Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bird on the Wire

The song by Leonard Cohen was written the year I was born, incredibly -- it's hard to believe the man has been writing music, defining the canon, my entire life -- but of course his cult-like following is completely justified by his talent as a songwriter. I think JH recently responded to one of my posts with a quote by Cohen who in turn was acknowledging his great debt to musicians like Hank Williams Jr. "A hundred floors above me in the tower of song" -- I wonder if it's not helpful to think of the way in which great people, often artists, bow to one another -- as a creative person constantly striving for a balance between the search for knowledge and the effort to respect my own voice.

Long paths of thought are opened onto through the lowliest doors though -- humble gates. I saw a sidebar over on Yahoo depicting various stationeries one could choose as one's email background, and the top image, labeled "Suburban," is a silhouette of several songbirds perched on lines above the ground. So unbidden I hear the song, though it's Jennifer Warnes' version from the 80s, playing in my head. And I want the line "bird on a wire" to have acquired some colloquial meaning -- want it to be an expression that stands commonly for some situation that I can relate to -- but Google didn't toss anything my way on that except lyrics and lots of information about Cohen (and about the dumb movie by that title with Goldie Hawn and Mel Gibson, but anyway.)

Interesting tidbit -- Kris Kristofferson wants the first three lines as his epitaph when he dies. "Like the bird on a wire, like the drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free."

What's it mean, bird on the wire. To be something frail and temporary suspended in a moment, something seemingly inconsequential, someone anonymous -- yet possessing the power of flight, the ability to project oneself far above the ground. To be wild and puny at the same time. Not the hero, but the sparrow. What's it mean?

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