“Song of the Nightingale”, episode 2

August 23, 2016

Japanese Woman

It’s been a while since I wrote tanka, so this morning I attempted one.  It violates some tanka ‘rules’  (kigo word, etc.) but I offer it to my tanka-loving friends and poets anyway.  Tanka can be a gift. Since it started as song, folk song, it developed into written verse, and was given back and forth by lovers.

“Mist drifts in waves

Ribbon-ing maple branches

The rise of the moon

Make Egrets shimmer silver-

Gauzy ghosts of nothingness.”

Lady Nyo

 (actually, mentioning ‘maple branches’ would  be a kigo word:  Aki, Fall.)

THE STILLNESS OF DEATH

 

 

“My heart, like my clothing

Is saturated with your fragrance.

Your vows of fidelity

Were made to our pillow and not to me.”

—-12th century

 

Kneeling before her tea

Lady Nyo did not move.

She barely breathed-

Tomorrow depended

Upon her action today.

 

Lord Nyo was drunk again.

When in his cups

The household scattered.

Beneath the kitchen

Was the crawl space

Where three servants

Where hiding.

A fourth wore an iron pot.

 

Lord Nyo was known

For three things:

Archery-

Temper-

And drink.

 

Tonight he strung

His seven foot bow,

Donned his quiver

High on his back.

He looked at the pale face

Of his aging wife,

His eyes blurry, unfocused.

He remembered the first time

pillowing her.

 

She was fifteen.

Her body powdered petals,

Bones like butter,

Black hair  trailing bo silk.

The blush of shy passion

Had coursed through veins

Like a tinted stream.

 

Still beautiful

Now too fragile for his taste.

Better a plump whore,

Than this delicate, saddened beauty.

 

He drew back the bow

In quick succession

Let five arrows pierce

The shoji.

Each grazed the shell ear

Of his wife.

 

Life hung on her stillness.

She willed herself dead.

Death after all these years

Would have been welcome.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted , 2013-2016

 

” Song of the Nightingale”

August 22, 2016
Song Book cover

Format

 WARNING:  a site called “JP at Olive Garden” has just posted two of my poems and the introduction of “Song of the Nightingale” WITHOUT MY PERMISSION.  What is worse is that some person named Kora Davishen  has ‘rewritten’ my poem “Storm Drain Baby”….and of course, gutting it.  THIS IS WRONG AND UNWORTHY OF A POETRY SITE. What is worse is this is unethical and illegal.  It violates copyright laws. I demand that “JP at Olive Garden” take down my work and do not do this again.  I was warned years ago that “JP at Olive Garden” steals other poets work and posts it on their site, but I didn’t know they also REWRITE and brag about it.  I call upon poets to avoid this site for their Unethical and Illegal behavior. Rewriting a poem is nothing but stealing and business unworthy of real poets. Other  poets have contacted me and they also have had, over the years, some of the same issues with this site (and their constantly changing names).  They do this to make it look like they have more followers than they actually have.  They are NOT poets; they are just opportunists looking to suck off the labor of real poets.  I have made the appropriate forms out to alert BLOGGER about their behavior. Hopefully, they will take action to ban this energy sucker website from the internet.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

August 22, 2016

 

A year ago ( July, 2015) I published “Song of the Nightingale” with Amazon.com.  This book came out of a 10 year study of medieval Japanese culture.  Most importantly, a study of the great 8th century document, “The Man’yoshu”.  This document was a collection of 4,515 poems, written by emperors, priests, women poets, court people, samurai, and included songs of fishermen and peasants.   Some of the verse in this document inspired the action of the two main characters, Lord and Lady Nyo, a fictional samurai couple from the 17th century Japan. Nick Nicholson, from Canberra, Australia, a marvelous writer and photographer, an a friend of over a decade, not only formatted the book but also lent his beautiful photos.  It was a labor of love for both of us, and I have decided to post on this blog a number of the episodes.  The cover was painted by me, and there are other paintings in this book, along with Nick’s photos.

Jane Kohut-Bartels who is the Lady Nyo of this blog.

 

Introduction to ” Song of the Nightingale”

In Old Japan there was an even older daimyo called Lord Mori who lived in the shadow of Moon Mountain, far up in the Northwest of Japan.  Lord Mori ran a court that did little except keep his men (and himself) entertained with drinking, hawking and hunting.  Affairs of state were loosely examined and paperwork generally lost, misplaced under a writing table or under a pile of something more entertaining to his Lordship.  Sometimes even under the robes of a young courtesan.

Every other year the Emperor in Edo would demand all the daimyos travel to his court for an extended visit. This was a clever idea of the honorable Emperor. It kept them from each other’s throats, plundering each other’s land, and made them all accountable to Edo and the throne.

Lord Mori was fortunate in his exemption of having to travel the months to sit in attendance on the Emperor. He was awarded this exemption with pitiful letters to the court complaining of age, ill health and general infirmities. He sent his eldest, rather stupid son to comply with the Emperor’s wishes. He agreed to have this disappointing young man stay in Edo to attend the Emperor. Probably forever.

Lord Mori, however, continued to hunt, hawk and generally enjoy life in the hinterlands.

True, his realm, his fiefdom, was tucked away in mountains hard to cross. To travel to Edo took months because of bad roads, fast rivers and mountain passages. A daimyo was expected to assemble a large entourage for this trip: vassals, brass polishers, flag carriers, outriders, a train of horses and mules to carry all the supplies, litters for the women, litters for advisors and fortune tellers, and then of course, his samurai. His train of honor could be four thousand men or more!

But this tale isn’t about Lord Mori. It’s about one of his generals, his vassal, Lord Nyo and his wife, Lady Nyo, who was born from a branch of a powerful clan, though a clan who had lost standing at the court in Edo.

Now, just for the curious, Lord Nyo is an old samurai, scarred in battle, ugly as most warriors are, and at a lost when it comes to the refinement and elegance of life– especially poetry. His Lady Nyo is fully half his age, a delicate and thoughtful woman, though without issue.

But Lord and Lady Nyo don’t fill these pages alone. There are other characters; priests, magical events, samurai and a particularly tricky Tengu who will entertain any reader of this tale.

A full moon, as in many Japanese tales, figures in the mix. As do poetry, some historic and some bad. War and battles, love and hate. But this is like life. There is no getting one without the other.

 

The present Lady Nyo, descended from generations past.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016

 

 

 

 

W

Today’s Tanka for d’verse poets….

August 19, 2016

To Grace:  everydayamazing…..wordpress issues, but I wanted you to know I read your marvelous poem. 

“WOW…This is exceptional, Grace.  It thrills my heart to read and not just for the political message.  This is a clarion call to me…to decency and action. This is top shelf poetry, Grace.  Brilliant, and there are too many great lines to pick out a favorite.  You had me hooked at the first two lines.”

thank you, Grace, for a truly exceptional and moving poem.  Jane

My beautiful picture

Cover for White Cranes of Heaven, 2011, Lulu.com Watercolor, janekohut-bartels

Cranes wheel in the sky

Their chiding cries fall to hard earth

Warm mid winter day

A pale half moon calls the birds

To stroke her face with soft wings.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016

 

“Storm Drain Baby”

August 19, 2016

backyard 4

 

Yesterday a baby was born,

Placed in a storm drain

To die by a father who wasn’t.

Three days of heavy rain

Washed the Blood of this Lamb

Into the sea.

 

He was found, expected to live

And died,

His short life measured in scant public

Outrage.

 

The 19 year old father said as they

Led him away:

“It was a miscarriage gone wrong.”

 

The rain continues today

Rushing down streets

To storm drains,

Making a gurgling sound.

 

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

September 18, 2009-2016

This happened in Atlanta.  A horrific killing of a newborn.  Suffer the little children, indeed.

 

 

“The Kimono”, Part One of Chapter Six.

August 17, 2016

images (8)

Rider in the sport of Yabusame

Where the daimyo Lord Mori mentions criminals and the amount of rope and knots, he is talking about a judicial practice in Medieval Japan.  How much rope and how tight and how many knots depended upon the social/class position of the ‘criminal’.  If it was a man from the gentry, or someone with connections, he wouldn’t suffer tying. If it was a common criminal or a peasant, he would be tied and with many knots if he was considered dangerous.  Even today in Tokyo, police carry a short piece of rope inside their sleeve.  It is now just a bow towards tradition.

 

 

Chapter 6:

 

Mari woke to the smell of coffee. Steven brought her a cup and smiled when she sat up, blinking her eyes and yawning.

“Sleepyhead is finally awake. You must have been tired last night. I tried to wake you earlier this morning, but you were sleeping like the dead.” Steven smiled down at her, the coffee’s steam floating like a ghost above in front of her.

Mari yawned again, as Steven set the mug on the nightstand. She was naked under the sheet. Glancing over the side of the bed, she saw the kimono rumpled on the floor.

Sipping her coffee she wondered if there was any evidence of the lovemaking by Lord Mori on her body. Perhaps some bruising, or some mark that could be noticed. She knew now these weren’t dreams, they were something far beyond. They were of magic but a peculiar kind of magic.

“I think the change in season is making me sleep soundly, Steven.” Mari buried her head in her mug and swallowed her coffee, her black hair hiding her face. Her excuse sounded a lie even to her ears.

Steven’s voice floated back to her from the bathroom. “Mari, you still taking your pills?”

Mari grimaced and said, “You referring to birth control? Yes, Steven, still taking them.”

“Good, just checking. We don’t want a mistake to happen.”

She remembered Lord Mori’s words as she drank her coffee. Perhaps he was right, perhaps she would feel more bonded to Steven with a child.

“Steven, what if I got pregnant? Pills aren’t 100%. What if I conceived a child?” Mari could hear him turning the water on and off as he shaved. There was silence from the bathroom and Mari watched him from her bed.

He spoke with the tapping of his razor against the sink as he finished his shaving.

“Mari, you know how I feel. A child would not fit in the plans for my career. I have to remain mobile. The company demands that we fly where they want me. You knew this when we married, and nothing has changed since.”

No, nothing has changed since, thought Mari. Our marriage limps along and we have no future except your work, Steven.

Steven’s voice continued from the bathroom. “If you’re bored, Mari, then for Christ’s sake, go take some courses at a local college. Find something to occupy yourself if being married isn’t enough.”

Mari sank back into the covers. She didn’t have the energy to fight him this morning. Besides, she was rarely aggressive. Steven won at most arguments because he knew this. She wouldn’t fight openly with him. It wasn’t of her nature. It was something she had learned from her mother, when faced with her overbearing father.

“Steven”, she said as he came in the room, adjusting his tie and cuffs. “It’s not that I’m bored, it’s that I want something more.”

Steven stood at the end of the bed and looked at her with a mixture of confusion.

“Mari, what is this ‘more’? You have money, right? You can buy anything you want within reason. You can spend the entire day shopping and sightseeing. We have a maid every place we go so you have no housework. You knew the nature of my career when you married me, so what’s the beef now? What has changed? Look, someday we can talk about children, but right now is not the time. You knew this when we married.”

Steven came to the side of the bed and kissed her quickly on the forehead. He was annoyed again, this Mari could tell. He left their little company-rented house, closing the front door quietly. To Mari it was the same old argument. The sameness of sentiment between them was wearing on her and wearing her down.

That night she knew she wanted ‘more’ and the more was clearly defined. She knew she could escape, even if it risked all she had. She was dying slowly and though it would be fantastical in the telling, she made a choice for this ‘more’.

The moon was again full, streamng into their bedroom. Steven insisted on heavy drapes, but when he was asleep, Mari opened them and knelt on the bed, the moonlight illuminating her naked skin. Her breasts felt full, like the moon, and her nipples were hardened like two cherry pits. She went and retrieved the black kimono from the closet and draped it around her, tying it loosely with a small piece of silk rope. It was not an elegant obi sash but just a piece of faded red rope. For some reason, it seemed to be right for the kimono.

Though the room was dark the moonlight was strong enough to illuminate the black kimono. Mari looked down at where it was folded across her breasts, the soft mounds of them disappearing into the darkness below, caressed by the heavy crepe of the kimono. She looked up at the moon, stark in the black, velvety night, and even the lights of Kyoto could not diminish its power. She wondered if the kimono flew her past the moon, washing her in white beams of light as it flew. What was the process and what happened to her body, her atoms, her molecules enfolded in the crepe of the gown.

She pulled it tight around her hips, already feeling the knots of the embroidery cut into her skin. She secured it with the red rope around her waist. Quickly braiding her hair behind her head, she lay down next to Stephen, pulled the quilt up over her shoulders and closed her eyes, willing herself to sleep.

—— 

Mari lay on the stone floor, her arms tied behind her back by the silk rope formerly around her waist. The kimono was now open, her naked body hugging the cold stone floor of Lord Mori’s chamber. She looked up, startled, only able to raise her body just so far. Lord Mori was standing at the open window, the wooden shutter thrown back against the wall. His back was to her and she managed a throttled cry to get his attention.

“Lord Mori!   Lord Mori!” She called out. He didn’t seem in too much a hurry to notice her.

“Did I hear a mouse call my name? What kami has allowed a small rodent such a gift?” He turned and saw her.

“Ah! It is Lady Mari, come to visit me so early in my chamber. Does your husband know you are trussed up lying on my floor, Lady Mari?”

“Lord Mori, please, for the love of God, untie me. I can barely breathe on this cold floor.”

Lord Mori walked slowly, obviously in no hurry, to her side and stood looking down at her with a grin on his face.

“It seems the kimono has used some complex knots this time, Lady Mari. I will have to study the pattern before I can release you. Ah! It seems that you are a dangerous criminal, for there are many knots in your binding!”

“Please, Lord Mori, I am cold here, my kimono is open and my body flat on the floor.”

“Yes, I see, Lady Mari, a good place and position for such a criminal. Perhaps it is best that you remain where you are for a while? Perhaps you are too dangerous to be allowed your freedom.”

He stood above her and she could hear him laugh softly.

“Please!” I am cold. And I have to pee!”

“What? Again? Very well then, I don’t want my floor to be washed by your water.”

Lord Mori pulled Mari up to her feet, his eyes boldly looking at her body, now exposed by the open kimono, her nipples erect from the contact with the cold stone. He then quickly untied the silk rope that kept her arms tightly bound behind her back. Mari rubbed them, now free and closed her kimono, aware of his eyes upon her.

“Thank you, Lord Mori”, she said, humbly.

“Well, come near the brazier, Lady Mari, and warm yourself. The morning is cold yet, but it seems we are to have a fair day. Already the clouds are disapearing and the morning birds are singing. Lord Tokugawa is still here and you have come at an auspicious time. We are to have a ceremony in honor of my Lord this morning. Perhaps you are familiar with the Yabusame ritual?”

Mari shook her head, standing over the brazier, her hands out to its paltry warmth.

“I thought not. Well, we keep the gods entertained and all the other demi-gods, like our Lord Tokugawa.   We ride our horses past targets and shoot our bows from horseback. Today, we have a surplus of prisoners to be targets. They are mostly common criminals, thieves, robbers and a few more dangerous.”

Lord Mori tilted his head to the side, watching for her reaction. It was not slow in coming.

Mari gasped, her eyes widening. “Lord Mori, that is uncivilized! Surely you are not serious.”

“Oh, Mari, I am very serious. How do you dispatch criminals in your world?”

Mari thought of her society’s methods of execution: hanging, the electric chair, poisonous injections. In her world there was little to recommend  that was not as barbarous.

“Well, we don’t string them up and shoot arrows at them,” she said in disgust.

“But your methods are more humane? Then tell me what they are and perhaps I should adopt them.”

Mari did and Lord Mori’s eyes became mere slits as he listened to her.

“I believe we have the many-fold advantage over your methods, girl. We attempt to dispatch the criminals quickly with an arrow to the heart, we develop our skill with our bows and we exercise our horses at the same time. Clearly, we have a superior method of execution than yours. Of course, we have many more methods, but the morning grows late.”

Lord Mori removed the haunted kimono, folding it carefully and placed it on a wooden chest with reverence. He then held out an opened kimono for Mari to wear. Mari turned her back to him and felt the quilted kimono slip over her arms and settle on her back. At the same time, Lord Mori pulled her firmly to him with one arm, the other freeing her long, black hair from beneath the kimono. Mari could feel his breath on the back of her head. Lord Mori slipped a hand into her kimono, cupping a breast.

Suddenly breaking off, he said, “I will send you to Lady Igo to be dressed. You certainly can not sit in the stands with the other women naked.”

Mari was sent to Lady Igo who received her with thinly disguised distaste.

Once again she supervised the bath and dressing of the Lady Mari. The cosmetics were applied and the false eyebrows were applied high on Mari’s forehead. She was handed a small mirror and she barely suppressed a giggle at her surprise. She did look fully Japanese with the makeup and robed in layers of thin silk kimonos.

Lady Nyo was again in attendance and together the two women sat and talked softly until Lady Igo clapped her hands together and summoned all the women. These were the wives and daughters, and some of the older women of the castle. All would be expected to attend the ceremonies planned to honor the visit of Lord Tokugawa. With the swishing sound of silken cloth and a fluid gliding of many slippered feet, the women walked two abreast behind the Lady Igo out of the castle to the park where they were to sit beside the raised platform for the Lords Tokugawa and Mori.

Kneeling on low, hard cushions with the other women, Mari followed Lady Nyo’s example of spreading her layers of different colored kimono so the hems radiated out in pleasing colors. Lady Nyo tittered and whispered into Mari’s ear until a look from Lady Igo made her go silent.

Mari saw Lord Tokugawa sitting on the platform, dressed in clothes of ceremony, plus caplets, swords shoved through his sashes and a rather silly headpiece. She looked for Lord Mori, but did not see him next to Lord Tokugawa. There were other men around Tokugawa, all dressed in splendor and with colorful robes of state.

A large crowd gathered to view the parade of samurai and horses. Mari thought it surprising so many people were assembled this early in the morning. But of course the presence of Lord Tokugawa would have drawn all the officials from around the countryside and their appearance before the lord would have been necessary for future favor with the great Lord.

Suddenly a low toned horn blew in the distance, and all the women craned their necks to see where the sound  came from. Soon the horn’s plaintive notes sounded nearer. A long horn came into view, carried on the shoulders of two men with a third blowing fiercely, his cheeks puffed out like apples with each tone he made. Behind him, numerous drummers. As they came up the long winding street in front of the platform, they were followed by many men walking two abreast, dressed in ceremonial robes. Then followed the mounted samurai. At the head of these samurai was Lord Mori. He was astride a white horse, this beast decorated with red ropes and tassels. Lord Mori did not wear his robes of state, but  a white shawl was thrown over the left shoulder. He carried a long bow in his left hand, and a quiver of long arrows was fixed to the back of his saddle on the right side. Lord Mori led at least twenty mounted samurai, all  garbed in colorful robes and all with broad brimmed hats. More men walked behind the mounted horses and then came the column of  prisoners.

Mari’s heart beat hard in her breast and her stomach clenched in knots. He was serious! She had hoped he was just hounding her with a particular brand of cruelty, but he was serious. Mari’s face must have betrayed her horror, for Lady Nyo looked at her with a quizzical expression and tapped her on the hand with her closed fan.

“Lady Mari, you look like you have seen a ghost! What is wrong, why are you so distressed? Are you ill?”

Mari could barely focus on the words of Lady Nyo.

“Those are prisoners, those men in the parade?”

“Oh yes, Lady Mari, those are prisoners. They are greatly honored to be executed before the Lord Tokugama. I have heard they are very dangerous men. Some were taken in battle, but some have done great offenses, and they deserve to be killed. May the Gods show their families mercy.”

Mari stared at her friend, disbelief overcoming her like a huge wave. Was she to be an observer of the suffering of these men? And, at the hands of Lord Mori? What kind of beasts and monsters were these people around her?

The horn blew again and the drummers started their ponderous rhythm. An official on the platform was reading a proclamation. Mari could only understand a few of his words, but it seemed to be a greeting from the Lord Tokugama to the people in attendance. She looked for Lord Mori, and saw him still mounted on his horse, with men in attendance surrounding him.

Three prisoners were led by two men each to an erect stake. Mari saw them tied with their hands behind the stake, their bodies further bound with rope. They were also bound by the throat. They were about 70 feet apart, enough to draw an arrow, fit it to the bow and swiftly release it at a gallop. Mari tried to read their expressions, the ones she could see, but the men kept their eyes to the ground.

END of PART 1 of  Chapter Six.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008-2016

“Bhava Yoga”

August 15, 2016

Kohut-Bartels-LS-3

“Dawn Geese”, watercolor, jane Kohut-Bartels, 2006

 

Bhava Yoga

 

Morning’s roseate sky

Has been blasted away,

Branches now whirligigs

Swirl with a fierce southern wind

As windows rattle in frames.

 

A tattered umbrella

Shades from a relentless sun.

I listen to Bhava Yoga

The vibration of Love,

Where imagination meets

Memory in the dark.

Yet surrounding these soothing tones

The world outside this music

Conspires to disrupt, sweep away

All thought, reflection.

 

The fierce wind gets my attention.

I can not deny its primal force.

 

Still, the pulse of Bhava Yoga

Draws me within,

Feeds imagination with memory,

Calls forth something as enduring as the fury outside,

And I feel the pulse of the infinite.

==

We are like birds,

Clinging with dulled claws to

The swaying branches of life.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016

 

 

“The Kimono”, Chapter 5

August 12, 2016

 

 

My beautiful picture

 

PICT0069.JPG

Posted for Connie, who also loves kimono.

(A kimono I made from cloth from a quilting store. Lined with light green cotton.)

 

Summer Reading!  And why not?  We should slow down in the heat of summer and entertain ourselves.  I have always felt that writers are just storytellers who know how to type, and most importantly….we entertain ourselves with our words.

I started “The Kimono” in 2008, and dropped it for years.  Just recently I finished the novel, all 28 chapters and now I am going through the entire book, chapter by chapter, trying to fill in the worm holes.  Up to Chapter 5. Yahoo.

Mari is a 21st century Japanese/American, whose husband Steven is working for a large company in Kyoto. She buys a kimono in a strange shop, one that she can’t find again….and this kimono whips her back to the 16th century where she lands at the feet of a dangerous daimyo.  But he’s not controlling the kimono.  Something else is.

 

 

Chapter 5:

 

Early that morning Mari was dressed by the two women, Nyo and Idu. She was told she was to attend both Lords.

Mari had an attack of nerves. What in Hell was she supposed to do? Either she was entertainment for these two dangerous men, or she would be  breakfast. After last evening’s appearance, her knees knocking and mouth dry, she thought her days in front of Lord Tokugawa would be past. Apparently not.

Lady Nyo walked with Mari behind the men, as was proper. Those two ahead cast large shadows in the sunlight, their kimonos, robes and swords making them move like tanks. Slowly, but as dangerous.

Mari could almost forget those men as she looked about her in amazement.

Everywhere she looked she saw evidence of a highly developed esthetic. Gingko trees and small maples, other plantings she could not identify, were carefully placed. Small ponds, gravel walks and stones set in groups. Some, like huge boulders were set alone. Each stone was natural to its site.

Mari had read a small book on Japanese gardening, but this was from a modern perspective. She knew enough from inference to recognize each garden was an expression of the character of its owner, whether poet, warrior, philosopher, or priest. What Lord Mori was, Mari was not certain, but she thought perhaps he had all the above aspects. Nothing she had read gave a clue as to what a garden from the hand of a samurai-magician would look like. She glanced at the stones, wondered if at night they would get up and walk around. There was an old tale of an early emperor, well into his cups, who struck a large boulder in the middle of the road with his sword. It ran away.

She knew enough that a gardener, from whatever walk of life, tried to create not merely a place of beauty, but to convey a mood in the soul. She had read the earliest landscape gardeners were Buddhist monks who expressed abstract ideas like faith, piety and contentment with the design of their gardens. Ultimately, a dual purpose to their work: an expression of the mood of nature and that of man.

Mari was thinking of the landscape, listening with one ear to the chatter of the Lady Nyo. She wondered why  she understood Japanese? Was this part of the magic of the flying kimono? Or was it from something else? She listened to Lady Nyo whisper, her mouth hardly moving, about colors, and spring; less than small talk.

Suddenly, Lord Tokugawa stopped walking and turned around, his hands cradling his two swords.

“Lady Mari! Give us a poem on Lord Mori’s gardens. Surely a poet would have a verse upon approaching that pond over there!”

Lord Tokugawa threw out his hand towards a small pond, and Mari looked to where he pointed. It was just a small pond, but artfully tucked between willows with a maple on a very small island in the middle of the water.

Mari looked at Lord Mori. His face was blank, with just a small curve of his lips, barely a smile. He did lift his eyebrows to her in a questioning manner.

Mari bowed to Lord Tokugawa and also to Lord Mori. “If it would please you, Sir, I will need a little more walking in the fresh air this morning to collect my thoughts. I would not want to disappoint you with my poor attempts. I already see that Lord Mori’s gardens are very beautiful.”

Lord Tokugawa looked hard at her with his one eye, and laughed. Turning abruptly, he and Lord Mori continued to walk and talk in low voices. Mari and Lady Nyo followed, the Japanese woman finally silent. Mari could almost heart Lady Nyo’s heartbeat. She was so scared by the presence of the men. Perhaps she knew firsthand the violence of  men in this century.

Mari wondered what she could compose that would please both men. Lord Tokugawa had pointed out the pond. Surely something would come to mind, even if only an attempt at a verse.

She looked at its outline, the gentle surface like glass, the graceful willows trailing its fronds at the water’s edge. What caught her eye was the red miniature maple standing in the middle, with only a few crimson leaves remaining on its branches. There was something poignant in its isolation, or perhaps its solitude. Mari’s thoughts began to float outward to that tree in the water.

Lord Tokugawa stopped and turned. “Lady Mari, we are waiting for your verse.”

Mari bowed to Lord Tokugawa and took a deep breath.

 

“Surrounded by gentle nature

A man rests in contentment

But keeps his sword nearby.

A heart does not convey

The warning of a mouth.”

 

Lord Tokugawa remained quiet for a moment, seemingly to contemplate her words. Suddenly, he threw back his head and roared with laughter.

“Ah, Lord Mori, this one is worthy of breeding. She has wit and sense, uncommon in a woman. Perhaps she will produce many poets in the future. She is not too ugly in this morning light.”

Mari blushed and heard the soft gasp of Lady Nyo next to her. Lord Mori narrowed his eyes and contemplated the two women.

“You are correct, Lord Tokugawa. Perhaps she is not too ugly in this light.”

Mari could not resist raising her eyes to his face. Her glance was not lost on Lord Tokugawa.

“She does have spirit. However, she is a woman and needs the command of the whip. She has a boldness that might disrupt your peace if allowed to grow.”

Turning his back on the two women, the men continued to walk ahead.

“Lady Mari “, whispered Lady Nyo, her voice almost breathless with excitement. “Lord Tokugawa gives you great compliments. He is pleased with your verse as is our Lord Mori. You are found pleasing to both of them. You must compose more verse, and fast, for he might ask you again.”

Mari listened to her chatter with half an ear. “Perhaps she is not too ugly in this light.” If this was a compliment, she could do without.

After the morning’s walk among the gardens, she had returned to the women’s quarters. She was summoned to Lord Mori that evening where she found him working at his table. She was ushered into his room by two guards and stood there waiting for him to acknowledge her. Lord Mori was writing something with his brush, wetting the ink stone and stroking his brush across the ink. He spoke without looking up at her, his brush making strokes across the paper.

“So, Mari-who-is-married. How did you find Lord Tokugawa this morning? He was very liberal in his compliments. For both your verse and wit. I have not seen him before to so acknowledge a mere woman in his presence. You should feel greatly honored, Lady Mari.”

“Let me ask you, Lord Mori, if it so pleases you. Am I seen by you and Lord Tokugawa as a brood mare to produce little poets? This is very strange thinking to me, as I have not had children.

Lord Mori looked up, his brush suspended in the air, a look of surprise on his face.

“You have not been bred? What is wrong with your husband? Does he not think to breed you? Even an old man can produce children. What is the matter with you?

Mari thought his questioning rude and was about to say so. She checked her tongue.

“Lord Mori”, she began as one would with a child. “In my world a woman has many options, and one of these is the decision to have children or not. My husband is very involved with his work and thinks children will be an interference in his career.

Lord Mori’s expression of surprise was now replaced with one of confusion. “What is the issue here? A woman’s place in the world is to produce heirs. It is not such an onerous task. The wife is naijo. Do you understand this? It means ‘the inner help’. You are slave to your husband, and he is slave to his authorities, whoever is above him. This is the order of life. You turn the children over to the servants and you have your freedom to attend your Master’s desires. What is wrong with your world, Mari, that you can’t see this for yourself?”

Mari considered his words. There was such distance between them so there was no easy answer. Steven’s stubbornness about this very issue was one of true conflict. She thought of all those mornings and afternoons when she walked the streets, watching the couples, families with strollers and children racing around parks chasing each other. She felt the emptiness of her arms when she saw mothers holding their children. She could even feel the emptiness of her own womb.

 

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008-2016

“Ode to a Cooper’s Hawk”, posted for d’verse poets….

August 9, 2016

Image result for cooper's hawk

ODE TO A COOPERS HAWK

 

Come to me.

Come to me,

Winged celestial beauty.

Come to me with your notched

Mermaid tail,

Your silken roll of feathers.

Fly down into my hollowed-out soul,

Fill me with your sun-warmed glory

Nestle in my arms

And bring the curve of the horizon

Embraced in your outstretched wings.

 

I need no white bearded prophet,

No mumbled prayer, no gospel song

No hard church bench, no fast or

Festival to feel close to the Divine.

 

 

The glory of the universe,

Is embodied in your flight

As you tumble through heavens,

Ride the invisible thermals

Screech with joy at freedom

Fill your lungs with thin air

And play bumper car with an Eagle.

 

I, earthbound,

No hollowed bones to launch me,

Just tired soul weighed down,

No soft plumage feeling the course

Of wind through glossy feathers,

No hunting call to herald my presence.

 

Still,

My soul takes flight

The breeze lifts my spirit,

My eyes follow you,

And we will find that glory-

Transcend a sullen earth

Transcend a mean humanity

And soar together into the blue eye of God.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016

“The Children of Aleppo”

August 9, 2016

The Token Rose

 

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 houses

Of friends who have fled the city.

There they find abandoned teddy bears

While looking for guns for the rebels, their fathers.

 

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.

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 surviving 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, 2014-2016

Yesterday a bombing of a hospital in Quetta, Pakistan.  Today the children of Aleppo still have no water, food or secure escape from a city that is pulled apart by violent forces of war.  How many children will be sacrificed? The children of the Holocaust and the Muslim children today are our ‘lost’ generation.  Muslim and Jew, no difference, death is not picky.

Peace, Love, Unity: A Message from the Rio Olympics

August 6, 2016

Baba 1

 

 

Lady of Shallot rose

 

Peace, Love, Unity. A message from the Rio Olympics

Last night I watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. I was moved to tears seeing the 10,000 people who are there for the games and the 100,000’s of thousands there in support. Just seeing the different faces, races, ages, countries, flags moved me. In this day of age, where we are under so many negative mesages and fears: Islamic Terrorism, the election circus of two fools, the devestating lost of life in these terrorist attacks, the apprehension of more and in our own cities…well, it is too much.

Seeing the Refugees section, where these people have continued to train and work hard to get to the Olympics is something to hold high. In the face of no shoes for the track runners, no pools for the swimmers, having to ‘make do’ with conditions that Americans and Europeans would not tolerate, it broke through my cynicism.

The messages of hope from this Olympics: Peace in the time of War and upheaval, Love in the time of hatred and division, Unity in the times where we are so divided by so many things….This gladdens my heart.

And…the relatively ‘low tech’ (considering previous Olympics) of the Rio Olympics….and the Salsa Party….was the way to go. There is a humanism in this Rio Olympics that brings Unity to the whole shebang.

May it continue on and through the Olympics.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016

 


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