Poetry Sunday: Democracy by Leonard Cohen

Offered without comment except to say I can only hope, because "I love the country but I can't stand the scene".


lyrics by Leonard Cohen 

It's coming through a hole in the air,
from those nights in Tiananmen Square.
It's coming from the feel
that this ain't exactly real,
or it's real, but it ain't exactly there.
From the wars against disorder,
from the sirens night and day,
from the fires of the homeless,
from the ashes of the gay:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming through a crack in the wall;
on a visionary flood of alcohol;
from the staggering account
of the Sermon on the Mount
which I don't pretend to understand at all.
It's coming from the silence on the dock of the bay,
from the brave, the bold, the battered heart of Chevrolet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin'
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.
It's coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst.
It's here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it's here they got the spiritual thirst.
It's here the family's broken
and it's here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming from the women and the men.
O baby, we'll be making love again.
We'll be going down so deep
the river's going to weep,
and the mountain's going to shout Amen!
It's coming like the tidal flood
beneath the lunar sway,
imperial, mysterious,
in amorous array:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on ...

I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can't stand the scene.
And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay,
I'm junk but I'm still holding up
this little wild bouquet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.


  1. Leonard would be horrified to see what is happening in Trump's America.

    1. As are all rational people. This song was just what I needed to hear last week. Let's hope Leonard was prescient in this as he was in many things.

  2. Leonard Cohen was a genius songwriter and poet. Too many people know him only for "Hallelujah". He is not easy reading but he will reward you. That last stanza is so, so true. I echo your other commenter; he would have been horrified to see what is happening in our times.

    1. I've come to an appreciation of his poetry later than many of his fans, but I find it speaks to me and for me more eloquently than I am able to express for myself.

    2. His friend, fellow poet and sometime mentor, Irving Layton, a product of the same Montreal Jewish neighbourhood, was no slouch either. It should also be remembered that Mordecai Richler had similar connections.

  3. This "democracy" idea is a slippery one. It seems to ebb and flow. Only the people know. And Leonard Cohen was one of the people!

  4. Thanks for posting these wonderful words! There's so much negativity about the US lately and these words are so encouraging :)

    My Corner of the World

    1. It is a poem of positivity, isn't it? And we need all the positivity we can find these days.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Poetry Sunday: Don't Hesitate by Mary Oliver

Overboard by Sara Paretsky: A review

The Investigator by John Sandford: A review