The fire burns

A hot mess, I was all of 12 when I stumbled on to my first doomed lovers in the traumatized shelves of my neurotic high school, skew Jews:

And at the hot ovens they

Cunningly managed a brief

Kiss before the soldier came

To knock out her golden teeth.

At a tender, young age, I was deeply steeped in bureaucratic persecution, systematic genocide and the Hollywood love machine, but I did not know this. Kiss.

I fell

and hard, for the poet, the eternal Leonard Cohen:

the earth-bound, sky-high music lover writer genius: my city’s sexiest, smokiest son. I was whacked, sucker-punched, ravenous for the next verse:

And in the furnace itself fondly

As the flames flamed higher,

He tried to kiss her burning breasts

As she burned in the fire.

His words entered my body and my soul surged. This was hot, heavy stuff for a flowering writer, a fierce, pubescent Jewess. He showed me what no Nazi footage ever could. That sex could be had in the ovens at Auschwitz. That in the pit of hell there was love.

I would never be the same.



In front of the poet’s Montreal home, after death. Nov. 2016. (Christinne Muschi / Reuters)

Verses from ‘Lovers’ by Leonard Cohen, 1956, from Let Us Compare Mythologies

Afire, drawing above by Brenda Keesal. If you would like an 8 by 10 print to keep your feet warm at night, email: 

For more of my musings about writers: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Etgar Keret and Philip Roth.



Feel the power, people. Happy New Year, y’all.

Queen Erykah Badu.


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