Skip to main content
Ages 13+
Under 13
Black and white photo of Leonard Cohen

An Unpublished Poem by Leonard Cohen


With The Flame, Cohen makes clear his importance as an extraordinary writer, and an exceptional musician.

Canadian musician, Leonard Cohen, at once a dilettante of Eastern spirituality and an artist in more ways than one, died in 2016. His legacy has only begun to be discovered, studied, and appreciated.

His final album, You Want It Darker, was the culmination of a musical career that has a literary counterpart in a posthumously published book entitled The Flame. Cohen’s son, Adam, says of the final album, all the poems, the drawings, and the notes made during the last years of his life constituted “my father’s final efforts as a poet… It was what he was staying alive to do, his sole breathing purpose at the end.”

It’s nearly a prophecy of what was to happen within a few years of his death. The tone and themes of the book concern a disenchantment with politics, and a lucid vision of the end of civilization as we know it. The following is offered to the memory of one of the great icons of popular music, in his own way, a rebel illuminated in the art of darkness.

What is coming

ten million people

in the street cannot stop

What is coming

the American Armed Forces

cannot control

the President

of the United States

            and his counselors

cannot conceive



            or direct


you do

or refrain from doing

will bring us

to the same place

the place we don’t know


your anger against the war

your horror of death

your calm strategies

your bold plans

to rearrange

            the middle east

to overthrow the dollar

to establish

            the 4th Reich

to live forever

to silence the Jews

to order the cosmos

to tidy up your life

to improve religion

they count for nothing


you have no understanding

of the consequences

of what you do

oh and one more thing

you aren’t going to like

what comes after


Related Articles