Beneath My Hands by Leonard Cohen

Dear R: I used to read this all the time. I have written it in journals, recited it to myself in the dark. I said, someday if a man reads this to me, if a man knows this poem and gives it to me – I will love him with all my heart. Because it is one of the most beautiful poems ever written. Because a man who can recognize this, who can know the meaning of this, is man that should be loved.

And oh, how should I know, that years and years later on, I would be here, and you would be here, and you would offer this poem to me? You left me speechless. I have no words to tell you what you have done to me. In all our other lives, I am in the next plane, coming home to you. I am opening the door, welcoming you home. I am jumping in your arms, kissing your mouth. I am undressing you, smelling your skin. I am looking in your eyes, telling you how much I love you.

Beneath My Hands
Leonard Cohen

Beneath my hands
your small breasts
are the upturned bellies
of breathing fallen sparrows.

Wherever you move
I hear the sounds of closing wings
of falling wings.

I am speechless
because you have fallen beside me
because your eyelashes
are the spines of tiny fragile animals.

I dread the time
when your mouth
begins to call me hunter.

When you call me close
to tell me
your body is not beautiful
I want to summon
the eyes and hidden mouths
of stone and light and water
to testify against you.

I want them
to surrender before you
the trembling rhyme of your face
from their deep caskets.

When you call me close
to tell me
your body is not beautiful
I want my body and my hands
to be pools
for your looking and laughing.

From Selected Poems, 1956-1968 by Leonard Cohen, published by Bantam Books, 1971. ()



  1. I posted your page to my Facebook page on 10 November 2016. Dear Leonard dead at 82. I started reading him about 50 years ago, bought his first record, and saw him at the Isla of Wight festival in 1970.

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