“Nut”, a choka, posted for dversepoets.com

August 30, 2016

To Sanna :  your moon poem of yesterday was marvelous.  Tried many times to post on your blog but it wasn’t taking my wordpress account.  So….sent you an email…and the DEMON returned it.  Just wanted you to know that I read and loved your poem.  I don’t have a twitter account, but your blog and email shouldn’t have done what it did….however, your poems are consistently strong and evocative.  Just wanted you to know!

Jane

 

Cover painting for "Pitcher of Moon"

was to be the cover painting for “Pitcher of Moon” but didn’t work out.

 

I am the Temple

of the Universe at night.

I am Goddess Nut

I spread my body over

the dark, silky sky

and the Sun is born from my

open mouth at dawn, each day.

 

 

Invisible Moon

crawls into my bowels at dawn

as does brother Sun

at night when his glory dimmed

and I cradle both

within me their majestic

glory now dulled down

until the release of them

thrown high up into the sky.

 

 

I am the keeper.

All Celestial bodies

I, the nourisher

of life and death that passes

I, Nut, sleep at day

my stars and I well hidden

by the birth of Sun

but courted by Geb, Earth God

who sucks the night dew

from my two breasts with sweet lips

reaching with his maleness

makes the Earth fertile with love

and the universe fruitful.

 

 

I am the River

where planets and stars sail through

on their skyward journey

the celestial travail.

My Houri marks time

passage of cosmic travel

discarding their veils

til naked at dawn, retire

on the horizon.

They sleep once again under

My belly and gathered near.

 

I am the passage

I am the Keeper of Souls

I am mystery.

My presence lends fear to man

I touch eyes with sleep

I round out the universe

dark fulsome Night.

I am Nut.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014-2016

(from “Pitcher of Moon”, published by Amazon.com, 2014)

917ce-pitcher

‘The Temptation of Lady Nyo, from “Song of the Nightingale”

August 29, 2016

Song Book cover

 

Does he know?

Does he know?

Does he know about the letters?

 

The court of Lord Mori

Was a small one

Where the men,

Lord Nyo included

Sat and discussed business:

The pleasurable business of hunting,

Archery, drinking

And on occasion,

Just for form’s sake,

Wrote bad poetry.

 

The women of course

Were positioned behind carved screens,

Where the eagle-eyed Lady Mori,

An old and rice-powdered dragon

Conducted her own court of

Writing more bad poetry, finger games

And layering sleeves and hems for the

Best effects…unseen by anyone else–

Except the other women.

 

There was a break in this

Unending monotony one day;

Lady Nyo received poems

From some unknown admirer

Stuffed in different places where

She would find them:

Her screen at court,

On her silk, embroidered cushion,

And even penned on her fan.

She never knew who was so bold,

Never saw even a glimmer of him-

He could have been a ghost.

She recorded her answers in her journal

So she could have evidence of her innocence

Yet she buried his poems in the garden under

A bed of peonies.

She could not bear to burn them.

 

Japanese Women

 

 

1.

Yesterday I found a fan with a poem

Stuck in the screen.

Today I found another one placed

On my cushion at court.

Do you have a death wish?

Do you desire the death of me?

You know my husband is known for his temper.

Would I end my life so dishonored?

 

2.

I see you are as persistent

As the rain in Spring.

Have you no fear?

What is your interest?

Surely I am just another painted face.

 

3.

I read your poem.

I could do nothing else.

This time it was inked upon

MY fan.

 

4.

“The wind blows from the north

Chilling my heart.

Only the thought of a touch of your sleeve

Warms me.”

Very nice, but my sleeves are not interested.

 

5.

“I throw acorns

To the darting carp.

With each nut I say a

Prayer for your health.”

Lovely sentiment, and I am

Always grateful for prayers.

But do you think of my reputation

And what you risk?

 

6.

I see no poetry this morning

Though I searched for your usual offering.

I knew your interest was as capricious

As a flight of moths.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011, 2016

 

 

Some Garden Produce of the summer…..

August 28, 2016

Garden peaches, 2016.JPG

 

The garden has suffered from the lack of rain, and the tomatoes peaked too early, but the peppers are beautiful and uneatable…at least by me.  Beautiful, glowing red and HOT.  The peaches, glorious globes of dawn clouds color, we bought at the State Farmer’s Market in South Atlanta,….for preserves.   Made about 6 jars of preserves….great  on whole mile yoghurt.

Jane

Garden peppers 2016.JPG

“A Bad Quarrel”, from “Song of the Nightingale”

August 26, 2016

Song Book cover

I should have looked at the manuscript before I posted yesterday’s verse for d’versepoets pub.  Apparently I had forgotten this episode.  So….I’m posting it now.  It ‘fleshes out’ a bit about Lady Nyo and her husband.

 

“A BAD QUARREL”

 

Life with Lord Nyo was not easy. A general in the service of his Daimyo Lord Mori, his life was not his own. For thirty years he had devotedly served him, leading men onto the battlefield, his two swords cutting a swath through the enemy. Most battles he was away from his home and wife for months. When his Lord Daimyo took it into his head to raid other territory, Lord Nyo could be gone for as long as a year.

Lady Nyo, as was expected, was an obedient wife, devoted to her Lord husband and their Daimyo. But life was tumultuous with Lord Nyo. Almost two decades of marriage had frayed the warp and weave of this fabric and patience had become thin.

After a bad quarrel initiated by Lord Nyo (who had a temper as dangerous as black powder), Lady Nyo took to her journal, and in a curious code, composed herself and wrote some poems for her eyes only. Those poor eyes were swollen from sleeplessness and excessive tears, but her mind was as steady as a well-shot arrow. Even her nursemaid, her lifelong confident, could not read her code, for in these things Lady Nyo trusted no one.

If not proper to express anger to her husband, the leaves of her journal would not deny. They would hold her sentiments and even the great Lord Jizo would smile with mercy on her troubled soul.

With no solace or comfort except for the journal, she carefully buried it beneath the azaleas in the garden. Perhaps the sweet smelling flowers in early spring would dissolve the rancor burrowing in her heart.

1.

My soul was blossoming secure in your protective shadow. I stumbled upon this road we walked and all was suddenly lost. Perhaps the fault was I did not tightly grip your hand?

2.

Like a ghost under water only the moon gives illumination. Throw a pebble there and see how fragmented I am.

3.

I can’t look in the mirror when I awake. (My eyes swollen with last night’s sobs– my pillow filled like a lake.) If I could turn back the hands of the clock, I would give up those moments of life To restore lost harmony…. But I dare not look this morning.

4.

It is raining outside, It is raining within. Do you think I care about that? What happened has disrupted all the essentials of life.

5.

Who opened the window? Who let the bees in? They are the life I am avoiding. Their legs have honey on them! Too sweet for my present mind.

Outside is a tender spring. Inside it might as well be winter. There is no warmth generated by memory.

7.

I am told this is a little death I will have to bear. Perhaps I don’t want it to end? Then the thought of living without you Or the threat of living With you….. Would upset my self- pity.

8.

There is nothing from you today but then, it was I who moved afar. I did this from self-hatred and found there was enough to spread around.

9.

When I get to the anger you will know I am recovering. Not nicely, there will always be scars and jagged edges tokens of our time together. Do you feel any of this pain? No, perhaps not.

10.

My laughter is as hollow as that stricken tree by the pond. I have not laughed for a long time. It strangles in my throat.

11.

This morning I awoke the first time in days Everything sharp-edged– Eyes were hardened steel, Mouth a grim line of dead cinders…. But my hands are now steady.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011-2016  Song of the Nightingale is published by Amazon.com, 2015

 

 


 

‘Lord Nyo’s Lament’, from “Song of the Nightingale”

August 25, 2016

 Shawna and many others:  I’m having a hard time posting on sites…..but know I will keep trying…the poetry of you all is wonderful, and I just wanted you to know that I am reading.  Jane….wordpress doesn’t seem to be working on many sites lately.

This is #3 in 13 episodes from “Song of the Nightingale”.  A tale of two early 17th century Japanese couple, not young, and suffering some of the same issues of marriage that centuries later still exist.

Song_of_the_Nightingale_COVER

(Cover painting by Jane Kohut-Bartels, wc, 2015)

 

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 by Amazon.com, 2015)

 

 

 

“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


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