From Collected Poems 1981-2016 by Michael O'Leary

Ping Pong Sonnet

for Mark Amery

One ball goes sailing across the net with a ping
The returning ball crosses the net with a pong
The first player returns and begins to sing
Then the second player also joins in the song
What started across the table as a simple game
Has suddenly become a mutual musical duet
Sing-song, ping-pong goes the song's refrain
As the verses ping-sing back over the net
And now the song-pong is net-set to end
Turning into an old-fashioned tune
A silly nil-love song, but no, it isn't so
For the game of life is like a river that wends
From lake to sea, only to be reborn soon
In the ping-pong air, then falls as rain below

So long Leonard Cohen . . . a farewell

Beginning life as a middle-class son
Comfortable in your Jewish Catholicism
Tailor-made for the family's business
You chose the more difficult artist's path

Through the Montreal poetry scene
You played youth's favourite games
Slim volumes proffering Flowers for the F├╝hrer:
Eichmann's normal human perversions

More polite than the gutter snipe
Rock and rollers, who said they joined
A band to get laid: young Cohen said
He played music to meet women

In the late 1960s when every belief
Came to an end: when The Beatles' apple
Turned to pulp without the future fiction
You came along with a song from a room

A muse, in the real sense of 'to amuse'
Someone who spoke openly about thought
And feeling, perhaps here was a poet
Who wasn't alive a hundred years ago

Who wasn't 'beat' or rock 'n' roll, exactly
But came so far, with a Spanish guitar,
With a seductive voice and lyric to match -
Existential, if you'll pardon the expression

So all our Suzanne's took us all down
To our own lands of rags and feathers;
Remembering well that Chelsea Hotel,
New York and the tragic taste of success

You went into God's Hamburger Bar in
The city of Angels, wanting nothing but
'One with Everything' . . . becoming a Buddhist
Monk to escape the world of pain and love

Old songs and new could not be suppressed
So you returned to the world to bring them,
To sing them to audiences old and new
Hallelujah, Hallelujah: from below and above

Dancing to the end of love, you twirled
Full circle, singing so long Marianne, by e-mail
As she lay dying, remembering Greek Isles
Sunshine and smiles, farewell dreaming

It's now as dark as you want it, Leonard
But remember, there's always that crack
Perhaps you really have come to understand
Now, that's where the light truly gets in . . .

Poems © Michael O'Leary 2017