No tattered papers, no clawing around for narrative, no absence of poetry. It was some way to say goodbye.
After hearing Thursday night that Leonard Cohen had died, I found myself hunched over a desk in my apartment, going through the last of my father’s possessions. They comprise a green leather box full of discarded ephemera, once a case for a Spanish brandy, and a plastic bag stuffed with tattered papers.
My father was an alcoholic and he died, jaundiced, at 58; I was seven. I don’t remember much of him beyond his pallid green skin in his last few days. The stories I’ve heard about him since have been airbrushed: he was charming, gifted, well-read. But the booze seeps into most of the anecdotes they short circuit before they have a chance to function.
I was only ever half-interested in steadying this legacy in my mind. If he was happy to bail, if he was content to fade out as a broken man, then that was his choice. But this year, with its constant death, had forced me to reconsider. Prince’s death, in particular. A man that I saw as immortal was human. He, too, had an addiction and, eventually, gave way to it.
There was symmetry to Prince’s death; he died in April in an ascending elevator. It seemed as though he’d written ballads about it all decades before it hit. After that sank in, I wanted to do with my father’s mess what I’d done with Prince. I wanted to tease some poetry out of it.
So I brought all these dog-eared papers and half-torn cards back from London to New York over the summer. Eventually, I thought, I’d do more than just flick through the green box like I had over the last decade; I’d find a more robust timeline than the one I found by lining up his three expired passports and watching him age like that; I’d get some meaning out of it.
Continue reading at Noisey.