It’s one of my favourite songs by him and I used to have it memorized. It’s a great heartbreak song with lyrics of the pettiest revenge thoughts.
“I lit a thin green candle/to make you jealous of me/but the room just filled up with mosquitos…” and “then I took the dust of a long sleepless night and I put in your little shoe/then I confess I tortured the dress that you wore for the world to look through.”
I have to admit that encapsulation of bitterness got me through many a rough night of heartbreak and loneliness. Which some might argue is the raison d’etre of Leonard Cohen music.
Is there a higher meaning in the song? In the song the narrator seeks help, medical and spiritual and finds both wanting. Both the doctor and the saint have fallen prey to the femme fatale of the song and are left broken by her.
Only a man described only as an Eskimo survives her best, frozen by her lovemaking and unable to get warm. And the narrator, despite these object lessons begs for more.
I would like to say I am wiser than the narrator but the partners I have gotten back together are powerful evidence otherwise. And were she to ask me to, I’d gladly leave my shivering eskimo friend and go back into her storm. Till then I am left with the dust of the sleepless nights and the music of Leonard Cohen. I wonder if he was able to take comfort in his own music. Somehow I don’t think so.