Saturday 24 June 2023

'A sea of lights' by Patience Mackarness

Leonard Cohen’s onstage, I’m in the audience. He’s forty-eight and all in black, I’m twenty-one and melting with desire. I wish he and I were alone somewhere, barefoot, maybe on a Greek beach. He’s done that, I haven’t. My boyfriend thinks Cohen is all doom and gloom, so he isn’t with us tonight. My boyfriend won’t go barefoot on beaches, he’s scared of jellyfish.

Cohen calls for requests. We’ve already had Suzanne and Sisters of Mercy. A male voice yells, “Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-on!” Cohen laughs, and starts in on Famous Blue Raincoat.

We’ve all brought candles. We want to hold them up in this huge cathedral-space, a sea of lights moving gently in the dark as we sway to the music, but when we start lighting them, a security guard comes up and tells us roughly to put them out, they’re a fire hazard.

Cohen looks down and sees us. He moves to the very front of the stage. He touches his guitar and starts to sing There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in. The guard falls back, eyes glazed as if an alien just wiped his mind. We lift our lit candles, hundreds of them in the dark. We sway.

And yes, I know Anthem wasn’t released till ten years after that. I know Cohen’s dead and Marianne’s dead and Suzanne’s an old woman and so am I. But it’s 1981, the theatre’s filled with light, and Leonard Cohen’s singing.

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