“Halloween A-Coming”

October 27, 2014

Halloween 2

Cinderilla Pumpkin

My beautiful picture

The gate where the Candy Witch stands…..

crescent-moon

I love Halloween.  Or I used to before the Southern Baptists and Methodists stuck their noses into a holiday that was a lot of fun.  I remember getting dressed up as witches, beatniks, when I was young and getting sick on the candy we got from far flung neighbors.  The Sabatillas were the best, with a house that you had to transverse fields in the black of night to get to their tables laid out with candy.  I remember my father and his scary antics behind us, when we were most vulnerable in the dark, clutching our paper bags and of course the UNISEF boxes for the coins.  This was all in the country, up in central New Jersey, and considering the lack of any streetlights and the river that stretched out for miles, we were brave young kids. My father would accompany us unseen, and would further scare us with moans and a blast from his French horn that made us realize  it was he who did the mischief in the dark of night.

In my Atlantan neighborhood, it’s these Baptists and Methodists who turn their lights off and probably sit under their kitchen tables, shuddering at the words: “Trick or Treat!” 

They call this “Devil’s Night” but I think it’s just a chance to deny the local children any fun.  For years, before the Methodist church on the next block closed their doors, they had a “God’s Night” where they had a few sad and abused ponies trucked in for rides, and the kids got to sing hymns and bob for apples.  Big Woo.

Why can’t adults leave this holiday alone?  Why must everything be seen through their damn religions?  This year, as on every Halloween, we will decorate and have a big basket of candy.  About two weeks ago, 4 kids from the neighborhood came to our gate and asked me if I would have candy this year.  I promised I would, but two of the kids were Jehovah Witness. They sadly said that they couldn’t come because their parents didn’t believe in this holiday.  I promised to save candy for the NEXT day for them.  A couple of years ago we ran out of candy.  A few of the older kids offered back handfuls from their own bags so we wouldn’t run out so quickly. 

We don’t get a chance to see kids much, but if this is the behavior of these young teens, giving some of their own loot to an adult who ran out of candy, I can only think that Halloween can bring out the best in our youth.

Lady Nyo

 

It is almost Halloween.

The early dark of dusk

Creeps in before finishing

With the day–

Strange imaginings

Cause shadows to rustle,

Briars entangle

And nothing seems exactly…right.

-

In the mountains

Clouds dip low

Smothering the landscape.

Only the moan of winds

Round eaves shaking the skeleton hambones

Hiding in attic corners

Breaks the silence–

A strange cacophony.

-

Monstrous, ghost trees

Wedged together in

Stumbling rows,

Indian Snake arms

Wave warnings

To all who dare approach

Their Joseph’s –coat-of- many colors

Blasted by Autumn winds

Tearing around the mountain.

The hoot of the owl

Drives on dis-ease until dawn.

-

Roads dip and swell

In a frenzied, jagged run

Straight into the heart of danger.

Nerves uneasy,

There is too much mystery in the night.

-

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010-2014

“Twelve Tanka”…..

October 23, 2014

 

"White Cranes of Heaven", cover painting by the author

“White Cranes of Heaven”, cover painting by the author

These tanka were composed when I was writing  ” The Kimono”, yet to be published. Some violate the pivot line and other ‘rules’ of tanka.  There are many parts to tanka and it is wise to learn them.  It just takes time.

A few of these tanka are published already in “White Cranes of Heaven”, Lulu.com, 2011.

Lady Nyo~

-

This is the problem!

Do not give over your soul,

it returns tattered.

What tailor can mend the rips?

The fabric too frayed by life.

-

A modest woman

does not seek comfort with thieves

Emptiness is fate.

Better her eyes turn upwards

to Heaven, soul comforted.

-

Human frailties

wounds that bleed such heated blood

leave a dry vessel.

Without the moisture of love

the clay reverts to the ground.

-

Tears soften venom.

Knives bring satisfaction to

hands still covered with love.

Trembling, can’t find the mark

but the shame returns, pierces.

-

The heart is brittle.

Hands can not soothe its aching

only honest words

can make the sore mind attend

unless pain ever constant.

-

A woman in grief,

is force that races nature.

Better now anger

contempt will replace her love.

She will be stronger for it.

-

Minute to the hour

The heart races on the edge,

sharpened existence.

Feet trammel the rocky ground

While pain flies up to Heaven.

-

Birds fly in the blue.

All is gray upon the earth,

heart is stopped with bile.

White crane lifts off lake water,

my heart follows them.

-

The tanka below is the Lady Nyo’s (from ” The Kimono”) death tanka.

-

Shall an old gray wolf

subdue a woman like me?

I shall be born soon.

The wolf head I will cut off

and nail the pelt to the cross.

-

The morning wren sings,

I stand in the moonlit dawn

kimono wrapped tight.

Last night my final peace made,

now free from all attachments.

-

Bolts of lightening flash!

The sky brightens like the day

too soon it darkens.

My eyes opened or closed see

the futility of love.

-

Had I not known life

I would have thought it all dreams.

Who is to tell truth?

It comes at too sharp a price.

Better to bear flattery.

-

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008-2014

“Autumn Tanka”…..Tanka for the morning.

October 20, 2014
 Marsh Geese, watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2007

Marsh Geese, watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2007

Autumn wind startles–

Lowered to an ominous

Key—Ah! Mournful sounds!

The fat mountain deer listen-

Add their bellowing sorrow.

"North Carolina Stream", watercolor, janekohut-bartels, 2008

“North Carolina Stream”, watercolor, janekohut-bartels, 2008

It is just the beginning of the Autumn season here in the South.  Only the temps would tell of this seasonal change, but there is something definitely different.  Just a few short weeks ago, we had full-on summer, but now?

The smell of wood smoke, the crackle of fallen leaves, but still little color  in Atlanta. The dogwoods are a blaze and some other trees, like sumac, but these huge oaks and pecans that surround our house and street are hanging on for dear life.  Our red maple is still green with only a few outside branches in red and rust display.

Tanka is my favorite poetry form of all.  It’s something I fell into about 8 years ago, and wrote a lot of it before I actually began a study of the inner guts of this ancient form. There are definite classical rules that one should learn before one dismisses these things. I need to go back to this study because I’ve forgotten a lot.  It is unfortunate that many poets think they are writing tanka but they are just writing freeverse and dare to call it tanka.  I did this, too, but am trying not to do this now.  I find tanka the best medium for observation, expression and sentiment.  Being  allowed only 31 syllables culls a lot of verbosity and that can be only to the good for poetry.

And…..tanka takes your mind to a very different level. It’s not just a simplification, a clarification in the verse but something that instills a sense of  peace and satisfaction.  Worth plumbing the depths of this ancient form.

Lady Nyo

-

Autumn Tanka

I look up at blue

Sky this morning, watch leaves fall-

Whirling, colored tears.

Clip my face like dull razors,

The stroking of memory.

-

Is the whistling

Of the wind- a train, a plane?

Nature plays fiddle

And our senses are confused.

We dwell in chicanery!

-

Shooting star crosses

Upended bowl of blue night

Imagination-

Fires up with excited gaze!

A moment– and all is gone.

-

This grim November,

The month of my father’s death

Always bittersweet.

My memories float, weak ghosts-

Haunting in the fog of life.

 -

So lonely am I

My soul like a floating weed

Severed at the roots

Drifting upon cold waters

No pillow for further dreams.

 -

A late Summer moon

Floats above the conifers.

Autumn is coming.

Do pines know the season turns?

Their leaves don’t fall; do they care?

 -

Come into my arms.

Bury under the warm quilt.

Your scent makes me drunk

Like the wine we gulped last night.

Too much lust and drink to think.

-

When Autumn enters

Inexplicable sadness.

Season fades to death.

Hunter’s moon sits in Heaven–

Garden spiders finish, die.

-

Out with the gold fish,

The bullfrogs croak their sorrow.

Summer is passing

Autumn brings sharp, brittle winds

But Winter is the cruelest.

-

Like the lithe bowing

Of a red maple sapling

My heart turns to you,

Yearns for those nights long ago

When pale skin challenged the moon.

-

Overhead, the cranes,

Sandhills, swirl in board circles.

Broken GPS?

No matter, their cries fall down

Celestial chiding rain.

-

To end this  with a simple poem, not a tanka.

 

Autumn night winds

Hiss over the land

Round corners

And pulse under eaves.

Clashing wind chimes add sharp discord

As bare branches answer with a grating groan.

Above all,

The moon casts a feeble light

Too thin to fatten the road. 

-

(this poem from “White Cranes of Heaven”, published by Lulu.com, 2011)

-

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011-2014

 

“Musings On A Closing Day”

October 16, 2014

mount fuji, 2

For Peggy, a friend of 45 years….

-

I move my chair

to observe Mt. Fuji-

monstrous  perfection

topped with the cooling crust

of spring snows.

-

Languid movement

of a branch,

like a geisha

unfurling her arm

from a gray kimono,

makes petals fall,

a scented, pink snow

covering my upturned face

with careless kisses.

-

Timid winds caress

my limbs,

a fleeting relief

to tired bones

brittle now with

a sullen defeat of life.

-

Raked sand of garden

waves barely disturbed

by feet like two gray stones

as grains  flow

round ankles.

-

I realize once again

I am no obstacle to

the sands of time.

-

My heart is quieted

by the passage of nothing

for in this nothing

is revealed the fullness of life.

-

Jane Kohut-Bartels,

copyrighted, 2011, from “White Cranes of Heaven”, published by Lulu.com, 2011

Chessie, 1999-2014

October 14, 2014

My beautiful picture

It is with sadness I write of the death of Chessie, our cat for the last 15 years.  Yesterday we decided to put him to sleep as he was suffering a serious heart condition. To look at Chessie you would never know.  He never complained.

I am told  15 is a good life for any cat or dog, but it doesn’t make it  easier.  Chessie was a Buddha amongst cats and was dearly beloved here.  He was a tiny, beautiful kitten that an older couple across the street took in, but then gave away to a little girl up the street.  I remember seeing Chessie sitting on their porch, this gorgeous, pumpkin headed kitten, and then when the little girl took him home.  He came back around 7 months later, probably  because he was obviously a tomcat, and he lay down at our feet in our front garden and never left.  He liked to go on road trips as we walked around the neighborhood.  He was more like a dog than a cat, but I don’t hold that against him.

Chessie had the most beautiful markings and eyes.  Big. aqua-green eyes, that were ringed with kohl.  He would sit in the middle of the street and vocalize at the mockingbirds on the wires above him.  It’s amazing he made it to 15.

He died Alpha cat here, but he never cared about status.  Just attention, belly rubs and plenty of love did it for him.

We brought him home and buried him in the rose garden by the east side of the house.  A pot of salmon colored geraniums and a few bulbs of purple alums will mark his grave.

Lady Nyo

“A Kapitany”, Chapter 25

October 9, 2014

It’s probably confusing to post a novel in bits and pieces, but right now this book is in the state of rewrite.

It’s a novel I started 7 years ago, and didn’t ever think I could finish it, but then last year did.  It’s an ‘erotic novel’ or something that has a fair amount of sex in it, but hopefully it feeds the storyline. 

Vadas Dohendy is an art thief in the employ of a very dangerous man, Miklos Farkas. They have worked together for decades, mostly in this ‘business’.  Over the past 5 years Vadas, who owns a vineyard near Eger, Hungary, has moved away from Miklos’ illegal business and wants out. Elizabeth is American, though half Hungarian.  Vadas is Hungarian and lives in Paris and Hungary.  He has brought Elizabeth with him to Hungary, and in spite of all else, has managed to fall in love with Elizabeth.  She isn’t so sure about this man, and his activities have placed her in great danger. Miklos Farkas has raped and assaulted her, and Vadas and his men are looking for Miklos. Zoltan (an employee and friend of Vadas) was also shot by Miklos’ men in their kidnapping of Elizabeth.  Miklos was sending a loud message to Vadas in his abducting and brutalization of Elizabeth for Vadas daring to leave his business. Vadas will attempt to hunt Miklos to the ends of the earth for what he has done to Elizabeth.  Vadas in Hungarian means “the hunter” (sort of…) and Farkas means wolf.

Lady Nyo

Three days after Elizabeth was hospitalized, Vadas visited Zoltan in a different hospital. He was careful not to link Zoltan and Elizabeth’s circumstances. To do so would ignite suspicions, or make connections in the heads of the police. He needed time to figure out what to do about all this. Since Zoltan was shot, the police would have been notified, a report made, perhaps even an investigation begun. They would connect the dots soon enough.

A grizzled man with a hat pulled over his eyes visited Zoltan one morning. Either Peti or Sami watched over Zoltan. They didn’t think Zoltan was in any danger from Miklos’ men. At least not right now. They were probably scattered and hiding. At least Vadas and his men hoped so. They needed time.

It was Vadas who entered Zoltan’s room and sat in a chair by the bed. Zoltan looked pale. He had lost enough blood to need transfusions. He would be in hospital for at least another week. Zoltan turned his head from the window when Vadas came in. His face crinkled with a weak attempt at laughter.

“Even without a shave and that hat I could tell it was you.”

“How are you, my brother? Are you feeling stronger? Peti tells me you will be out of here within a week.”

“I’m weak, Vadas, like a kitten. I am sorry about Elizabeth. The men told me about her. I could do little to protect her, Vadas.”

“Of course, Zoltan, the bastards shot you. At least you didn’t die. Elizabeth is alive, but it was close.”

“Vadas, this shit is serious, this shit with Miklos. What happened there? Not for a moment did I think he would take such a risk.”

Vadas grimaced and pulled his hat off, brushing his hand through his hair. “He will pay for it. Now tell me, Zoltan, can you remember any of Miklos’ men? Do you think you know who shot you? Who acted in charge here?”

“I told Sami I thought it was the man called “the Romanian”. I heard someone say that name. He’s a big, bullet-headed man, Vadas. He was in charge. He knew what he was doing.”

Vadas cursed softly. “That sounds like Miklos. He would have a Romanian as his top man. Probably a relative.”

“I heard what you did to Barna.” Zoltan laughed softly. “I think you will take more than a finger from Miklos when you catch him.”

“Yeah, Miklos is living on borrowed time. You know, Zoltan, we can’t find him. At least not now. We think he might have been warned by Barna after we left him. We should have taken his cell. Barna probably called someone and they warned Miklos. Miklos had time to escape as we drove back. It’s like he disappeared into air.”

“Well, he’ll surface, Vadas. He won’t stay underground for long. He can’t. He’s got a business to run. Several.”

Zoltan sighed and lay back in the pillows. “You need more men, Vadas, you know that. You should go to Eger and call them together. You know what will happen here. Miklos will be doing the same thing. You don’t want to be short gunned as nasty as this has turned out.”

Vadas was thinking. Zoltan always gave good advice. They had been friends, worked together in the vineyards for over forty years. They had been boys, hunting and making trouble in Eger. Zoltan was one man Vadas trusted completely. He was right. He needed more men.

“So, how is your Elizabeth doing? Peti said her injuries were severe. What is known of Miklos, I would imagine she didn’t get off lightly.”

“An understatement, Zoltan. Her wrist is broken, she was raped and tortured. I found her hanging from a hook, out of it. Miklos left her there to die. He knew I would find her, sooner or later.  The doctors sedated her, but she’s awake and talking now. She’s in a lot of pain but the body will heal. Her mind?” Vadas pointed to his head. “Another story.”

Zoltan shook his head. He knew Miklos as long as Vadas. The level of hatred Miklos had in him-well, he would pay with his life. Miklos was somewhere on earth. Vadas would hunt him down like the boar.

“Elizabeth told me Alexandra was involved. She caned Elizabeth. They will pay. The offense was intended for both of us.”

Zoltan crossed himself. “Alexandra was always a ringyo. She hid behind Miklos in the early days, and she still jumps to serve him. She is jealous of your woman, Vadas. That is obvious to anyone looking.”

Vadas shoved the hat back on his head as he stood to leave.

“Well, my friend, you are out of the fight for now. You get better, Zoltan. Stronger. You come back to Eger and rest. I’m going to take Elizabeth there, if she will come. Right now? I don’t know what she will do, and of course, I can’t force her. A man has limits on what he can make a woman do. She can be stubborn like a mule. Like all women, no?”

Zoltan shifted in the bed and groaned. “You care for this woman. It’s been a long time since I saw that. She’s a good woman, Vadas, but you go slow. She has some shock and can’t think straight right now. If forced, she will bolt. Better hide her passport.”

Vadas laughed. He had already considered that. Elizabeth was an American, traveling under an American passport. He needed to keep her name from the eyes and ears of the American embassy in Budapest. That would be another can of worms for him. Better she marry him, and soon. At least it would change some things, and would provide some protection for her. And he would be protected in ways, too.

It was less than a week and Vadas was in Eger with Elizabeth. He wondered where to put her, since she was clearly in pain and needed help with the most basic things. He decided on his bedroom. He would sleep on a couch there, comfortable enough. He would sleep in his bed but for that damn cast. He was afraid of turning over on her.

His bathroom was better than the one attached to her bedroom. She would need help bathing and dressing. Maria Kovacs would help. He knew Soffia could be there periodically. He still wanted to run the show, to watch over Elizabeth’s recovery. He had brought her into this shit. A some point he had to concentrate on Miklos. And soon. And by him, not the police. He needed a plan. His hatred for Miklos was eating a hole in his gut. Miklos was still breathing air, not in the ground. This was an outrage he could not swallow.

********

Seven men were sitting at the table in the dining room one night. Vadas sat at the head of the table and studied each man. There were empty wine bottles all over and the men were getting pleasantly drunk.

Vadas knew they could be trusted. He had known most of them for decades. If not them, who else? All had worked in the planting of the vines and the harvest for years. A few had worked on other things, too, not legal. He was the last to cast stones. He had made his money illegally. With some of these men, he had few secrets. At times they had been part of his operations.

They were all strong and independent men, good men at heart. They were closed- mouthed men and he needed help in capturing Miklos.  They could dig for information, talk to men hanging in the taverns around Esztergom, grease some palms. He would pay well for this information. If they could, they would get it.

Andor spoke up, knocking back his wine and setting the heavy glass back on the table with a bang.

“Miklos must have gone insane. For him to do what he did? No man would tolerate it.” He turned and addressed Vadas.

“I can understand Zoltan being shot. He’s a man. He knows violence. He was in the way of what they wanted. But I saw the condition of your woman when we found her. Jesus Christ! What man would do this except a wild animal?”

Vadas looked up at the ceiling and pulled on his cigarette.

“When a man does this to a woman, he insults and injures not only the woman, but the man. He did this (Vadas made a vulgar thrusting motion with his hips) to fuck with me. With this, he defiled Elizabeth, but he also defiled me. Elizabeth was just a way to fuck with me.”

The men were silent, some nodding their heads. What Miklos did would not be tolerated by any man in the room. Some wondered at the calmness of Vadas, but those who knew him best knew Vadas never moved without a plan. The stakes were too high and dangerous.

Markus spoke. “This Romanian? Who is he? Has he been with Miklos long? I never heard of him. Barna, I did, but Barna wasn’t a leader. He was just a thug. This Romanian worries me, Vadas.”

“He worries me too.” Vadas took a long pull at his wine. “Sounds like he is a professional. Miklos is smart that way. He would size up what he wanted and get the man who could get the task done. This Romanian got the task done.”

Miklos wasn’t seen in Budapest. Vadas had his own men there and there were no reports of Miklos. It was thought he could have run back to Romania. He had many people there. Then again, he could have been in Paris. No one knew where he was.

Suddenly the room quieted. Elizabeth was standing in the wide doorway to the room. She was wearing a bathrobe and barefoot. Vadas turned and jumped out of his chair.

“Elizabeth, you shouldn’t be down here. You go back upstairs. Tonight is for the men and you are not to be down here. Understand?”

Elizabeth waved her hand in front of her face. “The smoke in this room would kill me, anyway. I heard the noise and I got nervous. I’ll go back upstairs and leave you to your drinking.”

She turned to go back and wobbled a bit. Vadas caught her and carried her upstairs.

“Look. The men are drinking and it’s no place for a woman. Get in bed and I will be up later.”

“Oh Vadas. I’m just nervous. I heard noise and I didn’t know what was happening downstairs.”

“You are not to worry, Elizabeth.” Vadas placed her on the bed, and kissed her on the forehead.

“Soffia told me you went to see Zoltan. How is he?”

“He is recovering, Elizabeth. He asked about you. Now, we will talk later. I must go back to the men.”

Vadas turned at the doorway and looked at Elizabeth on the big bed. She looked so small and defenseless. She looked like a child.

“Elizabeth, if you feel up to it, tomorrow we go to the house. You will like it. And the murals, of course. Do you have strength enough to walk around the house?”

“Yes. I feel so pointless sitting here, doing nothing. That would be lovely. Tomorrow morning?”

“Ok, I’ll be up later. I have work to do right now. You are ok now, you dream of your sheep.”

Vadas went back to the men and they argued and plotted until 2am. They were all pretty drunk when they left, but had at least agreed on a plan.

Vadas climbed the stairs knowing Elizabeth was long asleep and would ask no questions. Well, tomorrow was another day. Perhaps seeing the house would give her something to look towards. It needed a lot of work, but would take up her energies. He didn’t need Elizabeth hanging on his trousers with fear. Women were all a bother, with some interesting parts. Luckily the vines looked good, going into summer. The grapes had sense enough to grow on their own.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2007-2014

“A Kapitany”, Chapter 35

October 5, 2014

Budapest Balcony with flowers

I started this novel seven years ago.  I dropped it, mainly because it started out with a bdsm theme and it fast queered me out.  I left it for 6 years, just dangling in my documents, but last year finished it.  The trick of this was the change in emphasis of theme.  Gone was the bdsm stuff  and the characters were able to develop.  The woman, Elizabeth more fully fleshed out, and Vadas, the former Dom, became more human.  Actually, besides an ‘action’ story, full of things like art thieves, violence and revenge, it also  became a love story between two very convoluted characters. I was able to research some historical information about WWII and what happened in Hungary and the ‘containment’ camps for Jews and all others, and especially what happened with the Soviet occupation.  All this information went into the novel and I believe deepened the plot.

I had a lot of fun this summer rewriting this.  Mostly tense changes and some other changes. This is just one chapter of 40 and perhaps I will post others later.

Lady Nyo

—-

Vadas slept badly. Shortly after dawn when first light appeared, he left the bed and stood watching Elizabeth, still sleeping. He avoided her questions the evening before, but she was no fool. She pressed him why Marcus was sitting in the hall of the lodge, obviously armed. Why the gun cabinet he was so careful about locking was unlocked and wide open. Why Maria wanted her company in the kitchen even though they couldn’t understand each other, and also because Maria wasn’t that welcoming of Vadas’ new squeeze. And why he had disappeared without notice.

Vadas avoided her questions until he started yelling at her. She didn’t back down. God, how she had changed in the months when he could do as he pleased! Now? She met him word for word, even yelling and stamping her foot. She was pushing him. He raised his hand, thinking she would shut up. He wouldn’t have hit her, just wanted her to stop with the questions. She looked shocked and then laughed. “You fall back into Hungarian because your English is so bad. Actually, it’s cute.” That had cut him. Cute? He was the Dom and didn’t think what he did was cute. What in hell was she thinking? Ah, there was no fear in this woman. She was fast getting the upper hand.

Vadas went downstairs. Maria must have gotten up even earlier as the coffee on the sideboard under the boar’s head was fresh, waiting for him. She must have heard the ruckus upstairs last night.

A cigarette and some coffee would concentrate his thoughts. He needed to think. He needed to get in control of Miklos and Elizabeth. Miklos was the serious threat, but Elizabeth was getting too bold. Ah, God. Women. If she wasn’t so fragile now, he would beat her. Of course he wouldn’t, but she needed to fear him a little.

It was still raining, but lighter today. The gloom outside fit his mood this morning. He looked out the window at the mass of trees and to the landscape stretching down the valley. There was a lot of land out there. He needed to put Elizabeth out there with a spade. Perhaps a plow. A big garden would tire her out, made her more docile.

Janos must have come in the middle of the night to lay the fire. Maria would be making breakfast soon. Elizabeth? Let her sleep. She probably was disturbed by his tossing in bed all those hours. By bed time they weren’t speaking. Like an old married couple, he thought with a sigh.

Miklos. He was in control now. His appearance (if that information was reliable) in Eger was part of his strategy. Andor was right: Miklos was playing cat and mouse. Vadas didn’t like being the mouse.

All this over a mere woman. No, that wasn’t right. Elizabeth was just a pawn in Miklos’ game. Actually a pawn in a shared game. He had done the unthinkable. He had pulled down the foundation of Miklos’ empire. Well, if not that, he certainly had disrupted his business. Why didn’t Miklos pick someone to replace him? He knew why. Twenty years and Miklos was comfortable the way things were. It was a delicate operation. Each man was necessary to the success of what they had been doing, illegal as it was. They were well honed parts of a particular machine. A man just didn’t walk into the job: years of risk and valued contacts, years of trust, at least with the clients. No, his wanting out had come from left field. Miklos didn’t believe he would walk away. It was an affront to his power and control. Of all injuries and insults, this was the one thing Miklos could not stand.

Vadas thought of the woman upstairs. It was an old tale, a classical tale. Both men wanted her. For different reasons, but both used her against the other. Vadas had used Elizabeth to break with Miklos; Miklos had used Elizabeth to break Vadas. It was like Achilles and Agamemnon, with Briesis between them. A long war with much causality until one defeated the other.

None of this was fair to Elizabeth. But women were pawns in the conflict between men. It had been so since the beginning of time. Why should it be any different now?

He felt like a sitting duck. Miklos was moving the pieces around the board right now. Well, there was nothing to be done about it except go on the offensive. Perhaps getting Elizabeth out of here for a while would give him time to develop his own plan besides sit and wait for Miklos to show his ass.

He sipped his coffee and decided he would take her to Budapest. Let her be introduced to the old girls there. It was right and proper she be brought before them anyhow. They shouldn’t meet her at the reception for the first time. Plus, he could kill two birds with one stone; he could meet with his wine clients and perhaps take in a museum or two. He had promised this to her before, and he had broke his promise. She was anxious, nervous. God knows she had reason to be. They were getting on each other’s nerves. A change of scenery would do them both good.

He would ask Zoltan to go with them. He would talk this crap through with Zoltan and get a better perspective. Right now he wanted to stalk Miklos to the ends of the earth, shoot him down in the street. He knew he had to be smarter if he wanted a future.

Vadas looked at his watch. Too early to call Andor and Marcus, but he wanted to meet with them before leaving. Perhaps they could meet together at Zoltan’s and lay down a plan while he was gone. Just talking it over with them would be good. Right now he was too close to the fire to think straight.

He heard someone in the dining room and thought Maria was bringing in breakfast. It was Elizabeth. She poured herself coffee and came into the room, saying nothing to him, only nodding her head.

“Good morning, Elizabeth. You sleep as badly as I did?”

“Your moving around in the bed didn’t help.” Elizabeth sat down across from him and looked out the window.

“I’m sorry, but I have a way to make it up to you.”

“What? Separate bedrooms?”

Vadas laughed uneasily. “No, smarty pants. That will never happen, not while we’re married. The winters up here are too fierce for that. No, I was thinking we go to Budapest later today to visit the aunties and play tourist.”

Elizabeth looked over the rim of her cup. “Are you serious, Vadas? Look me in the eye and say that?”

Vadas laughed. “So, you are picking up the phrases? Good, you need to learn if you live in Hungary.”

He sipped his coffee.

“Yes, would you like that? A change of scenery will do us both good. I am going to ask Zoltan to come with us. He needs a vacation, too.”

“I would like to see Zoltan. I would also like to see Budapest, again. This time with you instead of seeing it alone.”

She put her cup on the hearth. “Vadas? I want to pick up art supplies while we are there. I need to get back to my painting. I think it will calm me.”

“Then we will do it, Elizabeth. And it is time you met the aunties. We will stay maybe for three days. I will have to visit some of my wine clients while we are there, but you will enjoy that. We will go play the tourist like I promised.”

“Thank you, Vadas.” Elizabeth gave him a wry smile. “I’m sorry we fought last night. I didn’t enjoy it at all.”

“Well, that was hardly a fight, Elizabeth. The big ones come later in marriage.”   Vadas smiled into his cup.

“Vadas? Don’t ever raise your hand to me again. I am not a dog to discipline. You do, and I will be on the next plane back to the states.”

There was no mistaking her. Her tone said it all. Vadas knew she would do just that.

“I’m sorry, Elizabeth. You were pushing me. A man doesn’t like to be pushed. And, my English is good, not ‘cute’.”

“And a woman deserves answers, especially when it concerns her life.” Elizabeth stared into the low fire.

She would have the last word this morning, thought Vadas. Let her be difficult. She would come to know he was the man and a man didn’t answer every whine.

“Vadas, can we see Soffia in Budapest? I sort of miss her.”

“Sure, Elizabeth. You can call and warn her. I’m sure she wants to see you, too. But don’t think the old aunties want to see her. They never approved of Soffia, not in all these years.” Vadas laughed.

“Why, because she is a lesbian?”

“No, because they wanted me to get married after Marta, and Soffia looked too fast for their idea of a wife.”

Vadas stretched, the tension of last night mostly resolved.

“Look, Elizabeth. I go see Zoltan. I won’t be long. I need to talk to him. You go pack and pack for me, too. It will give you good practice when we marry.” Vadas half closed his eyes and smiled at her. Now, he would have the last word.

While Elizabeth was upstairs he called Andor. They agreed to meet at Zoltan’s. Then he called Zoltan to let him know he was coming. Gulping down one last cup of coffee and chewing on some bacon, he left before Elizabeth could appear and ask more questions.

Vadas met Marcus and Andor on the road to Zoltan’s cottage. Again the same dog met them at the gate and again Zoltan’s cousin yelled at the cur. It ran to the back under the house. Zoltan was in his favorite chair, his shoes propped up on the fender of the woodstove. It was early, but he was drinking plum wine. The cousin brought in a tray with a bottle and glasses. She left it on the table with a large sausage and a knife. The men found places to sit and Vadas poured out the wine.

“Well, Zoltan. We got news Miklos was seen in Eger yesterday. Maybe true, maybe not. But I have men there watching. It’s a big town, and Miklos knows the hiding places. But so do the men. We will see what happens. You up for a trip to Budapest?”

Zoltan blew out smoke and nodded. “Sure, sure, I’m up for anything right now. I’m getting stir crazy sitting here. I got my pills. I can visit a woman I know. Fine, but I drive, Vadas. We will make it with our lives spared.”

The other men laughed. Vadas drove too fast, talked too much and drove with his knees, his arms flailing around with his talking. Only Zoltan was used to his ways, but now? He decided he had tempted fate enough and wasn’t a cat with nine lives. Being in Vadas’ company was dangerous enough. He would drive.

“What about Miklos’ men? Has anyone seen or heard of them lately?” Vadas lit another cigarette.

“Nah, only that Barna is still bitching about his finger. He can’t grip his cock with his hand missing a finger,” Marcus said.

The men laughed. “Barna better be grateful Vadas left him his cock to play with,” said Zoltan.

“What about this Ukrainian?”

“Nobody has seen him, Vadas, but he’s probably lying low. What happened to Barna sent a clear message to those dickheads.”

“To some of them. Some need to clean the wax out of their ears.”

There was nothing new so they decided to continue to wait and see. Sooner or later they would flush out Miklos and his merry men. It was a dangerous game all around, but they had little to go on. They could wait. Miklos would come to them, eventually. The point was not to fall into another trap. That would mean ‘game over.’

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

The Night Poems of Lady Nyo

October 2, 2014

A Courtesan's fleeting life of beauty.

Lady Nyo is a character I created,  a 17th century Japanese court woman, around 30 years old,  in a good marriage.  She is a character in a novel I am almost through writing, called “The Kimono”.  She, like all the elite women in Japan of that time, constantly wrote verse (usually tanka).  That was the mark of a virtuous and educated woman.  In fact, in court circles, a woman was not considered educated until she had written 1000 poems.  She also had to commit them to memory and be able to recite them in the court.

The present Lady Nyo who isn’t so productive in poetry.

Everyone is asleep.

There is nothing to come between

The moon and my shadow.

From the dream where we made love,

My laughter calls me back.

I searched all around,

My eyes then full of tears.

I fell asleep thinking of him

And he came to me.

If I had known it was only a dream

I would never have awakened.

I lean on my elbow

And look at him asleep,

His bosom rising and falling.

It is enough to feed eternity.

Clouds sweep the moon,

Causing its light to dapple you.

My love! You waver before me

Like a ghost under water.

Did you see the moon tonight?

It rose like a blood orange

and scented the heavens

even from where I stood!

The moon as dawn breaks

glides smoothly through dark clouds.

I hug my shoulders,

apprehensive at the new day,

comforted by the old moon.

Last night I tied my kimono,

bound it with a red silk rope

like an impassioned lover’s hands around a wasp waist,

and kneeling upon a cushion,

awaited the rising of the moon.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

“The Zar Tales”, Chapter 10, end of Book One.

October 1, 2014

Watts_George_Frederic_Orpheus_And_Eurydice[1]

 

CHAPTER 10

 

That morning, an hour after dawn, Shakira rose from her bed, finally alone from the village women.   She heard someone knock at the door. She had spent a sleepless night, her eyes  red and swollen with  weeping. Drawing on a gown, defiantly leaving  off her head scarf, she answered the door. There, dressed in blue robes and  indigo turban, was Ali. But Ali in the flesh and no longer a vaporous ghost. He was tall, his skin tanned from the sun, gold earrings in his ears that flashed like the sun in a mirror! Ah, he was handsome! She slumped against the door frame in her shock, and Ali, the spirit now made of strong flesh, caught Shakira in his arms, and carried her inside.

Ali lay Shakira down on her bed. The miracle of Ali in the flesh  made her dizzy. Ah! He was so …male! She looked up at him standing at the bottom of the bed before her, and her eyes traveled up his figure. He wore a blue outer robe, and a white djellaba under it. As she watched, he smiled down at her and removed the girdle around his waist, and lay aside the short, curved sword that he carried. He reached up with his dark hands and started to unwrap the dark blue turban. Around and around came the rolled cloth, and shaking free his hair, it fell in black waves down his back. He had coins plaited into his hair, and they shone in the half- light of the room like stars. He threw off his outer robe, and pulled his gown over his head, now standing in his cotton trousers. His arms were strong, roped with muscle, and his chest! Ah! He had a broad chest, with dark hair across it like a wave, and a stomach that was lean. Shakira thought  a bit thin, but her cooking would fatten him up. Her eyes were bold and they traveled his body with delight. He saw her interest and with a pull of the string at his waist, dropped his cotton pants to reveal his manhood. Shakira’s eyes widened in surprise, for this was the first time she had   ‘seen’ evidence of this.

“Is it you, Ali? Is it really you, my dearest one?”

Shakira’s face was puffy, her hair standing all over her head, half hiding her face. She could not believe her eyes.

“It is I, Shakira, my woman. In the flesh.”

Ali sat down on the pallet of her bed and stretched out a long arm in front of him. Both of them looked with awe at his solid flesh, and Ali flexed his fingers, a wry grin appearing across his dark face.

“I have not seen my limbs for a thousand years. I have not felt my skin, nor the muscles beneath. I was a strong man, Shakira, before my death. I could gallop a camel across the desert for days, I could kill a horse under me and leap onto a fresh on and continue on in battle. I was a warrior with the strength of many men.

And then I became a ghost.”

There was nothing to say. Shakira  thought she saw tears in his eyes. It was not unmanly for him to weep, for she was convinced that Ali had proved his mettle many times. No, it was just after a thousand years such a transformation took a bit getting used to. For both of them.

Shakira reached out and touched his arm. His flesh was warm and firm. He was no more a gold-dusted ghost.

He was clearly a man.

Ali knelt beside Shakira. She lay under his dark eyes and blushed. It had been a long time since a man was naked before her. She could only remember one, her dead husband, and he, poor soul, didn’t look quite as potent at this one. She started to raise herself but Ali put a hand on her chest, and gently pushed her back down onto the bed. With a smile, he bent down and kissed her softly on the mouth, his lips warm and hard on her own. He rose from this kiss and with a strange look, he gripped the neckline of her gown and ripped it apart, exposing Shakira’s body. He looked from the top of her breasts to the bottom of her hips and her large, rounded thighs, and with a groan, flung himself upon her and kissed her deeply.

Ali pressed open her mouth with his tongue and plunged it into her throat. He moaned in his passion and broke his kiss, rising up from her body. He was between her legs and sat back on his knees, looking at her like a starving man.  In fact, he was, and after this first course, he would eat whatever he could find in her small kitchen.  Being mortal finally, after a thousand years, and he had forgotten that deep, persistent hunger in his belly that grew with the hours.

Oh! He was a strong man! Shakira squealed in surprise and delight. His hard hands gripped her body and it was very different being made love to by a mortal man than a vaporous ghost!

Ah! He stared into her eyes as he slowly pushed his sword into her. Shakira gasped as he filled her. Ali was in no hurry to end this bout of lovemaking. He had waited a thousand years for the taste and feel of a woman under him. The warm, moist cave of her was a harbor for his manhood. It was worth the wait of centuries and he would savor it as long as he could.

But Shakira couldn’t. She began a deep scream somewhere in her gut, and it rushed up and out her throat. Ah! She threw her legs around Ali with a shriek. Ali saw her passion and gripping her hard around the shoulders, drove home into her warm flesh. Shakira yelled out and it seemed her noise would wake the sleeping in Paradise! She danced like a wild dervish , her eyes closed in her own trance, and her breasts– Ah! Her breasts were flushed a rosy color, hot, and her nipples so hard, they rivaled his cock. He held her to him because it seemed she was possessed and would dance off the bed!

Ali began his own dance to nirvana. He pushed into her like he had the strength of ten men and his body glistened with the sweat of his sweet toil. With his own yell, like the rising groan of the desert wind, he pumped his seed into the vessel of Shakira. Long did he come into her, spilling, spewing the seed of centuries into this fine woman under him. Finally, he threw himself down, lost in that sweet dark cave, and gathering her limp body to his, they slept a deep and exhausted sleep, limbs now solid to each other, entwining like branches, grown together like two old trees twisted by the strong winds coming down from the mountains…

For hours they slept a deep and exhausted sleep.

No one disturbed them. Even the goats outside were silent, the hens did not cackle and the rooster did not crow. No woman came calling at Shakira’s door. It was as if a spell had been put on the village and time had stopped in its passage. And perhaps time had reversed itself that day.

For all over the village, women who were formerly possessed by Zars, who had vaporous ghosts up their gowns and no men to hold onto, well, they slept like Shakira, the deep sleep of a thoroughly happy woman.

When Ali and Shakira woke, both of them still locked in their embrace, he looked at her with a wide grin.

“I told you if the Mullahs killed you I would claim your spirit and together we would be Zars for eternity.”

“Ah, my Habibi, this is much better. I have had enough of Zars. I like you better as a man in my bed, with my arms around you, and your ney where it belongs. This feels enough like eternity. Besides, now you can eat my cooking and fix the roof.”

 

******************

 

Since the Mullahs never made it back to Ankara, their findings were not disclosed nor the sentence they pronounced upon Shakira revealed.   The mayor had enough sense to keep his mouth shut and the elderly Mullah Kaleel died shortly after, a peaceful death in his bed.

As for Shakira and Ali? They are very happy, and will remain so. It is the gift of the gods for the intolerance of mankind. There is justice in the long run, but you might have to wait most of your life for it to come to your door.

 

Praise to all the Gods and Goddesses, One God or Many!

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010-2014,

“The Zar Tales” published by Lulu.com.  This is the end of Book One, but not the end of the story.  In Book Two, the Mullahs have their revenge as they are sent back from Paradise in the form of Zars in the charge of a particularly troublesome djinn.

 

 

 

“The Zar Tales”, Chapter 9

September 29, 2014

Full Moon, March 2011

 

tuareg2[1]

(thanks to ritabay.com  Tariq the Tuareg)

(Note:   Berbers are known to wear indigo dyed cloth as headgear.  The indigo bleeds into the skin of men from the desert.  Below their eyes, where the cloth hugs their face, the faint color of the indigo is permanently seen.  They are called “The Blue Men of the Sahara”).

 

 CHAPTER 9

The Mullahs left in the afternoon before dark settled for the region was full of cliffs and sudden drops off narrow roads. They had to get through the roughest terrain before dark.

The sedan was a large car, roomy enough for the three Mullahs to sit in the back seat and talk about the proceedings of the day. They were pleased with themselves, and felt they had rendered justice, as Allah would in the case of Shakira Sheikha and her illegal zars. This would be enough to quash any more such ideas in this village for a while, but they were still troubled. The zar ritual was springing up all over these regions, and they went back to the pagan gods these ignorant people still secretly worshiped. They agreed that the old Mullah Kaleel would have to be replaced soon. He didn’t have the strength or forcefulness to keep these villages in line. He was so ancient he had one foot in the grave already.

The Mullahs did not know the region, so they did not concern themselves with where the driver was going. They barely noticed him, with his thin face, hawk-nosed and wearing a strange blue turban. It was impossible to tell how old he was, and except for nodding and bowing, he did not utter a sound. They dismissed him as an ignorant peasant, perhaps a villager who made a living driving from the mountains to the bigger towns and then to cities. He was too insignificant to engage in conversation beyond being civil, so the Mullahs did not bother themselves with him.

However, after a while, one became concerned. They seemed to leave the village and head downward, past forests and over a valley, but then the road rose again into the mountains. When one of the Mullahs asked the driver where they were, all he got was a garble of words in a strange dialect. The only words they could understand were, ‘rock slide’, ‘other road’ and of course, ‘Allah’. This last sounded a bit like “Ammon” but the loose rocks from the road bouncing up under the chassis of the car made his speech even more garbled.

There was little they could do, except trust Allah and the driver. So darkness fell, and it was a very dark night. The moon in its cycle would rise that night, but until then, the only light came from the head beams of the car. Suddenly it stopped, dead in the road. The driver turned from his seat and addressed the Mullahs in his strange dialect.

‘Out! Out! This is the end of the road for you!”

These words the Mullahs understood. Perhaps something had happened to the car. So, being intelligent men, they opened the door and got out into the black night. Only the head beams illuminated the road before them. Suddenly the lamps cut off and it took a few minutes for the Mullahs eyes to adjust to the dark. They could see the surrounding mountain ranges off in the distance, for the moon finally rose above a mountain. Ah! All was made clear, and they could see where the road continued, now down the mountain, and off to the right of the road, a forest. In fact, the forest was thick, totally black, and the moon did nothing to illuminate the trees.

Suddenly, there were men…..or what looked like men in the middle of the road! But there was something strange, for these men seemed to float in an errie way upon the surface. They were dressed in long robes, and some wore dark, blue turbans. They all seemed to be tall men, but that could be an illusion from their wavering movement. Their sudden appearance was enough to raise the hair on the necks of the Mullahs. Though the night air was warm enough, each Mullah shivered and muttered Allah’s name under his breath.

One, two, a dozen men came forward down the road towards them. They must be robbers, highwaymen in the middle of the mountains, setting upon travelers from the cities and towns passing through these isolated villages. The driver must have been one of them! He led them right into this trap! Well, they had little money about them, so the pickings would be small.

The chief Mullah, the man that pronounced the sentence upon Shakira Sheikha, stepped up firmly and addressed the bobbing line of ‘men’.

“We are the appointed Mullahs of the Religious Authorities of Ankara, Praise Allah the One God! We are here on official business and demand that you let us pass.”

There was silence from the men who seemed more like vaporous ghosts to the human eye. Then the line parted in the middle, and a man stepped forth. He was tall, dressed in a white robe, and had an indigo blue turban on his head. His eyes, even in the dim light of the moon, sparkled with a particular flame. He had a short curved sword pushed through his girdle at his waist. He was obviously the leader.

“We know who you are. We know you are the Mullahs from Ankara who came to sit in judgment of the Sheikha. We also know the sentence you pronounced upon her head today.”

“Who are you to know all of this?” The voice of the chief Mullah rang out into the night. His eyes flashed, but there was fear along with challenge in them.

A low laugh came from the ranks of the men standing in the road behind the indigo turbaned speaker. It passed over the Mullahs like the wind from the mountains, soft and haunting to their ears. It did not sound like human laughter. The Mullahs shivered.

“We are Zars, you should have figured that out by now. And we are here to pronounce our own judgement upon you.”

“Zars! In the name of Allah! You do not exist!”

A low laughter again kicked up from the line of men standing there. This time it sounded like the rumbling of distant thunder.

“In the name of your Allah, and our Ammon, we do exist. We stand before you in judgement and will provide our own sentences upon your heads.”

The Mullahs were herded to a clearing, deep in the woods. They stood together, fearful, angry and disbelieving their eyes. The Zars seemed to command the moon, for it rose and illuminated the clearing like torches set in the surrounding trees. The Zars floated up in those trees, settling in for the night’s entertainment.  Ali, the speaker and the leader of these Zars, and because of his connection to the condemned Shakira, was the judge of the Mullahs. He would make short work of the matter before him, for he was a merciful man, or was a thousand years before becoming a Zar. But first he signaled to Emir now perched like a Zar-fruit in a branch of a tree.

Emir had been writing the rest of his poem in his head. This was the poem he never could seem to finish over the long centuries. The situation before him gave a nudge and a push he had not opportunity to use before. So, he jumped down, or actually floated down with a poem in his mouth, and addressing the Mullahs, recited that which had eluded him for centuries.

Clearing his throat, Emir, who in his past, mortal life had been truly a second rate Persian poet, addressed the Mullahs now in the center of the clearing in a melodious voice.

“Take to delight the presence
that from this two-way abode
we would not meet each other
once we pass through.

For our chance meeting is but
A reflection of life’s mysteries
Not to be counted upon,
but to acknowledge the wonder.

You have barred our spirits from Paradise!
You, and your God, have condemned us
To wander the earth inconsolable to human kindness.

Now is the time for our answer!
Now is the time for the quick slash
Of a sword!

Now we delight that we will not
Meet again
Once you pass through this
Vale of tears you have created.

Heaven or Hell-
You have made it the same.”

Emir’s voice rang through the nighttime air and seemed to reach up to the moon. Even Ali, a far better poet, was impressed with Emir’s words. The Mullahs eyes shone like satellite moons, for their fear made the full moon catch the whites of their eyes.

Ali, the judge, gazed at each Zar-fruit hanging in the trees.
He looked at each pointedly, and received a nod from each one. Then, in a strong voice, he spoke to the Mullahs standing before him.

“In the name of Ammon and Isis, our ancient God and Goddess, who you attempt to crush out of the memories of our tribes, I condemn you to your own Paradise with your One God Allah to comfort you. This is done not only for the offense to Shakira Sheikha and to the women of our villages, but also for the more terrible offense that you have done to other’s Gods over the past thirteen centuries. May your Allah have mercy upon your souls.”

There was a rustle of wind, sounding like leaves whipping up from the bottom of the trees, but it was night time and there was no wind. It was the sound of three curved, Berber swords whipping through the clearing and taking the heads of three Mullahs. They stood for a long few seconds, headless, their blood spilling down over their robes, and then they crumbled together and fell in a heap, much like Shakira had fallen at her trial, but with their blood staining the forest floor.

The Zars had their revenge, and so did Ammon, but there was a problem. What to do with the bodies of the Mullahs?

The Zars were Demons and there is a very old custom amongst these type of spirits. They would roast the Mullahs in a grand barbecue, push the car over the cliff and go home that dawn.

And the Spirits were made Flesh, thanks to the Mullahs.

So they did, and thought the Mullahs were old men, they were tasty enough, and in this partaking of sacred flesh, the Zars were transformed into men, or enough to look like men, but still with the particular humor and talents and skills of Zars. Even Emir’s poetry improved, for now he could taste and touch and smell and make love to the woman he possessed and this transformed his poetry.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2010-2014


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