Some Spring Tanka….

May 20, 2017

Rose Garden April 2017

(New Rose Garden this spring)

It is hot and sultry, too early for summer, still spring, but behaving badly nonetheless.  I was sitting on the back porch listening to the mourning doves who have returned and the tree frog in the front yard.  The bull frog in the pond hasn’t returned or surfaced yet, or probably one of the dogs has killed him.  I hope not for these sounds of spring and summer soothe the savage breast of an unhappy urban dweller.


A mourning dove cries

It is such a mournful sound

Perhaps a fierce owl

Has made it a widow.

Oh! It breaks my heart, her cry.

=

“Mist drifts in waves

Ribbon-ing maple branches

The rising of moon

Make Egrets shimmer silver-

Gauzy ghosts of nothingness.”

Cranes wheeled in the sky

Their chiding cries fell to hard earth

Warm mid winter day

A pale half moon calls the birds

To stroke her face with soft wings.

=

Like the lithe bowing

Of a red maple sapling

My heart turns to you,

Yearns for those nights long ago

When pale skin challenged the moon.

Thin, silken breezes

Float upon a green-ribbon

Of spring—pale season.

Scent of lilies, myrtle, plum

Arouse bees from slumber.

Out with the gold fish,

The bullfrogs croak their sorrow.

Summer is passing

Autumn brings sharp, brittle winds

But Winter is the cruelest.

A late Summer moon

Floats above the conifers.

Mosquitoes thicken.

Do pines know the season turns?

Their leaves don’t fall; do they know?

 –

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

 

 

“Song of the Nightingale”, Episode 3

May 16, 2017

Source: “Song of the Nightingale”, Episode 3

Lord Nyo’s Lament, from “Song of the Nightingale”, Episode 3.

May 16, 2017

images (9)

 

Lord Nyo’s Lament

 

Oh my wife!

My feet take me over mountains

In the service to our lord

But my heart stays tucked in the bosom

Of your robe.

Lady Nyo, circa 2015

 

 

The song of the arrow

As it arced into the sea

Was as tuneless

As a badly strung samisen.

 

Gun- metal clouds

Stretched across a dull horizon

The sun still asleep

As he should be

His quiver empty

His heart, too.

 

When had the callousness of life and death

Become as comfortable as breath to him?

He had become too much the warrior

And too little the man.

 

His distance from his wife,

From most of life

Was as if some unseen object

Kept them ten paces apart.

Perhaps it was the cloud-barrier

Of earthly lusts which obscured

The Sun of Buddha?

 

 

Perhaps he should pray.

What God would listen?

Then it came to him

That joker of a Buddha, Fudo

With his rope to pull him from Hell

And his sword to cut through foolishness-

Fudo would listen.

Fudo knew the quaking hearts

The illusions embraced

To stomach the battlefield

The fog of drink,

To face life

In the service of Death.

Fudo would save him from

The yellow waters of Hell.

 

He remembered those years

When she could bring him to his knees

With the promise of dark mystery

Between silken thighs,

And the glimpse of her white wrist-

A river of passion

Just beneath the surface.

How he had steeled his heart

Believing himself unmanned

For the love she induced!

 

Three cranes flew low to the shore,

Legs streaming like black ribbons behind.

Three cranes, three prayers, three chances

To find his way back

Bound up in Fudo’s ropes,

Prodded in the ass by Fudo’s sword.

 

He would write a poem

On a bone-white fan

To leave on her cushion.

She would know his love

She would know his sorrow.

 

The sea took his arrows

Beyond the breakers,

The glint of sleek feathers

Catching thin rays of light.

An unexpected peace came over him

As they journeyed far from his hands.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011, 2016 (Song of the Nightingale was published on Amazon in 2015 and can be bought online)

 

 

 

 

“The Stillness of Death”, Episode 2 of “Song of the Nightingale”

May 12, 2017

Song_of_the_Nightingale_COVER

Continuing on with the story……

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 like 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 , 2015, “Song of the Nightingale” can be bought on Amazon.com

 

 

“Song of the Nightingale” introduction…..

May 10, 2017

Song_of_the_Nightingale_COVER

 

In 2015, I wrote and published on Amazon.com “Song of the Nightingale”.  It’s a story in 13 episodes of a man and wife in 16th century Japan, he a general in a daimyo’s army and she fully half his age.  Obviously an arranged marriage.

I loved this story and apparently others did, too, but I never really concentrated on this book because life got in the way, along with other writing.  So, I am going to post some of the episodes on this blog just for entertainment and hopefully for  interest in the entire book.  A Moon Baby appears, a rather nasty Tengu priest, and other issues that involved 16th century life in Japan.  Lord Nyo refers to himself as ‘an ugly old warrior’, but his heart, immersed in war for so long, does begin to soften and attend to his wife, Lady Nyo, who is smarter than she appears.

Lady Nyo (but not the one in the book.)

 

Introduction to “The Nightingale’s Song”

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 a year. 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.

 

“Metamorphosis VII and VIII”

May 8, 2017

Image result for fruit bats

Common Fruit Bat…..

I forgot to conclude this series.  These are the last two ‘episodes’ in the Metamorphosis Series.  Silly Gorean references……’

Lady Nyo

Metamorphosis 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 kneeling on her knees, lips parted seductively, naked. 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.

Metamorphosis VIII

“Greetings Laura”.

Bart Bartowski spotted Laura reading at the dining room table as he fluttered into the room.

Laura looked up from “Kajira Daily” and stared at him. He saluted her with his right hand thumping his left shoulder.

“You still playing at Gorean stuff, Bart?”

“Not playing, Laura. I’m convinced John Norman is a visionary.”

“Oh Bart,” said Laura, flipping through the magazine and turning it sideways to view the Kajira of the Month.   “John Norman is a terrible writer, what makes you think he’s any better at Philosophy? Plus, those Gor books are old. And you know my knees are bad.”

Bart opened his mouth to argue, then clamped it shut.

“Gorean bats don’t debate with kajiras. Get me orange juice, girl.”

“Good idea, Bart. Make it two,” said Laura studying slave jewelry on the model.

“Ah come on, pleaseeee Laura, honey? Can’t you pretend I’m a Gorean bat for a few moments? You never play with me.”

Laura started laughing.

“Ah, Bart? Gorean bats don’t beg.”

Bart glowered at Laura. Then his wings sagged.

“Tell you what, Bart. You’re a fruit bat, right?”

Laura wiggled her peach-fuzzy butt.

“So bite me.”

 

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

 

 

 

 

Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827)A Haiku Poet with Enormous Heart.

May 7, 2017

 

My beautiful picture

My beautiful picture

(Dawn to the East, cellphone)

=

I have had “The Essential haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa” for a few years and have only really gotten to Basho. But recently reading Issa, (Issa means Cup-of-Tea), the world of haiku opened up in ways I didn’t expect.

What is remarkable about Issa’s poetry is the compassion for the lowest of creatures (insects, etc.), the deep interest in the commonalities of life, compassion for humanity, and the celebration of the joyful celebration of the ordinary.

Haiku can be a perplexing poetry form. Recently I have read a lot of bad haiku. I’ve written about this before. (I’ve also written bad haiku myself) It seems people throw together observations and call it haiku. It generally isn’t. There are ‘rules’ and structures for this poetry form, and it seems that many people who attempt haiku have no regard for even reading or researching some of these fundamentals. If they started with a reading and research of renga, they would get some background of haiku, or hokku, which is what haiku was first called.

Renga, or linked verse, is marvelous to read. One poet starts with a three line poem, another picks it up, and so on. They can go on for a hundred linked poems or more. Usually accompanied by sake.

What was remarkable of renga, and later of haiku…is the shifts and dissolves that remind one of early surrealist films. And there are some modernist poets, like Ezra Pound’s XXX Cantos, or even better, Wallace Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” that comes near to the renga spirit, this shifting and resolve.

But the Buddhist tradition embraced this shifting and resolve. Renga, and then haiku, have a way of embracing this life, this transitory nature of all things.

I came across a part of a 14th century treatise on poetry: “Contemplate deeply the vicissitudes of the life of man and body, always keep in your heart the image of mujo (ephemerality) and when you go to the mountains or the sea, feel the pathos (aware) of the karma of sentient beings and non-sentient things. Give feeling to those things without a heart (mushintai no mono) and through your own heart express their beauty (yugen) in a delicate form.”(from “Basho and the Way of Poetry in the Japanese Religious Tradition”)

Again, haiku isn’t as simple as it seems. But it’s direct, forceful and of a keenness that satisfies.

People complain of the ‘oddness’ of haiku. Perhaps it is this ‘shifts and resolve’ embedded in the form. To me, Issa has less of this than Basho or Buson. There is a directness and compassion of Issa that deeply involves the heart and eyes.

My words will not convince anyone. But perhaps examples of Issa will.

Lady Nyo

Haiku of Issa: from The Essential Haiku, edited by Robert Hass

 

New Year’s Day—

Everything is in blossom!

I feel about average.

The snow is melting

And the village is flooded

With children.

Don’t worry, spiders,

I keep house

Casually.

Goes out,

Comes back—

The loves of a cat.

Children imitating cormorants

Are even more wonderful

Than cormorants.

O flea! Whatever you do,

Don’t jump.

That way is the river.

In this world

We walk on the roof of hell,

Gazing at flowers.

Don’t kill that fly!

Look—it’s wringing its hands

Wringing its feet.

I’m going out,

Flies, so relax,

Make love.

(approaching his village)

Don’t know about the people,

But all the scarecrows

Are crooked.

A huge frog and I,

Staring at each other,

Neither of us moves.

All the time I pray to Buddha

I keep on

Killing mosquitoes.

What good luck!

Bitten by

This year’s mosquitoes too.

The bedbug

Scatter as I clean,

Parents and children.

=

And my personal favorite…

Zealous flea,

You’re about to be a Buddha

By my hand.

A few of my own, struggling with the form.

Dogwoods are blooming.

The crucifixion appears

White moths in the night.

Tibetan earthworms

Bring a halt to all labor.

Here? Fat koi eat well.

Soft rains caress earth

A hand slides up a soft thigh.

Cherry blossoms bloom.

Sorrow floats like air

Strong winds blow throughout the night

Plague of death descends.

Pale lavender sky

Balances the moon and sun

The scale shifts to night.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

“Call and Answer to Ono no Komachi”

May 1, 2017

kohut-bartels-bop-6

(J Kohut-Bartels,  1995, ‘Birds’, watercolor)

Tonight is OLN (Open Link Night) at dversepoets pub.  I don’t know who is tending the bar tonight because I am posting this early, but they are sure to give a good reading of poems there and a stiff drink to boot.

“Call and Answer” is a work in progress…my attempt to riff in verse with Ono no Komachi.  One of my very favorite poets of any age.  She was a fascinating person and poet.  I included an essay on her in the ‘essay section’ of “Song of the Nightingale”, published 2015.  She is slippery, though.  Different translations of the same poem can give a variation in message.  I have found, for her, the best translations are done by Hirshfield and Aratani.  Jane Hirshfield became a mentor to me, of sorts, when I first started writing tanka.  From her it was: “Good start. Still not tanka yet.”  This was helpful.

Lady Nyo

=–=

 

 

Did he appear

Because I fell asleep

Thinking of him?

If only I’d known I was dreaming

I’d never have awakened.

…..Komachi

 

How long will it last?

I know not his hidden heart.

This morning my thoughts

Are as tangled as my hair.

My blushes turn my face dark.”

……Lady Nyo (from “Kimono”, work in progress…)

 

When my desire

Grows too fierce

I wear my bed clothes

Inside out,

Dark as the night’s rough husk.

……Komachi

No moon tonight

Only a cold wind visits.

Murasaki robe

Stained the color of grass

Invisible on this earth.

……Lady Nyo   (Murasaki is the color purple.  it is also a grass that has dark lavender tops.  It was used as a dye.)

 

At least no one can blame me

When I go to you at night

Along the road of dreams.

……Komachi

Come to me, my man,

Part the blinds, come into my arms,

Snuggle against my warm breast

Let my belly

Warm your dreams.

…..Lady Nyo

 

One of her most famous poems:

 

No way to see him

On this moonless night—

I lie awake longing, burning,

Breasts racing fire,

Heart in flames.

…..Komachi

 

When my need denied

Burns my breasts-torments me

I tear open robes

To lie naked in moonlight

The wind your hands, caressing

……Lady Nyo

 

 

Night deepens

With the sound of calling deer,

And I hear

My own one-sided love.’

…..Komachi

 

Autumn wind startles–

Lowered to an ominous

     Key—Ah! Mournful sounds!

     The fat mountain deer listen-

   Add their bellowing sorrow.

…..Lady Nyo

 

The cicadas sing

In the twilight

Of my mountain village—

Tonight, no one

Will visit save the wind.

…..Komachi

 

Tonight, foxes scream

Cued by a howling wind.

Maple leaves quilting

A lonely time of season

No one to share the moonlight.

……Lady Nyo

 

 

 

A diver does not abandon

A seaweed-filled bay.

Will you then turn away

From this floating, sea-foam body

That waits for your gathering hands?

…..Komachi

 

So lonely am I

My soul like a floating weed

Severed at the roots

Drifting upon cold waters

No pillow for further dreams.

…..Lady Nyo

 

 

Is this love reality

Or a dream?

I cannot know,

When both reality and dreams

Exist without truly existing.

…..Komachi

 

Dreams, reality

How can one truly know?

I stumble through dreams

I stagger through the lost days

Tell me: what has more substance?

…..Lady Nyo

Ono no Komachi just begs for a call and answer.  Her poetry is sublime.  I just had to take this opportunity.  She inspires on the deepest level.

All Komachi poems were compiled from the Man’yoshu and the book, “The Ink Dark Moon”, by Hirshfield and Aratani.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

Rose Garden in the Spring…..

April 29, 2017

coRose Garden April 2017

 

We’ve been working on this rose garden for two years and finally it’s taking flight.  The New Dawn roses are old, probably 15 years old, and lucky for us, they were far apart enough to set the seated arbor last year.  Most of the roses are varieties:  David Austin Roses, others I can’t remember having been transplanted from different parts of the property, and these patio roses that will take over the landscape and certainly a contained rose garden.

Though the patio roses don’t have much scent, the English roses do, and species like Graham Thomas and Madame Carriere on the side of the house and now 15 feet high, are highly scented.

Trying to grow grass between plants, but so far the only thing I have been able to grow under the roses is catnip.  I mixed blueberry (in pots ) with the border roses because they both seem to like each other.

Of course, this being Georgia, we have to contend with red clay, but ta-da!  Roses like clay…a mixture of good soil and clay.  The clay feeds into minerals the roses need.  I throw in coffee grounds and chicken manure from my 8 chickens …I don’t care if it is ‘hot’ .  After a few days it’s not.  Chicken manure and feathers are some of the very best rose food, and if you look at the ingredients of the most expensive rose food, like Osmocote… you will see this in the first few ingredients.

I need to find bee balm to plant within the spaces of the roses….it will help with pollination and hopefully will transfer to the veggie garden.  Last year, Fred bought one of those ‘get rid of your mosquitoes sprays….and overnight…there were hundreds of dead honey bees out there…around the flowering catnip plants.  I sat on the steps and cried.  This will never happen here again.  Catnip really brought the honey bees around…a precious and endangered pollinator.  I am trying to do everything I can to promote the pollinators.  Planted what I thought was butterfly bushes (stupid Home Depot) and I have yet to see any blooms.  I want to put a bee skept in the garden just to see if I can provide a home for bees.  But I don’t want to get stung. Nor do the cats…..

Lady Nyo

Lady of Shallot.jpg

Fred’s hand around a Lady of Shallot…very sweet scented.

My beautiful picture

My beautiful picture

Blurred closeup of the New Dawn Roses…..they smell like Ivory Soap!

H

 

blueberry bush in rose garden.jpg

Haven’t a clue why some of my pix are coming out on their sides…but this is a blueberry (potted) bush laden with blueberries, not ripe yet, but soon.  Rabbit’s Eye I think.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, April 29, 2017

“I Remember…” Albert Kohut, 1915-1989.

April 27, 2017

Source: “I Remember…” Albert Kohut, 1915-1989.


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