The Desert Zar, a short story

July 23, 2014
"The Zar Tales", published by Lulu.com, 2010

“The Zar Tales”, published by Lulu.com, 2010

I need a break. It’s summer and my garden looks horrid, the grass uncut, the brown spots courtesy of the three dogs need tending, the chicken coop cleaned out and the chicken manure used to best advantage. I’m posting this short story here, in part because I am trying to get back into the mindset of finishing “Tin Hinan” and I did lose (or forgot to save) the last long chapter. So….I am looking forward to going back into that ‘space’ of Hyperarousal Trance where all things slightly spooky gives some inspiration.

I’ve written before about the Zar ritual, still an important ritual in many North African and Middle East countries and what the demon Zar represents.

I just got in the mail (bless you, Amazon.com) a new Berber group, Tianiwen, and their music I already know will throw me into that place where things connect and efforts are effortless.

See you on the other side.

Lady Nyo

A DESERT ZAR

The dust settled from the desert. All day it howled and swirled around the souk, a locust plague of stinging matter, a towering and maddened djinn. Now the sky over the sands was fading pink, as daylight filtered through the violent storm resolved into a dark blue night.

The roiling sea of sand, shifting like high waves of water, was now placid. Off to the east, bells of a caravan mixed with the groans and protestations of camels, floated over heavy air. Jasmine and bougainvillea scented the night along with dung fires from Bedouin camps.

Dusk was settling in, this narrow ribbon between light and dark, bridged by a few soft breezes. The djinn of night inhaled deeply, holding the memories of the day close, then blew to the desert, to repeat at each dusk into eternity.

This was Tunis, a hundred years ago, before the awnings of the souk now woven reed mats, were replaced with sheet tin, and the trampled dirt paved beyond cobble.

Somewhere a drum begin a steady beat, sounding like a heart beat, drawn from the village core. Then the soft piping of the ney flute floated out over the souk, it’s sweetness rising like a descant over the measured beat of more drums.

Black clad shadows moved down the length of adobe walls to the center well. Bundles of jasmine, tuberose, bougainvillea, red poppies and lavender were placed on the steps of the well, seeming to scent the still water.

An old Negress, her back twisted by life, took a few coins from women as they passed. Her hair twinkled like dull stars from the pierced coins strung from her dull dreadlocks.

This was the price of the Zar. Each woman would exorcise her demon, her hysteria or her bad luck. And with hope, perhaps a mean husband.

As more and more women came around the well, it seemed the drums became louder and the ney flute shriller. The bleating of a goat near by could be heard.

Still, black figures moved in the settling darkness down the cobbles to the well and placed their few coins in the Negress’ hand.

Around the corner and halfway down the street was a doorway. A curtain was drawn over the opening but the incense within puffed out with each opening. It scented the nighttime air, dueling with jasmine growing up walls. The shrillness of the ney increased and the drums picked up rhythm.

Go through the curtain and you enter a room heavy with smells. The incense–powerful, but there were undercurrents of tobacco from a hookah being smoked in the darkened room. There was something acrid, like the smell of fear or sweat. The raw smells of a crowded humanity perfumed the room.

Wooden benches placed far back upon the walls were already filled. Men and women, but mostly women, were sitting in the smoky fog. Most were still clad in the black chadors, but here and there were sparkles of an elaborately beaded head scarf. One women sat like a princess with a camel’s saddle beneath her feet. She was dressed in embroidered robes with silver jewelry over her forehead. She was the youngest wife of the local warlord and woe be to anyone who accosted her. Black eyes, two ebony moons dulled by the poppy, looked out from a face veil. The heavy sandalwood perfume coming from her robes scented the air, mingling with other scents.

In the middle of the floor a high wooden stool was placed where a large tray of sweets and fruits were offered to the spirits of the night. No mortal hand or mouth would partake of such offerings.

The drums beat varying rhythms, and all combined into a gigantic heartbeat, or perhaps many heartbeats reflecting those within the room.

Suddenly a woman appeared and walked around the altar, muttering something in a sing-song voice. Her hair unbound and tossed with the rotations of her head, she nodded back and forth in time with her pacing. As she walked and muttered, her eyes rolled back in her head. She was deep in trance.

The Sheikha! The power of a demon catcher, the handler of the Zar demons! The Wise Woman, for who but such could demand anything of the invisible and dangerous Zar?

She paced the room, muttering to herself, her body now expressing violent movements. Off to the side was a younger woman sitting on her haunches, covered with a white cloth. With the shrill call of the wooden ney, the woman was helped to her feet, uncovered, where she stood with bowed head.

She was the possessed. Perhaps her husband had brought her to the ritual. Perhaps she could be healed.
But perhaps the Zar that possessed her could overcome all the magic of the Sheikha and possess her!

Each woman had a story behind her. This one was a very young woman, now married to a much older man. He lurked in the background, anger hard in his eyes, his mouth set in a grimace. He had paid a good marriage price for his wife and she had not given him what he expected. A son was what he demanded and she had only produced one stillborn in the two years they had been married. Something was wrong with her. Perhaps the ritual he paid for with heavy coin would answer to his concerns. If not, perhaps he could ship her back to her parents and demand the bride price back.

The Sheikha’s voice called out, her arms raised towards the woman, and this woman began to pace around the altar. At first her head just nodded back and forth as she slowly moved around the room. Then her body began to twitch, her arms rose upwards, jerking with her movements. Her hair was unbound, and with each violent movement of her head, it swung around in great, undulating waves.

Still the drums increased their tempo. The drummers were off in their own trances, their faces blank, their eyes unfocused. The ney player, his wooden flute dark with age and the stains of fingers, was answered with finger cymbals and an undercurrent of chants. The room seemed to pulsate within another dimension as the incense and drums took over the senses. The chants increased in strength and sweat poured down the face and breasts of the Sheika and the possessed young woman, making transparent their white cotton dresses. Dark tipped nipples and golden breasts, the sheen of skin heated to match the frenzy of all around them, they danced on, now uttering incoherent growls and high pitched exclamations. Other women sat in place and tossed their bodies back and forth and a few stood up and joined the young woman, their own bodies beginning to mimic hers. Shrieks and groans were heard from different corners of the room and still the drums increased in rhythm, exciting the senses to a fever pitch.

Suddenly the Sheikha stiffened, her eyes rolled back as the young woman passing before her collapsed at her feet.

She had caught the Zar! He had released hold of the ends of the hair of the young woman and flown into the arms of the Sheikha! He had hit her with enough force that she staggered backwards and only the support of the women behind her kept her on her two feet.

Now the Wise Woman talked in a low, unknown language. She berated, cajoled, implored and threatened the Zar. She grasped at the air and shook it violently. She brought the Zar to her breast, seemed to stroke it, this unseen matter, and then push it from her, chiding and scolding.

For those in the room who knew about Zars, knew one never could get rid them. No, he could be appealed to, reasoned with, but who but one equal to a Zar can reason with a Demon?

A man brought forth a white cock and with a quick flash of his knife, cut its throat. With a bow he presented the dying cock to the Sheikha who began to sprinkle the warm blood about the now still woman. Again low guttural chants rose all around but the drums remained silent.

The Sheikha would threaten this Zar with her own spirits. She would threaten with her own history of wrestling with past Zars, and call upon their power for her to subdue this one.

Silently she prayed the demon before her would attend. It would be a fierce battle to the end, and onlookers watched for signs of who was winning; who was more powerful.

Ah! There always was signs of the battle within. Exhaustion threatened to overtake the Sheikha. She would have to bargain hard with this Zar. He was a powerful one; not about to give up his berth without a fight.

But, slowly, slowly….there were signs she was winning, and those who knew of these things would see renewed energy on the part of the Sheikha, a renewed passion for what she was facing. If she was coming to victory, her voice would soften, her appeals would be as to a child and perhaps this Zar would listen.

But success was never assured. These Zars were thousands of years old and wily creatures. They may be made of air and malevolence, but they were a force outside Nature.

No victory over a supernatural force could be guaranteed. It always was a battle to the end. For you never get ride of a Zar, the possessor. You only give him a good shakeup, new marching orders, and you send him back into the possessed.

No one wants a Zar running around scaring the children and chickens. And a goat for possession will not do.

The Sheikha looked down at the woman at her feet. Ah! There was a change in her face, a smoothing of her brow, a peaceful countenance. She could be restored to her husband and the Sheikha prayed that he would see his wife in a new light.

The Sheikha knew what was wrong here. It was the same old story over and over. A man, too old to give his wife the pleasure she was made for, would demand from her what he could not give. So the senses were imbalanced, the forces of love were destroyed, the woman would suffer unless….

The Sheikha’s eyes snapped to the husband and with a gesture she had him approach. She stared deep into his eyes and held them. She muttered in her strange and frightening language and still she did not drop her eyes. Then she sprinkled his white robes liberally with the cock’s blood.

She had the satisfaction of seeing the fear in his eyes.

Perhaps this time the Zar will behave. And better, perhaps so the husband, too.

*******

Outside the walls of the souk, outside where the night wind rested, camels complained and the dung fires scented the air, where the moon looked down on the sea of sand, other Zars were gathering to float over the walls.

The food on the altar would not last long. Again Spirit would invade Flesh and the drums would call out demons into the arms of some Sheikha.

In this part of the world, the Zars were part of human destiny.

They were a part of life as much as the desert sands, the groans of camels and the dark eyes of beautiful women.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2012-2014

POETCrit Journal has been published this July…..

July 19, 2014

The new POETCRIT Journal (July edition) has been published and I have just received my copy. PCJ was established in 1988 by a number of writers, editors, including Dr. DC Chambial. This review and poetry journal is published bi-annually, in July and January. It is published in India.

I have been added to the list of Advisors (11 of us) and am honored to be there. This new journal will take me a month to read, but the content is remarkable in my short reading. I did, over the winter, read and review for possible publication around five of the submissions. It threw me into a world of great beauty and mystification: in part I was exposed to an Indian culture that I had little knowledge before. Though the vast majority of reviews and poems are by very well published Indian authors, there are submissions by poets and writers from New Zealand, the USA and England and Demark to name a few.

I was surprised to read many poems by men and women noting the violence and defilement of women In India: I have written two essays on my blog recently about this horrific violence, and I am gratified to see these powerful poems condemning the violence and casual behavior of men who violate women as they pass in the street or go about their day.

The reviews are deep and thought-producing. Some of them also point to the changing roles of women in traditional India. But further, the level of poetry critique is astounding and excellent. If I sound surprised, it is because I am. I am not used to this level of poetry criticism, because with the numerous online poetry groups I have contributed to over the past seven years, the general attitude from the majority of poets is that ‘poetry criticism is too hard, and poetry is too subjective a medium to critique.” To me, this is not true, and in fact just defines a laziness, an ignorance of a necessary investigation into the life of poets and their work. In A.K. Chatgurvedi’s wonderful review (Perception of Life and Destiny in Mahendra Bhatnagar’s “Life: As It Is”, Chatgurvedi gets to the heart of the poems and poet: the deep psychological and philosophical ‘space’ that makes Bhatnagar’s poetry come alive. As Chatgurvedi’s words relate in the poem “Enlightenment”, the poet’s intends to convey to the world his message that the torture and deceitful dispensations by so-called friends and family deeply hurt the sentiments. The occasional breakdown of emotions and sentiments served as a furnace to make the poet emerge as more mature and experienced:

“Then alone/I would know
The secret of life and the world
When I was badly hurt
By my own selves and by others.”
——M. Bhatnagar (“Enlightment”)

Yes, any interpretation or critique falls to the subjective, but what is left? Isn’t it better to lay bare the sentiments, the intent, the philosophical urges, the potentials of a poem than just shying away from this work? Poetry does make us enthusiastic, does pull our hearts into the verse, at least good poetry does, and what is the reason to pass this by?
To me the best poetry makes those connections between humanity, and transcends culture, language and class. The poems in the new Poet Crit Journal certainly does for me.

I was asked to submit a poem and I also submitted an essay: “Short History of Tanka and Some Classical Examples”. Both were printed in the new journal. I am deeply honored to be included in this marvelous literary journal.

Please email: editorpoetcrit@gmail.com for more information on the Journal.

I am posting the poem I submitted and was published in this new journal. My heartfelt thanks to Dr. DC Chambial and my dear friend, Dr. RK Singh, who introduced me to this literary journal two years ago. It is bound to mature and better my own poetry in the reading.

Jane Kohut-Bartels (Lady Nyo)

The Children of Aleppo

There is no childhood in Aleppo.
There are little martyrs-in-the-making
Where 5 year olds and 8 year olds
Wish for a ‘family death’
Where they can die together
With their parents
Where they live in peace in Heaven
Never tasting the fruits of peace on Earth.

There is no childhood in Aleppo.
The children haunt the abandoned dwellings
Of friends who have fled the city.
There they find abandoned teddy bears
While looking for guns for the rebels, their fathers.

“Oh, the poor thing!”
A dead canary in his cage
Abandoned by its owners
They flee the rockets, bombs
And mortars.
In the face of daily death
The sight of this bird
Evokes a child’s sorrow.
But the gunfire outside continues
(They are used to the noise)
And huddle in the pockmarked
Halls until safe to scatter.

The children of Aleppo
Have no teachers, doctors.
These have fled the cities, schools
But they still pine for ice cream,
For music in the streets,
For curtains not torn by violence,
For books and toys
And gardens and flowers,
For friends that have not died
Innocent blood splattering
The dirty cobble stones
At their feet.

The children of Aleppo
Are free and children again
Only in their dreams,
And perhaps, if you believe so,
After death.

How do you put back the brains
Of a child in the cup of the shattered skull?
How do you soothe the howls of the mothers
The groans of the fathers in grief?
How do you comfort the left-alive siblings?

The children of Aleppo
Have no future as children.
Suffer the little children here,
They are the sacrifice of parents
And factions,
And politicians
All with the blood of
10,000 children
Who have died
In a country torn
By immeasurable violence.

The beautiful children of Aleppo
Like children everywhere
Still want to chase each other
In the gardens, on playgrounds,
Want to dance in the streets,
Want to pluck flowers for their mothers
And they still pine for ice cream.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2014

Some short thoughts on poetry, writing and research, and some issues writing “Tin Hinan”

July 15, 2014

Some thoughts on writing and poetry…

 

Very recently I have been talking with a dear friend, Dr. RK Singh, in India. We have mulled over topics for about 4 or 5 years now. RK is a well published and marvelous poet of short verse, including tanka. He is also known for his academic papers and books. But this sensitive man is a joy to engage in what we both love so much, which is poetry. Later this summer, I will review on this blog his latest poetry book: “I am NO Jesus”. I have read these poems he so graciously sent me as proofs, and I found myself totally captivated.

In his last email of this morning, RK said something about the difference between poetry and novel writing. Well, he didn’t actually state an opinion, or define the difference, but there is one I believe.

I have read that poetry is of the heart. But I think that can be applied to writing in general. Poetry appeals to many people because it usually (in its best state in my opinion) is short, decisive, heartfelt, impactful, and at times..perhaps the best of times…makes that connection between humanity. More than “there is nothing new under the sun”, it makes the links between our distant humanity. I think of the cultures around the world like the stars in the heaven at night: laying out in the desert, or in an area where there are no city lights, we have icy pinpricks of light too numerous to count, only defined by pictures and myths we hang upon these exploding and gaseous rocks.

I am not a trained poet or writer: I shoot from the hip in these things. And about that, I very recently broke my hip and now am facing a long summer of little activity and a lot of bed rest. But the upside of this is the chance to settle in with the books I need for further research and writing.

Seven years ago, out of the blue I suppose, I started writing “Tin Hinan”. Other writers probably will know the feelings of compulsion, where an idea, a theme takes hold of you and shakes you like a dog with a rat. I have said that this book wove itself one knot at a time, and very fast I had a rather muddy rug beneath my hands. I realize none of these things actually come totally out of the blue, but come from some experience that circles around your head, whether you realize its presence or not. For me, I would say that “Tin Hinan” was a continuation of my discovery and experience of the Hyperarousal Trance. I was a belly dancer at one important and informative time of my life, and from some beautiful and handsome Spanish flamenco male musicians, discovered that this was really ‘real’. That the ayoub beat led into a world of tangible mystery and exoticism. That our bodies and our minds conspired to raise us out of our humdrum lives, out of the usual patterns that we trod, and into something much different. I was trying to explain to Dr. Singh what this Hyperarousal Trance did, or was, (it is a brainwave sequence, called Theta) and how it made the connections between pieces of research in writng. Oh, it did a lot more than that, and belly dancers (besides these gorgeous Spanish men) understand the trance that movement throws one into, but it also has, or seemed to have, more application.

I found that this state of mind also could be applied to different cultural approaches. People have been confused, or at times, disdainful, of my cross cultural writings: I have written books based in Hungarian, Japanese, Turkish, Celtic and Berber cultures. This isn’t strange to me at all. It’s a continuation of interest in different cultures and a heavy dose (always) of the necessity of deeper research. And that is what it means to me to be a writer. And poet. And why not? Aren’t we part of the total mystery of humanity? Where are the borders for our minds? As writers and poets, don’t we strive to make those connections between cultures that are ‘strange’ and unknown to us? For me, I think this is a compulsion.

And, frankly, it is also necessary to rid your life of the people (and yes, family) that stand as obstacles to your creativity and productivity.  I no longer will tolerate this.  It took me long enough to find a purpose in life, and I am damned if I will let anything get in the way of this.  Including my own stupidity.  Writing gives purpose and JOY to my existence.  For years I allowed  others to either stop or attempt to detour this purpose. I see the angst of friends who are embroiled in conflicts that don’t give one damn bit of joy to their lives.   Life is too damn short for this.

In reading and reworking “Tin Hinan”, I have seen the necessity to go even deeper into this ancient culture, called Berber by the Europeans, and Imazighen (amongst other names…) by “The People of the Veil”. Perhaps it is the luxury of being able to slow down (a bad hip will do that…) and settle into the more descriptive and important things of a culture. I do know the Berbers bring to life the mysteries, the spirits of the deserts, especially the Sahara and the mountains of Morocco and Algeria. The Berbers I have known are some of the most gracious and hospitable people on this earth. I believe this is because they understand, fundamentally, the things that are important to survival and they shake their veiled heads (that’s the men, the women don’t wear the veil) at our modern silliness. Or perhaps they, being the ancient culture bred in some of the harshest conditions on earth, understand the true concept of humanity.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

 

 

Tin Hinan, a novel

July 14, 2014

"Tin Hinan", Chapter II,  "Damaged Goods"

 

I have decided to post the beginning chapters of “Tin Hinan”, a novel I have been writing for the past 7 years….on and off.  “Devil’s Revenge” needs a lot of work right now and I came across some information on the Berber culture that I wanted to include in “Tin Hinan”. 

I also want to thank TR for the wonderful pictures she sent me of a recent hiking trip in Morocco.  These pictures, the landscape, the Atlas Mountains, settled deep in my mind and pushed me to continue to work to a conclusion on this novel. I was stuck, but I think her pictures ‘unstuck’ me.

Tin Hinan was an actual historical figure of the 4th century in Algeria.  She gathered the Berber tribes from Morocco and Algeria into a nation.  There is not much known about her so this is a work of pure fiction.  I did try to stick to the ‘facts’ in her journey across the desert with her slave. That was known about Tin Hinan, and her galvanizing power to unite the Berber tribes.  That’s about all, though her large tomb was found in the Algerian mountains in the 1920’s. Her skeleton was wrapped in a red leather shroud with gold leaf symbols, seven gold and eight silver bracelets on her arms, and other jewelry and amulets around her body. Clearly, this was a woman of great status, and as she is called today, “The Mother of Us All”, still revered by Berbers.

 

Considering the tribal traditions of any century, what Tin Hinan did in just this venture, leaving her tribe (at the age of sixteen) and setting out across these mighty deserts is amazing. Considering the odds of her survival, it is especially amazing.

 

I learned many things in writing “Tin Hinan”, and I relied on Berber friends and associates for their own information about Morocco and Algeria, and with help with this difficult language, but I also learned that the Great Deserts (4th century)did not look then like they do now.  There were grassy plains that extended all over, and lush oasis.  Today, there are less oasis, and of course, the Sahara has become a thousand miles of mostly sand and rock.

 

The Berbers opened the trade routes across northern Africa, and defended those routes from the Arabs.  Interestingly enough, Berbers were influenced by Christianity early on and many Berber tribes especially in the mountains resisted Islamic influence into the early 20th century. (Though Islam made great inroads from the 7th century onward.)  Between Christianity and Islamic religion, they were closer to the Egyptians in their worship of Ammon and Isis.

 

 The story seemed to weave itself like a rug, knot by knot and color by color. This novel is nearly finished, but I am adding much more information (especially on the djenoun as I deal with my own qareen) .   I have noticed over the past few years this story has garnered readers on the blog in a consistent way.

 

One important fact of Berber culture:  The Soul resides in the Liver.

 

 

TIN HINAN

 

CHAPTER 1

 

I am called Tin Hinan. I had the destiny of a woman ‘rooted in flight’.  Even my name means “Nomadic Woman”.  Sometimes I forget my birth name before I became Queen. It is now lost in the sands of the Great Desert.

 

I founded a nation from the stirrings of my womb.  This is my story.

 

I was born in an oasis near what is now called Morocco.  My people were nomadic, but if our tribe had a name, we would be Tagelmust, meaning “People of the Veil”. The Arabs, our enemy, rudely called us Twareg, “Abandoned by God”. We now are known as Tuareg, or Berber by the white Europeans. But since I am speaking from my short time of fifty years on this earth and now only spirit,  you should know my story and life harkens back to the fourth  century.  Life was very different then. But men and woman were not so different from now. Hearts are the same.  Reasons for anger are, too.

 

Our tribe is matriarchal.  All things, possessions, are passed down through the women.  The men still make the laws, but we women have great power.  Nothing is decided until the council of elder women and men meet.

 

 We basically had two classes of Tagelmust people, Imajeren, the nobles, and Iklan, the slaves.  There are subgroups in all that, but that’s not important. My family were Imajeren, my father a tribal elder and leader.  My mother had great status as the first of his four wives.

 

I was born in the spring, during lambing time.  I was exceptionally tall for my sex, and poems were written by my mother and other women about my hurry to reach up to the stars.  That is the reason they gave for my height.  I had long, thick black hair and hazel eyes, which was not rare. As I grew to marriageable age, more songs were sung openly around the fires as to my beauty.

 

Perhaps you wonder when you think of Arabic women with the chador and burkah covering their features, how would you sing to a black sheath of cloth with two dark eyes staring back at you?  We, the Berber, are blessed by Ammon and Isis, for The Veiled People only applies to the men!  They wear the veil, an indigo dyed cloth that wraps around their heads and covers their faces, with only the eyes and the bridge of their noses exposed.  We, the women, carry our faces proudly to the sun, to the wind, and when it comes, the blessed rain.  The men are mostly stained a dark blue, like a devil or zar because their sweat makes the dye run from the indigo and stains their faces.  They look funny for it does not wash off, but seeps into the skin.  So when you marry, you beget children from a Zar-looking creature.  Perhaps that is why children are such little devils.

 

“Aicha, Aicha!” The aunties were calling me in from where I was loafing.  I liked to stand at the edge of the oasis, and look at the sea of sand before me.  I would think of great spans of water, for some travelers once told me about the great ocean to the north.

 

I turned and ran towards my mother’s tent. To ignore the aunties would be rude, and besides, they had many surprises and secrets in the folds of their robes.

 

“You, Aicha!  Your mother wants you to come to her, hurry!  Here, be a good girl and take this basket.”

 

I slipped the large basket over my arm and went into the tent side of my mother’s.

 

She was sitting on the floor of the tent, shelling dried beans. There were other women, most of them my aunts, her sisters, also working on the floor.  Our clan was a large one, one of the largest that made up the tribe. Growing up, there were women enough to pull my ears when I was bad and to soothe when I was mournful.

 

My mother looked up, noticed me standing there and motioned for me to sit down.

 

“Aicha, you are of the age when you should be married, or at least engaged.  Your father and I think it time that we look around for a husband for you.”

 

I knew it!  I saw the sly glances of the aunties, and heard the laughter when I passed a group of women. At the river, when I carried down the washing, I got looks and giggles even from those women and girls I didn’t know well. Something was brewing and this time I was the last to know.

 

“Come, you graceless girl.” My mother’s oldest sister, Aunt Aya called out to me.  She reached behind her broad hips and pulled out a packet wrapped in wool.  Slowly opening it, she revealed a heavy silver and amber necklace made up of many silver rounds and large amber beads.

 

It was fun for them, to dress me in the women’s jewelry like I was a child’s doll.   But they were serious in their business.

 

“Hold still, you silly girl. This kohl will poke out your eye if you don’t”.

 

 This from another auntie.   My face and hair were fiddled with, and I suffered the blackening of my eyes and their hands twisting my hair into designs.

 

That day they had their fun, and I emerged from the tent at evening to be walked around the fire to the whistles and comments of the collected tribe.  My hair was braided in intricate styles and small silver discs peppered my head like beaten full moons.   Heavy silver and wood earrings weighted down my earlobes.  I was of course, without a veil, and two women held my hands, leading me around the tribe’s main fire to the sound of drums and the ney flute.

 

Although I could not to marry within my tribe, I was being presented for our tribe’s delight.  Grooming for marriage was a ritual and my blushes showed appropriate modesty that evening.

 

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

 

 

 

There was a young man who was part of a neighboring tribe a day away. During marriages, celebrations and festivals, I would see him and he would look for me. We are modest women, but we do stare in the eyes of a man we are interested in marrying. We even wink at them. Are you shocked? Well, we did.   We had many customs, but Berber women, before the hated Arabs, had much freedom.

 

Hasim was his name, and he was a tall man, taller than I was.  I thought only proper I be married to a tall man. What woman wants to look down on her husband?  It sets a bad example for a woman.  She starts looking down on him in other things.  Hasim was a few years older and at one marriage celebration, I danced a line dance with other maidens and gave him one of my bracelets.  This was an accepted way of flirting. When the musicians took a rest, I went to get my silver bracelet back, and he slipped it down the front of his robe. He crossed his arms over his chest and smiled, or what I could see beneath his veil.  I should have known then Hasim was trouble, but my foolish heart flip-flopped.  Ah! Girls can be so silly.

 

Hasim was handsome, already a man though only about twenty-two years of age.  He had golden skin where the sun had not burned him dark and black eyes like deep shaded pools of water in the oasis.  His nose was long and slightly bent, like the hunting hawk, and his mouth was full and red, like a split pomegranate.  His teeth were white like bleached bones in the desert.

 

How do I know this, if our men are veiled?  My Hasim, for I already claimed him mine with the certainty that he would be…. had unwrapped his indigo blue veil from his face. And yes, his cheeks were stained a light blue where his beard would be.  I should have known that the Zar blood was deep in him, not just on the surface, but Isis! How was I to know then?

 

“Come, little sister, fish deep in my waters and you will find your bangle.  You want your precious silver back, do you not?”

 

Ah! My father would kill him if he heard his words!  But Hasim just grinned, playing a man’s game and my head whirled inside.  Other parts of me were disturbed, but I only knew of this by our women’s bridal parties before the weddings.  My heart flipped and my stomach turned over, too.

 

I am not known for being shy, perhaps it is because I am so tall, but shy I was before Hasim.

 

 

He reached out his hand and traced my cheek to my chin, gently pushing the back of his thumb over my lips.  My eyes were locked to his and I could not pull away. I must have looked like a little fool, for my mouth opened a bit with the firm  pressure of his finger.

 

Hasim dipped into his chest and reluctantly pulled out my bracelet.  “Little sister, be careful in what hands you place your silver. .  You might come across one who will take more than your jewelry.”

 

I heard his voice off in the distance.  He closed his eyes slightly, his long, black lashes brushing downwards, and the spell was broken.  I staggered a bit, and he threw out a hand to steady me, an enigmatic smile on his face.

 

 

I saw Hasim a few times after this first occasion and each time grew dizzy by the sight him.  During the last harvest festival, Hasim was mounted on a large, white camel as he raced across the desert with the other riders.  The groans and bellows of the beasts, the yelling of the men placing their wagers and the dust churned up from many feet made it hard for me to concentrate.  I could only follow the white of his camel for he was surrounded by mounted men.

 

That autumn, my mother and father called me before them, and announced that it was time I marry.  I of course had no choice, I was of age, but I noticed an exchange of smiles between my parents.  Unknown to me, my father had consulted with the marriage broker and a visit had been made to Hasim’s parents.  He was considered a good prospect, and with the status of our tribe and that of my father, I was considered a likely bride for Hasim.

 

My heart was light and leaping about in my chest.  I walked now with confidence, my breasts pushed out and a smile upon my face.  I would have the status of a wife, not just a common, unmarried girl.  There were many things to settle, preparations to make and issues far beyond my concern.  These were the matters of the elders and my mother’s family. But I was to be a bride!  Finally, I would take my place in the tribe with all the authority of a wedded woman.

 

 

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2007-2014

 

 

“Devil’s Revenge”, Chapter 2

July 10, 2014

It’s summer, it’s hot and I am looking for something easier to post. Seven years ago I started writing this novel. It was my second one and grew out of the characters of the first. The first one was ‘normal’ Dutch folk, set in the 1820
‘s in the rural landscape of New Jersey where I grew up. This first novel, called “Heart of the Maze” was too long and I dropped it. That it wasn’t on computer but typed out and put in a binder didn’t help in the rewrite. But I had fallen in love with some of the characters and didn’t want to leave them behind. So “Devil’s Revenge” came about, but the characters (most of them) were now devils, or ghosts, and the author, Bess, had tired of the original book and had closed it for 16 years. The main male character, Garrett Cortelyou, stepped out of the book and lay in wait, full of rage. He was now a Demon or devil, and full of mischief. He was gunning for another character in the original book, Obadiah Voorhees, now also a powerful devil, and Bess is caught up in the fight between the two of them. I am not posting the first chapter because it has a rape scene, or something that comes pretty close to it. And, I have work to do on it. So, for a while, until readers get tired of this, I am going to post chapters of “Devil’s Revenge”. Hope it fits the bill for summer reading and entertains.

Lady Nyo

Devil’s Revenge
Chapter 2

“What the hell?”

Opening my eyes, I struggled to focus. Embers had popped from the fireplace
and it sounded like the Fourth of July! One rolled to where I was sitting and stopped at my bare foot. Blinking, I snatched my foot back and took a deep breath. If materializing this way was supposed to unsettle me, it was working. My hands shook, my heart raced; I felt nauseous. A few minutes before I had control of myself. At a man’s command I appeared in this room. I shivered, a combination of fear and wonder.

The wind raced around the corners of the house, and sleet scratched at the window panes. I was glad for the good fire before me. I was chilly dressed in a linen morning gown, nothing more than a wrapper over a chemise. I had that mob cap on my head, falling over my eyes, but at least I was without stays. I could breathe again.

Placed on the tea table were two sheets of stiff paper and a lead pencil. I stared into the flames leaping about the logs, lost in thought, the sway of the fire hypnotic, the sound of the sleet beat a steady tattoo on the windows.

Was he a demon? Well, he wasn’t the Devil, or at least he didn’t seem to be. I had no idea what he was, and my knowledge of anything supernatural was poor to non-existent. But he shouldn’t exist, not if I was sane and the universe too, but here he was. What was he? My imagination couldn’t stretch that far to account for all these magical things, like the tankards of ale appearing with a snap of his fingers, or that he had materialized out of the pages of an unfinished book. But perhaps these things were small beer compared to what was possible? In any case, I was caught between two worlds, my comfortable if mundane life with a husband and this apparent ‘rip in the fabric of the universe.’

Since I had been thrown back into this book, perhaps I could write a couple of lines. I might as well use the time I given, and writing would calm my nerves. The chapter’s weather on my page imitated the weather outside my window, both gray and threatening days. I would write in a snowstorm, the two characters not able to travel, stuck in the countryside. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a small movement and glancing up, there sat the demon, Garrett Cortelyou. I jumped and squeaked out a scream, covering my mouth with my hands.

“Goedemorgen to you, and I am still the Devil, I see.” He sat across the table, unshaven this morning. His appearing like that and his confounded ability to read thoughts still rattled me.

“I am thinking of growing a beard, just to bedevil you.” He grinned, sitting back in his seat, stretching his legs and propping one boot upon the other.

“Why would I care if you had a beard?” I tried to sound snarky.

“It would give a turn to seducing you, something new and untried.” He grinned even broader and winked at me. “Ah, think how good it will feel with my beard brushing the soft skin in the middle of your back. I can think of other places to bury it just as fine.”

“Ah, stop it, Demon child. What business brings you here this morning except to taunt me.”

“You should form that as a question, not a statement. Again, with the bad English.”

“It is not a question of whether you will taunt me, but a fact. I already felt your sting.”

Stretching his arm out, he lay it palm up on the table, his hand out for mine. A gentle gesture. I had no reason to trust him.

“Yes, a gentle gesture, and one that I would like to follow up with more ‘stinging’ of your nether parts, my sweeting.” His eyes were languid and narrowed, and left no question his thoughts were mostly about lust this morning.

I reddened at his silly words, in spite of my determination not to.

“Oh, I don’t think that you are at all displeased, sweetheart. I think you are attempting to play a game where your feet do not touch bottom.”

I listened and thought a moment. “Tell me, then, how does this work? Does anybody in my life notice I’m gone? I don’t remember much when I’m home, and it seems the time with you is all a dream. What happens here? How do you do these things?” I looked around the room, wondering if I came down the chimney.

Garrett smiled. “Time is different in each dimension. A month here is an hour there.”

“Then my husband doesn’t know I’m gone?”

He snorted, a strange sort of laugh. “I think you could be gone a week in your time, darling, and that husband of yours wouldn’t notice.”

I didn’t want to humor him, and suppressed my own laughter. He was probably right. My husband was addicted to television and we led almost separate lives in our marriage. Little held us together, except our dogs and cats, and a comfortable routine.

“How do you bring me here?”

“Why should I tell you?”

“For Christ’s sake! You kidnap me from my bed and bring me to yours. There are laws against such behavior.”

He started to laugh. “If I told you, it would ruin all the fun.”

“For you? I have a marriage to hold together and you are interfering in my life.”

His smile disappeared. “You are quite the little hypocrite. You put a set of horns on your husband’s head fast enough and now you complain? I seem to remember you enjoying the fucking you got. Perhaps I should give some lessons to your husband.”

“You are a bastard! He’s a fine and sweet man!” I rose from my seat in my anger.
He did not seem impressed. He barely changed his posture, only crossed his arms over his chest. If he thought I would hit him, he didn’t care.

“Yet here you are with me. And curious as to what comes next. That depends on controlling your temper. You act like a spoilt child.”

Suddenly I felt drained. This show of anger was not getting me far. He was stubborn, with his own set of rules. He was right, I had set the horns upon my own husband’s head and enjoyed the fucking that set them there. Slowly I sat down in my chair, my energy gone. I didn’t have a moral leg to stand on.

“Woman.” I heard his voice through my tears. “I promise you your dear husband will not notice you gone. He will think you outside feeding your chickens or getting his ale from that cold cabinet.”

I started to laugh through my tears. He could be a fly on the wall or a ghost haunting my house!

“Sixteen years gives me the authority to do so,” he said, reading my thoughts.

Again he stretched out his hand to me across the table. It was a tender gesture, but I was having none of it. He sat back and looked at me solemnly.

“Take the mobcap off, please. It reminds me of Aunt Catherine in bed, and that’s a cock- crushing sight in the morning.”

I took the cap off. It was slipping over my eyes. Aunt Catherine was a character in the book in her eighties, almost bald and toothless.

“What have you done to your hair?” He looked intently at my now caramel streaked locks.

“Oh, summer is rough, being out in the garden, and the southern sun, you know….” My words trailed off. What in hell was I doing here? Talking to a doppelganger like he was a friend. “I put in caramel streaks.”

“Why would you put candy in your hair?” Garrett’s eyes narrowed in puzzlement.

“Does it taste sweet?”

“Oh Lord, deliver me from such fools! No, Garrett, it is just a color that women put– Oh, never mind.”

“Hey day! What’s this?” He spied my foot with the cherry red nail polish peeking from my under my gown. He reached down and grabbed my foot, almost yanking me off my seat.

“Garrett! Remember I’m attached to that foot!” He had it in his lap, where he stared at my toes.

“It’s like cherries in milk, your foot!” Looking up at me, he laughed. “From your hair to your feet, I could eat you this morning.” He looked like he was just capable of doing so. I snatched my foot back from his lap.

“You are here for a reason, now state it and leave.” I felt foolish sitting in my bathrobe talking to something not real.

“Ah, my pretty author, do I need a reason to visit you in my house? Remember that you are here at my calling. Let’s start with a name. What am I to call you?”

Oh God…I had not thought of this! After all these years, one would think he would know by now. I had three Christian names and tried not to think of them. I couldn’t fool the damn devil.

“Well, Sarah is taken now. And a bit morbid for me to call you that. Remember? Sarah is killed by your friend Obadiah. I’ll call you Bess from your middle name. I like the sound of that. Nice and docile.” He threw back his head and laughed.

I well remember what I write, you stupid devil. Why was he here this morning? Or more to the point, what in hell was I doing here in this bedroom?

“I came to apologize,” he said, offhandedly. “ I was a bit rough, not that you didn’t deserve it. I could have been a lot rougher, but then, you wouldn’t have been so nice to me.” The loathsome devil grinned.

“Ah, still with the names….and you were nice to me. Even if you resisted at first.”

“Garrett, that was almost a rape. You know that.” I wondered if he could feel remorse. I didn’t know how much was human, how much devil.

“Your own fault, Bess. You refused to kiss me. Had you been sweeter to me you’d have no problem at all. Next time allow me your mouth, it will go better for you.” He paused. “I don’t know how you could call that a rape, sweetheart. You fell in my arms fast enough.”

My mouth was open with shock. What an arrogant man…demon! But he was right. I had tried hard not to respond to his ardor, but my body was not of the same resolve. Blushing, I tried not to remember his lovemaking.

My stomach was rumbling, and snapping his fingers, a tray of tea appeared on the table between us.

“Would you like a cup?” I was trying to focus on something else, yet my hands shook.
.
“Yes, make it sweet, my love.” He turned his chair to face me. Looking over his cup, he caught my eyes. He was such a silly demon and appeared right at home in this bedroom.

“Before, it was ‘demon lover’. I liked that best. Could you please say it again?”

I smiled, touched at his vanity. ‘Yes, demon lover, and all attendant titles that go with it.” Oh God! What am I saying? Where is my sense? Where is my sanity?

“Ah, that’s better. Tell me, my Bess, what happens at the end of the book?”

“You mean you don’t know?” I was surprised, I thought he would. I hadn’t written it down, but knew the outcome for a number of years. I thought he was a mind reader.

“No, I don’t know. I have tried to read your confounded writing, but until you typeset it up into a book, I can’t. Tell me- do I survive Obadiah? Do I get the girl? What is my fate?”

“Do I look like a gypsy woman? Why should I tell you anything? I think that is the only power I have.” I sat back and looked at him smugly. Two could play at his nasty game.

“Oh, my darling woman, you have more power over me and John Thomas down here than you know. And speaking of cocks, who are these other men in your life? Does your husband know of the horns you are planning to put on his head?” He looked at me, his dark eyes flashing. I wondered suddenly if he ever had a soul.

“How would you know anything like that?” I rose from my seat, again, angry and stupid. Before I could formulate an answer, he rose from his chair and yanked me to him, hurting my wrist.

“You are full of fun, with no idea of consequences,” he said almost hissing with anger, pulling me close to him. “I would call you a cocktease, but you know what you are. You think your glib tongue will hold you from harm? It will lay you down for it. You are such a little fool.”

“You are hurting my wrist. Stop it!” My words were sharp and he dropped my arm. I stood there rubbing where his fingers now marked my skin.

He was angry about something. I could see that. Shocked by the violence of his words and hurting my wrist, I was growing afraid and tried to placate him with sweet words.

“Garrett….I created you from the desire of my loins. No mortal can compete with you. You are a subject of jealously among men, my demon friend”.

“Ah, not demon lover?” He was not so easily put off. He had a fine temper.

“Garrett, as a character, created by me, you are perfection. There is nothing lacking in you. I have seen to that. No human can hold a candle to you.” I wondered why I would say such a thing! Fear had to be the larger part of my thinking. He had the strength and violence of manhood, compounded by magic. I needed to be more cautious. He had the power of a demon, after all.

“Your words are not so original, but will do for now.”

He made a mocking bow, ending the argument. Placing his hands on his hips, he looked at me with a bemused expression on his face.

“I want some changes here. I am being starved by you, and your thoughtless writing.”

“What do you mean, sweet Demon?” I hoped my voice dripped with acid.

“Ah, nice and docile, Bess! I like that. Do it more.” He laughed but it wasn’t a cheerful sound.

“For a week I have fed on bread, cheese, and ale. Jennie doesn’t cook for me, nor does Daniel. I am hungry and that doesn’t make my temper better. I want some real food written into this damn novel. I want some Zuur Tong, Head Cheese, some Gehakt, a nice Hutspot a couple of times a week. I want you to bake me some kretenbroad.”

“All right, Garrett…translate those words.” Zuur Tong turned out to be Spiced Tongue, Gehakt was sausage, Hutspot was a one-dish meal of beef, mashed potatoes, onions and carrots and Kretenbroad was currant bread.

I couldn’t resist. “Why don’t you snap your fingers for the food to appear?” I smiled sourly.

He grimaced and scowled at me. “I can’t seem to manage more than a tankard of ale, some spirits and a tray of tea. I can levitate a chamber pot, but you don’t want to see that trick.”

I laughed and told him that I would make Daniel, the caretaker, bring in his niece, Anna, to cook. These were characters from the original book I had put aside for some other life.

“Good. Settled. Now come here, lambkin. He led me to the window that looked down to the river. Placing me in front of him, he put his arm around my shoulder, holding me.

“I don’t like sitting in that library all day, I want you to write me out there hunting. I want to bag more ducks. There are geese on the river bank for the taking, can you see them from here?” He stretched a long arm towards the general direction of the river, but I saw nothing in the gray, morning light
.
“Maybe a deer or two. I need some time with my guns, and I want to get a pack of dogs. Agreed? And about your Dutch.”

He was full of demands today. I had to smile. “What about my Dutch?”

“It is rotten. You write what you don’t know. Again. You should ask me. Like the word ‘fokken’….It doesn’t mean to ‘plow’…it means to copulate. Simple, isn’t it? Now, let us get fokken.” He tried to steer me towards the bed, but I twisted out of his reach.

“Stop, Garrett. You have the seduction manners of a goat.” He stopped in surprise in the middle of the room.

“I am unworthy of your cherry, plucked though it’s been. Forgive my manners, my lady.” He gave a low and elegant bow, and coming up, picked me up over his shoulder. He threw me hard on the bed and jumped on top of me.

“I can’t breathe, you monster! Get off me, give me some air!”

“I might, if you willingly give me your mouth this time.”

“And what do you intend to stuff in it? I know you, Garrett. I may have been oblique about your ‘lesson plan’ in the novel, but I think I know something of your appetites.”

He rolled off of me, laughing. Turning back, he propped himself on an elbow, stroking the hair from my face.

“You and I, we understand each other, no? Perhaps I don’t have to read every thought of yours. But it is fun, and it gives me an advantage.”

“It’s an unfair advantage, Garrett–and you know it. I have little independence when you do so.”

“Ah, but that is some of the delights of being a woman. You submit to me, in all things, and I will fill your–mouth with sweet things. I will stroke your limbs and warm your belly, and you will grow to open to me with pleasure.”

“Now who sounds like a second-rate novel?”, I said sarcastically.

“And what kind of novel are you writing? Do you even know?”

“I don’t, just something decent. Men are critical- and my girlfriends are even more so.”

“What do the men think?” He asked, distracting himself with his hands on my breasts.

“I thought that you would know this? Don’t you read my emails?”

“No, I don’t. Not yet. Isn’t there a password involved?”

“Why would a demon need a password? Aren’t you all seeing?”

“I’m trying, my sweet woman, to seduce you. I don’t give a damn about your letters. I want to know the competition. I want to know about these men who want to stick their tongues down your throat and part your pretty thighs. Why are you talking to them about the novel? Why mention us?

“I didn’t know that there was ‘an us,’ Garrett. You forget you are all fantasy. All in my mind, and all in my book.” I snapped my fingers; he was still there.

“I think that I am all between your legs right now.” He put his hand over my crotch, and stroked me through my gown.

“You want to kiss me, why don’t you start with my mouth?”

“You can delay all you want, you sweet witch. I have eternity here.”

“Then this is Hell? Purgatory? Something like Dante’s Inferno?

Putting his head next to my neck, he breathed gently on my skin. The warmth of his breath was arousing.

“Would you stop trying to figure it out and just let it be? Look, I will lie quietly with you, and we can coo together. I promise you will rise as virginal as you are now. Just go cook me something in the kitchen. I am fading fast.”

I promised to feed him but he didn’t keep his. The afternoon was a quiet one, as he slept on my breast. I had a chance to observe my demon lover closely, and he was as beautiful in life as anything I could put on the page. He would be happy with that, but of course, he already knows what I think.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007-2014

“Maiko”, a poem

July 8, 2014

A Courtesan's fleeting life of beauty.

A Courtesan’s fleeting life of beauty.

MAIKO

 

Dirty faced little girls

imitate geishas

late at night

when chores are done.

They practice

seductive glances,

graceful movements,

pouring tea for phantom clients.

Stealing a moment,

they gaze into mirrors

making geisha- faces

preening, casting

down their eyes,

trying to catch

mirrored reflections.

 

 

Now tender maikos,

painted lead-white faces,

sit silently,

knees padded by

layers of stiff underdress

stifling yawns

as Big Sister Geisha

pour sake

exposing

ever so slightly

a marble- smooth wrist

barely blushing with life-

Mysterious seduction!

 

Maiko,

silent chorus

behind performers,

observing the trade

studying the manners

peering out with furtive

eyes,

watching men

roll around tatami-

foolish, drunk-

such silly children!

 

 

Slender ‘dancing-girls’

tender split- peach hairdos

driving men to lust

a ripe and blushing fruit

sitting above the red neckline of

kimono,

a sample of fruit

to be plucked

for the right price

to okiya.

 

 

 

Solemn maiko,

follow the way of

full-blown geisha,

childhood

sold for a pittance,

desired and sought

for beauty, grace, talents,

trapped within silken layers-

beautiful butterflies,

nights elusive moths,

dragging through life

clipped wings

of splendid colors.

 

Okiya is the house where geisha and maiko live. Oka-san is the proprietress who owns and runs the okiya. A maiko is a very young girl, who sometimes enters the okiya at the age of six. She is considered a maid, and is only trained as maiko (apprentice geisha) if she shows some talent to be a geisha. These young girls do all the chores and cleaning of the okiya. They have very long hours as they are expected to stay awake to assist the returning geisha in the early hours of the morning from the teahouses where they have been performing.

Many children were sold by poor parents to the okiya. This was very common in Japan for the survival of girl children. IF a geisha has a baby, and it is a boy, she must leave the okiya or give up the child. If she has a girl, that child is absorbed into the okiya as a maid.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009, 2014, published in “A Seasoning of Lust”, Lulu.com 200

“Songs of Summer”…….and Happy July 4th! Our Independence Day.

July 4, 2014

SONGS OF SUMMER

Summer cartwheels through the sky!
The fertility of months
Expressed from field to orchard,
Above in the sky, and deep below,
Where the earth gathers green energy
And transforms by magic
Fruits for the mouth and eye.

Fledglings tipped out of nests
Try new-feathered wings on warm currents,
Calves butt heads and race in calf-tumble
Climbing rocks and playing king-of-the-hill,
Spring lambs past the date
For the tender-est of slaughter
Coated in white curls,
The smell of lanolin sweet in their wake.

There is fresh life in the pastures,
Now with steady legs and bawling lungs,
They graze upon the bounty
And grow fat for the future culling.

Tender shoots of wheat and corn,
Waist-high, defying devious crows,
Paint once-fallow fields in saffron and
A multitude of hues-
Golden tassels forming,
Waving under an oppressive sun,
And when the sky bursts open
In random welcomed rain,
Heaven meets Earth-
The cycle complete.

These are the songs of Summer.
The bleat of lambs,
The cymbals of colliding clouds,
The noise of fierce light,
The plaints of cows with udders taunt,
The loud quarrelling of a swollen brook,
The scream of a hunting hawk
Calling for its mate,
The pelt of an unheralded storm
Upon a tin roof,
And the quiet sighing of
An unexpected wind-
A benediction to the day.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007-2014

“Metamorphosis”…..And Happy July 4th, Independence Day.

July 1, 2014

Full Moon, March 2011

I wrote this seven years ago, my first attempt at comedy.  Once was enough.

This series was a favorite of Marge Chester, a friend and family member through marriage for

twenty-four years.  Marge died November, 2011.  I miss you, Margie.

Lady Nyo

 

METAMORPHISIS I

She stood at the window, lost in thought. The crispness of autumn
purified the air at dusk. The moon had just risen, the sky still
light, that peculiar time of evening when both sun and moon balanced
opposite each other. Watching the swifts and swallows flit over chimneys and
rooftops, wheeling like tiny black crescents in the sky, she wondered
about her unrest, her slight illnesses. As the moon rose, the swifts
were replaced with bats speeding like rockets back and forth in front
of the window. She could hear the sound of their twittering as they
flew by, sharing the day’s gossip.

“Laura!” Her husband’s voice near. “I’m coming” she called back.

Peering out the window her pupils opened wider. She saw strange
things. The veins in the leaves, the mounds of disturbed soil from
moles far below. The moon so close! The night beckoned to her, she
felt like flying out there.

Under her gown she felt thin membranes grow under her arms. The
tissue, transparent, joined with two hooks on her elbows. Her breasts
shrunk to nothing, only large nipples remaining. Her sex seemed to
shift backwards, her vulva misplaced.

“I’m coming along nicely,” she whispered.

********
METAMORPHOSIS II

“Laura, come to bed! What are you doing out there?”

Laura was doing nothing. Just drinking tea and looking out the
window, humming to herself.

She had lost weight, grown taciturn, seemed sexless. Harold,
confused, was getting on her last nerve.

She entered the bedroom. Harold, bald and boring, glared at her.

“What is wrong with you? Didn’t you hear me?”

Oh yes, thought Laura. Thirty years of marriage doesn’t stop up your
ears, just your mouth. And your heart.

Laura opened the closet to hang up her robe. Inside, on a hanger, was
a giant bat, its dull black wings wrapped around itself, hanging
upside down. Laura shoved it aside, looking for a hanger for her
robe. She got into bed and turned off the light.

***

The police looked at the carnage on the bed. Blood everywhere, a real
massacre. Something was wrong, damned if they could figure it out.
The wife, mute, had to be in shock. Weird batty woman.

Laura, her gown bloody, drinking tea, looked out the window. Under
the tree was a big dark man, standing with his arms wrapped around his
chest. He looked up and nodded.

Laura smiled back and winked.

*********

METAMORPHOSIS III
Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007

Becoming a widow, Laura’s life took on different dimensions. The
house now on the market, she decided to travel. She thought of
spelunking, exploring caves, climbing mountains.

Pouring over brochures, she heard a scratching sound. Unlatching the
second story window, in fluttered Bart Batkowski..

“I wish you would use the door like a normal person. You will draw
attention this way.”

“Laura, do you forget what I am? Besides a co-conspirator in murder?”

Laura signed. Harold was dead, gone, Bart now sharing her bed. But it
wasn’t the bed where the action happened. It was the damn closet and
sex was gymnastic at best. Though Laura had known a transformation,
it wasn’t complete. The angle of penetration was off. Bart would
insist on hanging from his heels, and all attempts at necking gave
Laura a stiff one; neck, that is.

Since Bart said his DNA required the closet hang, they compromised
with a vertical 69 position. Bart would embrace her with his wings
wrapped tightly around them, and Laura would get comfortable with her
pubis level at Bart’s nose.

It was a strange mating, but when Bart snored it sent Laura to heaven.

*******
METAMORPHOSIS IV
Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007

Laura twisted in the wind. Well, rotated in the air conditioning.
Bart had a new kick, called `Shibari’. An ancient Japanese practice
of wrapping things. Precisely. With hidden knots. She should have
thought twice when he insisted she strip.

Arms wrapped behind her back, more cloth holding her legs together,
she sighed. She didn’t mind hanging upside down, was even getting
used to the headaches.

Bart, however, was having a bit of his own transformation, and Laura
didn’t know if she liked this one bit. He was becoming `weirder’,
taking up hobbies. Piercing was one, this shibari another. Laura was
seeing Bart in a different light, helped along with her new, nighttime
vision.

Goddamn Japanese! Why can’t they stick to wrapping small packages?

Bart told her `shibari’ was the ancient art of “wrapping the heart.”
She bought it, didn’t even mind the bananas, mangos and kiwi he stuck
between the bindings. He was, after all, a common fruit bat.

Up on the roof, Bart had other plans. From under his wings, he drew
out a new black, leather riding crop. He slapped it on his palm,
laughing with glee.

Laura was about to obey.

**********

(For those who have not read Metamorphosis I-IV, Bart and Laura are
bats. Well, Bart is a large common fruit bat with interests in Shibari
and BDSM, and Laura is a middle- aged woman who finds she is
transforming into a bat.)

METAMORPHOSIS V
Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007

“Come on, Laura, pick it up! I can’t stay up here all day. It’s
exhausting.”

Bart was suspended in mid air, about ten feet from the roof apex,
twenty feet off the ground.

“I can’t, I can’t, I can’t I can’t. What if they don’t work?”

Laura, mesmerized by the languid flap of Bart’s massive wings, stood
on the top of the roof. She remembered the times he trapped her
small, delicate wings within his and felt the power of his dominance.
Bart had many faults, and a sadistic nature, but his sexual allure
could not be denied. Laura was blossoming like a rose, with little
Japanese beetles buried deep within her petals. She felt Shibari was
helping them bond, though Bart left her too long in the bindings.
Parts of her had turned temporarily blue. She was finding this
`freedom of the ropes’ one knot at a time.

“Come on, Laura, I’ll catch you. Trust me. Now, run fast and leap.
Your wings should work fine.”

Laura did as she was told and hit the air running. She dropped like a
stone.

“Bart! You Fuckerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!”

“Hey, Laura! Next time flap your wings, not your gums.”

*********

METAMORPHOSIS VI

When Laura fell of the roof she smashed her ankle. It took all of
Bart’s Shibari bindings to stabilize her limb and now Laura was making
Bart wait on her, wing and foot. He wasn’t too happy with the `fetch’
thing but was puzzled why Laura’s wings hadn’t worked.

“Bart,” Laura whined, “The ice melted in my drink. Make me a fresh
one, darlin’.”

Bart came from the kitchen, an apron tied around his middle. He was
pissed being a house-bat but what could he do? A dominant fruit bat,
this apron went against his nature. But the dishes had to be done,
guano shoveled.

Inactivity made Laura horny. She spread her legs, flapped her pinkish
wings alluringly. Bart’s eyes gleamed as he climbed between them. He
began to lap at her, but lost his head. Laura was using a new
perfume, “Peaches and Cream”.

“Bart! I’m not a cantaloupe. Your teeth are sharp!”

“Sorry, Laura. I’m just following my nature.”

All kinds of bats in the world, and I get a fruit bat, thought Laura.

Life is unfair.

But he did look cute in a frilled apron. That big bow on his butt
suited him.

Nature be damned.

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

META VII

Tap…tap….tap…

“Bart? Whatchadoin’?” Laura yawned, just waking up.

“I’m working on a pathology.” His `go away answer’. Back hunched over
the keyboard, typing fast.

“Which one?” Laura blinked, trying to see what Bart was writing.

“Funny. I’m looking at this Gorean website.”

“Ah geez, Bart! It’s a comic book.” Laura’s eyes widened at the
picture of a woman on her knees, lips parted seductively, naked, legs
open. She thought of her own knees and knew she could never hold that
position. Plus, she didn’t look `cute’ naked. Not before, and not
now with these pinkish wings attached to her elbows.

“Hey Bart? Are you serious? How am I to hold that position serving
you on my knees?”

“You could levitate a bit with your wings, take pressure off your
knees. You could use your imagination if you wanted to please me.”

“Please him.” There it was. Always please the Dom. What did she get
out of it? Seemed like life with her dead husband, Howard, except
with guano.

“Bart? I don’t think Gorean Doms wear aprons.”

Bart looked down. He forgot to remove it after the dishes. Maybe he
really was a Gorean submissive? Not a good thought.

THE END

Jane Kohut-Battels
Copyrighted, 2007-2014

“High Road”…..a poem

June 20, 2014
Sea Eagle, Janekohutbartels, wc, 2006

Sea Eagle, Janekohutbartels, wc, 2006

 

 

“High Road” is in  the new book, “Pitcher of Moon”, available at Amazon.com. 

 

 

HIGH ROAD

 

Asking directions of the high road,

I  got shrugs and blank stares

yet knew there were two roads

both led into infinity

both coursed through

all manner of life with pitfalls, trenches

where legs were broken

skulls rattled loose from moorings

like ships in high winds, dangerous waters.

 

What was the difference

and why should it matter?

The efforts cost

energy regardless the choosing.

 

An old man sat at the crossroads,

a bum, grizzled gray hair

sprouting porcupine’s quills,

rheumy, pale eyes staring at the world–

little interest in what passed by.

 

I asked him the way to the High Road

and with a toothless grin

he stared at my feet, my hands,

lifted his eyes to my face.

I thought him mad and cursed myself

(asking questions of  a fool!)

was moving away when I heard his voice:

 

“Did I know of the eagle and crow,

how they soared upon thermals

higher and higher

became dark, formless specks upon a limitless sky,

lost to human eye, invisible even to gods?”

 

I thought him crazed and started away-

he cackled and spat on the ground.

Something made me turn, startled,

And saw the wisdom of Solomon in his

now- shining eyes.

 

 

“The crow harries the eagle, the eagle flies higher.

Vengeful, annoying crow flies round eagle’s wing

turning this way and that, yet the eagle flaps upward

soars upon thinning air until the crow

breathless and spent, drops to the common ground-

falls to his death.”

 

“The High Road, the path of the eagle.

The low road, the path of the crow,

mingling with dullards

daring nothing, with eyes cast downward

only saving a bit of energy

learning nothing of worth.”

 

Silently he sat, an old man

eyes glazed with age and fatigue.

With a nod to his wisdom, a toss of a coin

I gathered my strength and pushed onward,

Upwards, the lift of eagles, now under my limbs.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Morning”, a new poem.

June 14, 2014

Kohut-Bartels-LS-2
(a small watercolor of fruit trees in the back yard)

This spring is so beautiful.  We have torn up the back yard and planted grass seed, trimmed bushes, taken down fences, planted more roses and the grass is lush and green.  In all these years here I haven’t had a rolling swath of green that extends to the far boundaries of the property. Beyond is a woods and we are visited by raccoons, foxes, wild turkey, hawks, rabbits:  this is an urban area, three miles from downtown Atlanta, but the wildlife hasn’t gotten the memo.  The trees are heavy with peaches, apples and pears, though the beans didn’t come up in the garden.  The tomatoes are running amuck and the black berries and blue berries are busting their boundaries.  Even the grapes, usually dormant, have heavy chandeliers of pale green fruit under the leaves.

I go out with my tea in the morning and the birdsong is amazing.  The day may get complicated, but the morning is calm, peaceful and turns my thoughts to a gratitude for these simple blessings.

Lady Nyo

 

 

MORNING

 

A wedge of sullen moon

Pales above

As life awakes beneath.

 

Birdsong threads through

Trees, a staccato cacophony

Anointing the air

Like colored ribbons

Weaving back and forth

The timbre ever changing.

 

Green spring trees, tender, tender

An early nursery of life

Can anything be wrong with the world?

 

The hammock swings gently of its own accord

Perhaps a haunt, a ghost invisible.

 

Faint gunshots far in the distance last night

Where some would

Impose their vile humanity

Startling for a moment

Until sleep reclaims.

So it goes, this is the city.

 

The hoot of a sleepy owl in the morning

Echoes the cry of a distant train

While seed pods from maple trees

Flutter to the ground.

 

We have survived the dark,

It’s blackened mysteries,

Alien things that rattle us.

We are cradled in Nature’s promise

Of life beginning again each morning

While the moon above yawns, fades and disappears.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014


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