a chess game
visiting a booth
always returning
to wait out the day
One carried matches
one climbed a beehive
one sold an earphone
one shot a German
Two went to sleep
every sleep went together
wandering away
from an operating table
one dreamed of grass
one dreamed of spokes
one bargained nicely
one was a snowman
one counted medicine
one tasted pencils
one was a child
one was a traitor
visiting heavy industry
visiting the family
Two went to sleep
none could foretell
one went with baskets
one took a ledger
one night happy
one night in terror
Love could not bind them
Fear could not either
they went unconnected
they never knew where
always returning
to wait out the day
parting with kissing
parting with yawns
visiting Death till
they wore out their welcome
visiting Death till
the right disguise worked.





TWO WENT TO SLEEP
(after Leonard Cohen)

Two went to sleep
almost every night
one dreamed of earth
one dreamed of Europa
visiting a shuttle craft
visiting Scriabin
Two went to sleep
one dreamed of anuses
one dreamed of assemblies
Two went to sleep
two voyagers
The long tarry
in the ark
The sleep was bold
so the travellers were told
one dreamed of almonds
one dreamed of Alexandria
Two friends asleep
ages locked in travel
Good night my sweet
as the dreams waved farewell
one travelled sprightly
one walked through tombstones
visiting a web site
visiting a bar
always returning
to wait out the day
One carried a corkscrew
one climbed a salt shaker
one sold an iPod
one shot a Republican
Two went to sleep
every sleep together
wandering away
from a vivisection table
one dreamed of sable
one dreamed of Sahara
one dealt out cards
one became a statue
one counted trade agreements
one tasted scriptures
one was an embryo
one was a patrician
visiting a factory
visiting the cradle
Two went to sleep
none could foretell
one went with a calculator
one with a book
one night serene
one night in horror
Love could not hide them
Fear could not either
they went undetected
they scarcely knew where
always returning
to wait out the day
parting with embraces
parting with yeah right
visiting Death till
Death put out their eyes
visiting Death till
Death was their disguise

1 comment:

Keith Wilson said...

Awesome. I didn't know there was a word for that kind of poem. I wrote one in the vain of "The Last Quatrain of the Ballad of Emmett Till" by Gwendolyn Brooks.

But I really want to write another palimpsest now. :P