“All the Old Men are Gone”…

November 27, 2020

All the Old Men Are Gone

All the old men with beautiful manners are gone.

They, with courtly manners

who brush their lips over your hand

who look up the white pillar of arm

meet eyes with sweet kindness or desire-

Are gone.

The Hungarians, Italians and Russians

who murmur into faces

and translate with twinkling spheres,

a desire found ‘deep in their hearts’

or perhaps like a well-oiled

Casanova, who glides across

the room and anchors your vanity to his side.

You are glad for the flirtation,

it makes the stomach flip,

it brightens everything-

Life Suddenly Worth Living

If even for the evening

or a few hours until dawn

you are young and desirable once more.

The light came forth from dull shadows

like diamonds thrown onto mirrors

the room is a crystal ball spinning

with a magnum of champagne watering the darkness,

a dizzy waltz that flings the heart into the Cosmos.

An explosion of Light that banishes the Darkness.

They are all gone.

Replaced with new manners

like flat champagne,

a dullness behind the eyes

capturing nothing and inspiring less-

This has replaced all the old men with beautiful manners

for they are gone and mostly forgotten

except by those who remember and damn well know

what is missing.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 21, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 21, 2020

A Thanksgiving Memory

(Not a Turkey…..)

Happy Thanksgiving!

My father was a tender man.  He came back from WWII, from the Pacific Rim, probably shell shocked, certainly a pacifist.

It was somewhere in the 1950′s.    My parents had bought their dream house: a very old, and badly- needing- restoration pre-Revolutionary War house.  My father, along with my 9 months pregnant mother, moved into this house and began the necessary restoration.  I remember my brother and I were bedded down in what was to be the dining room.

Both my parents were biting off probably more than they could chew with this property.  There were two barns, a few sheds, and lo and behold!  An outhouse.  That was the toilet…the only toilet.

My mother, being city bred, and also so heavily pregnant, refused to use that black walnut-built two seater outhouse, and since it was already winter, who could blame her?  My father worked nights  putting in a proper bathroom, and peace reigned again.  Sort of.

(Black walnut is beautiful wood, and since they were surrounded with acres of it, that particular wood was used for just about everything, including the beautiful curving banister in the front hall.  My father also tore apart the outhouse and used some of the wood in constructing a cabinet under the back staircase,  accessible from the kitchen.  It was a great place for us to play hide and seek as children.) The uppies who bought the house in 1994 tore out that beautiful cabinet and junked it.  They also cut down the old kitchen chimney and then complained when it didn’t draw properly.  Stupid clucks.

Thanksgiving was coming one year, and my father decided he would buy a live turkey, fatten it up and slaughter it for the day.  I vaguely remember going with him one night, when it was already dark and cold,  and what I remember was  a very large, dark room, lit by a bare bulb hardly casting light  on the proceedings.  If I remember correctly, it probably was a poultry farm somewhere in Middlesex County, probably in Millstone.  Back in the 50′s and 60′s, five miles from Princeton, all of this area was farm country.  Very old, English, Scottish then Dutch countryside with huge acreage of farms, dairy and grains.

So my father brings home a live turkey, and with two  kids and a toddler, he thinks he is going to make “Tom” dinner.

My father soon realized  his now-country- bred children had made friends with Tom and the idea of eating a friend, well, this wasn’t on the menu for us kids.

My mother wasn’t about to pluck or clean a turkey.  She didn’t like to even touch fish to be cooked. Actually, she didn’t like touching people.

So Tom went to Ham MacDonald in Rocky Hill.  He had 12 children and I am sure Tom served the purpose he was bred for very nicely there.

My father went to his friend in Millstone, Chester, who was a  butcher, and got a goose.  I think he decided on goose because of the quick disappearance of Tom and he knew any turkey carcass showing up on a plate would have been suspect.

So that  Thanksgiving we had goose, which was rather strange because Thanksgiving wasn’t called “Goose Day”.

My father was a tender man.  Perhaps WWII and the times had made him tender.  Perhaps having children made him see life through our eyes.  Some men become harder faced with life.  I think it was because of his nature.  He practiced compassion, even to the sensitivities of children.

He was a rare adult, and we now realized it as we became adults.  He practiced Unconditional Love wherever he cast his eyes. Something I don’t think most Christians practice.  At least not in my experience.  He didn’t believe in a God, never went to church, but was the finest man I ever knew looking back. I am thankful my dear husband of 35 years is the same.

Happy Thanksgiving!

“Tsuki” a sequel to “Kimono”

November 19, 2020

Sequel to Kimono…

Dusk had fallen.  Lord Yoki and Tsuki, ducked out the back entrance from the temple to the pond.  There a stand of trees shaded the pond and covered their presence.  Lord Yoki knew he would be in trouble if found, but the frogs were calling.  Plus, the taste of frog legs was in his mouth all day.

Young Tsuki, the son of Lord Tetsu, was seven years old.  Lord Yoki was much older and wiser, but he was bored with the recitation of sutras that held him captive every day.  Lord Yoki couldn’t read, plus he was a Tengu, and birds don’t favor literature.  Nor do they recite sutras.

Lord Yoki was the tutor to the young Tsuki.  Appointed by Lord Tetsu, the former daimyo who had abdicated his position to another long time friend and ally, Lord Ekei.  Now he was in exile on a western coast of upper Japan, low on the side of a mountain.

Lord Yoki’s kimono was wet from the pond. He fell in, overreaching with his gigging spear.  Tsuki followed him, excitedly thrashing the calm waters with his. Pond scum coated their clothes and Lord Yoki, once back on the bank, looked at his charge.  There would be Hell to pay if Lord Tetsu caught them.

“Come, young master. I’ll take the basket and have it delivered to the kitchen.  You go clean up and change your kimono.  Your mother will have my head if she sees you in such a state.”

Tsuki entered their house and looking for his father, saw him on the balcony.  Bowing lowly, he addressed his stern father.

“Father, I am home.”

Lord Tetsu turned and looked for a long moment at his son.

“I see. And I also see that you have been in the pond again.  What was it this time?  Carp or frogs?”

Tsuki blushed and bowed even lower.  “Father, I can’t help it.  The frogs this time were calling to me.”

“Oh Ho!  Were they looking to hear the sutras or did you read them to the frogs?”

Tsuki looked confused.  “Father, you know that these kappa relatives don’t like to hear sutras.  They only want to hear each other croak.”

Lord Tetsu started to smile broadly.  His son was full of answers this evening, but his punishment would be mild.

“If that be the case, then you, Tsuki, recite a poem on what you and the frogs were doing out there.”

“It wasn’t only me, Father.  Lord Yoki was with me.”

“So I have two to blame for this?   Lord Yoki is his own man, so he is to be excused….but you, my son are still under my thumb.”

Tsuki looked crestfallen and dropped his eyes to the floor.  He had betrayed his friend Lord Yoki.  He already knew that his tutor would never do this to him. He had covered his antics many times.

“Father, can I have some time to compose this frog poem?”

Lord Tetsu glared at his son.  “You can have dinner after you compose your poem.”

Tsuki knew he couldn’t compose in such a short time.  He was not too keen on poetry, even short ones.  They made him cross his eyes and stick out his tongue in the attempt..  Plus, he was hungry.  He bowed to his father and went to his room.  Ah, his father was a renown poet, as was his m other, Lady Mari.  He, however, strained his brains to come up with even a short one.

“Bull frogs, Bull frogs”.  Nothing came to mind.  Perhaps he could seek out his tutor, as Lord Yoki was quick of mind.

Tsuki slipped down a hall where his tutor had rooms.  When he was allowed entrance to Lord Yoki’s rooms, they always smelled strange.  This time was no different.

He bowed low at the shoji and spied his tutor laying spread eagle on his bed.  Even his bed was different and strange.  It was like the futon was a pile of sticks and twigs with a quilt thrown over it all.

Lord Yoki sat up and nodded to the boy.  He had not changed his gown and it still was stained with pond scum.

“What is it now, young master?”

“Honorable Tutor.  My father perceived that I was gigging frogs again in the north pond.”

“And is that so unusual, son?  You spend as much time in that pond as you do in the temple at your lessons.”

“Yes, that is true, my Lord.  But frogs sing a different song than those boring sutras.  Plus you can eat them where you can’t eat a sutra.”

“So! What is it this time? What is the punishment your Lord Father demands?”

“My lord, he demands a poem about bullfrogs.  I can’t think of an opening line”.

“I bet you can’t think of a middle and closing line, neither”

Tsuki put on a sad, mournful face.  “Honorable Tutor.  Will you help me?  My father has forbidden me to eat my dinner until I present a poem about frogs.”

“Well, we can’t have you starving, Tsuki. Let me think, son.”  Lord Yoki  looked up at the ceiling and then down at the floor.

“I will.  IF you think of the final line.  Then we can attest that you at least had your hand in this.”

Bullfrogs bellow a different pitch

Autumn’s fast approaching.

And though they soak in a rocky pond……

“Your turn, Tsuki.  Close out the poem.’

“They escape the sun?”

“Well, it has promise.  What are the frogs trying to escape?  Think harder.”

“Summer heat they can’t escape?”

‘Not a bad ending, son.  You are not a seasoned poet, but that should get you dinner.”

When Tsuki presented himself for dinner, his father, mother and sister were  sitting at the long, low dining table.

“Good. We await your poem as I am sure you await your dinner.”

His sister, almost four years old, was sitting there, her head barely clearing the table.  She was sticking her tongue out at him.  Lady Mari pinched her arm.

Tsuki recited his frog poem and his father looked at him with one eye closed.

“It has the scent of Lord Yoki about it, but perhaps you had a hand in composing it?”

Tsuki nodded, and blushed.

“Well, sit down.  You have earned your dinner.”

Tsuki sat down, across from his sister and tried to look in the pot as a maid made her rounds of the table. He was hoping there was something besides miso broth in it.

His sister crossed her eyes and tried to stare at him. He glared at her and tried to look fierce. Lord Tetsu rapped the table with his spoon and his mother pinched his sister again.

Miu was the name of Lord and Lady Tetsu’s daughter.  She was tiny, her round head with her skimpy hair, pulled up in a ponytail, hardly cleared the table. She glanced at her father, using her spoon to eat the broth.  She got much of it down her long bib.

She was the apple of her father’s eye, and knew it.  Even at her tender age she knew she had her father wrapped around her tiny finger.  She smiled at her father, her lips glossy with broth. He stopped eating just to watch her, such tenderness apparent on his face. He glanced at his wife, and smiled.  From a fierce warlord, the sight of his two children had turned him into a man who acted like a tender nursemaid, not able to deny them anything. Many years before, he had a younger wife with two young toddlers, a boy and a girl. He was on land, all three were off the coast,  returning from a visit to relatives, when a rogue wave dashed the ship onto rocks.  They all drowned.  After the funerals, he climbed into the mountains and trained with the yamabushi, the ‘warriors who sleep on the mountain’.  He was gone for three years.

He glanced at his wife, Lady Mari. She smiled at him and then turned to wipe the broth from her daughter’s face. She had been surprised at the sentiment her husband had shown with his children. When she was introduced to his court, she heard a shocking incident.  He had risen from his seat and cut a man in half with his katana.  The whole court witnessed this slaughter. Now an ex-daimyo, his children were the center of his life. He had tried for more, but Lady Mari was growing older and no more children were born.  She wondered if her husband would take a second wife for children. So far, there had been no discussion of doing this, but it was pretty common in noble families.

 End of Chapter 1

 CHAPTER TW0

Lord Tetsu’s  exile seven years ago was shared by forty samurai.  These men had been in faithful service to Lord Tetsu before his necessary exile. Lord Tetsu and his wife had settled in Aomori, territory of the daimyo, Lord Ekei. 

Lord Ekei shared one of the three provinces with two other powerful daimyos.  He now assumed power of daimyo from his seat in Akita.  Aomori was his to do with what he pleased.  He was pleased to settle Lord Tetsu and his household, along with his small core of faithful samurai in this mountainous region of Aomori.

Great precautions had been taken for Lord Tetsu’s exile because of the danger from the clan of Lord Kiyami, who was defeated by Lord Tetsu and his forces.

Though Kiyami was dead, there was always the chance his kin would seek revenge. So far, there was peace.  There was no news of an army marching on Lord Tetsu’s stronghold. But war was possible far away from Kyoto.  Though the Shogun forbid it, the chance of a raid and an addition to one daimyo’s land was a temptation.  What could the Shogunate do when there were mountains to cross and thousands of miles to travel?  Generally, these far flung daimyos were left alone as long as they paid tribute to the Shogun every two years with visits to Kyoto.  They could kill each other in battle on a large pasture, or plain, but the mountains made this a hard campaign to wage.

Heavy snowfalls from early Autumn to early spring called for a different architecture in these mountains. Akita also had great snows, but the roads of this mountain terrain were impassable for a good bit of the year. There was nothing to be done, but to dig in and keep warm as possible.

Mari was struck by the difference in architecture.  In Akita, the first place she met her husband, Lord Tetsu, the houses were lower, except where the heaviest snowfalls happened.  On the mountain sides, the roofs were slanted, rather like a modern A frame.  As the prologue stated, Mari had flown in on a possessed kimono almost a decade before and landed without ceremony at the feet of Lord Tetsu.  Her life was very different back then, and the 17th century Japan was wilder and slower than anything in the 21st. Japan.  It took a lot of adjusting.

CHAPTER 3

It was early autumn.  Mari took her children higher into the mountains just to get away from the smoky dwellings. By tradition, cooking, heat was on  a first floor of each dwelling  A pit of wood or charcoal was dug and above, the smoke rose to the next floor, though a cut out in the wooden ceiling.  Decades of this made the timbers black with soot.  Mari was sure that this was unhealthy for her children.  Her husband, Lord Tetsu, said this was the way of life in these mountains and didn’t seem bothered by the smoke and soot. Mari was.

One late morning, Mari took her daughter on the path that winded through the houses and higher into the mountain.  She was always accompanied by two samurai of her husband’s because who he was and who she was.  She never felt she was alone.  She did strike a bargain with the men where they would remain at least at a mild distance, but still in view,  so she felt some privacy.

Autumn came early in these mountains.  The floor of the forest and the path were quilted by colorful leaves.  Her daughter Miu laughed and chased leaves, grabbing the ones that caught her eye.  Mari would sit against a tree and watch her.   Miu would hold up the leaves for her mother to admire, and in an unintelligible language, would chortle her happiness.  She was so tiny, thought Mari, a little bird in a big forest.  They would climb the path upwards until it was time to return, and Miu would fill her outer kimono with her treasures.  Pinecones, leaves, bark, pebbles, whatever she could carry.  When they returned to their home, she would empty her gown at the porch for the maids to sweep away.

Lord Tetsu was in exile, but that didn’t mean he had abdicated total power.  It was rather like the earlier emperors who left a position of power in the court, only to become another center of influence in ‘retirement’.  Lord Tetsu had been aloof for the first few years from the local area authorities, but that didn’t last long.  There was much curiosity as to who was this powerful man who had his own small army of samurai.   Soon he was consulted by the village headman on numerous issues and slowly Lord Tetsu came back to life.  These local concerns were nothing compared to what  he had been used to after decades as the daimyo of Akita. His history was never fully known by the local authorities, but a man with two swords and a small army of samurai was a force not to be trifled with.

The changes to Lord Tetsu life couldn’t be measured only in the force of exile.  Marriage, children and an underlay of tension as to whether they all were safe.

Chapter 4, “Tsuki”

Lord Tetsu stood on the back side of his wide, stone porch, looking out at the bay that hid between the trees.  Lord Tetsu had picked this area to build his house because he wanted the water to be in view of the house.  It was an easy stroll from the rooms to the wide porch.  Seven years ago he had started the foundation, which meant a wide and high stone wall from a forest below.  It took his 40 samurai and men hired from the village by the bay to build this wall and house.  It was not big, considering he was a former daimyo, but big enough to impress.   He had made some changes because Mari had suggested them.  He thought it only fair that he do this. Mari had suffered a lot before they left Akita, but it was more than her suffering.  She also had ideas about construction and the lay of the house that intrigued him.  An inside toilet with a latrine underneath set into the ground  helped on those cold days when it was uncomfortable to travel through snow to the bathhouse and family latrine.

Lord Tetsu stood on the back porch looking out at the bay in the distance.  His palms itched.  He had joined the village men and his samurais the day before in splitting and stacking wood for the winter.  He didn’t wear gloves because no one else did.  He realized too late his hands weren’t callused like the villagemen.  Though no one would say his hands were soft, he realized his limits in this work.

Lord Tetsu smiled.  He was remembering a year ago when he felt something in the cloth of his hamana.  He drew his knife, thinking it was some creature from the forest.  Slowly parting his robe, he saw Miu curled like a young racoon in the folds of his trousers.  He thought of calling for a maid to remove her, but then decided to let the child sleep.  How brave she was, he thought, hiding herself in the robes of a former daimyo.  She was not aware of his former status.  To Miu, he was just her father, though what that consisted of, Lord Tetsu didn’t know[JB1] . For a while he had tried to get in bed with Mari, but most times the two children were clinging to each side like puppies.  He knew they would wake up and Miu would probably cry, so he was not sure what to do. He would have to ‘take her to ground’ in the afternoon.  It had been a while, but the passion was still smoldering.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2020


 [JB1]

Samhain, A Celtic Winter Song

November 19, 2020

Dark mysterious season,

when the light doesn’t

quite reach the ground,

trees shadow puppets

moving against the gray of day.

I think over the past year

praying there’s been a

kindling in my soul,

the heart opened, warmed

and the juiciness of life is

more than in the loins–

a stream of forgiveness

slow flowing through the tough fibers

not stopper’d with an underlying

bitterness

but softened with compassion.

This season of constrictions,

unusual emptiness,

brittle like dried twigs

desiccated by hoar frost

just to be endured.

I wrap myself in wool and

watch the migrations–

first tender song birds which harken

back to summer,

then Sandhill cranes,

legs thin banners

streaming behind white bodies,

lost against a snowy sky.

They lift off to a middling cosmos,

while I, earth-bound,

can only flap the wings of my shawl,

poor plumage for such a flight,

and wonder about my own destination.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2019

To the new lover….

November 17, 2020

Fingers flit over cheeks

rubbed raw during the night

by ardent kisses and the

rough beard of a man in rut.

An early morning’s light

peeks through drapes drawn

for modesty’s sake

shielding the

sweet debauchery

of the night before.

She feels his hands move to her breasts

and nipples greet their caress,

arising to a new and different

touch, demanding notice.

His dark head moves to kiss her mouth now

dry, her lips bruised with their late passion,

he is filled again with early need and

she feels him push at her thigh.

Eyes barely open, he now knows

the terrain, and with a growl, rolls on top of her,

spreading the sweet apex of her thighs, a hand

in the warm, dark moistness of her sex.

She stretches, remembering the sweet movements

of the night, a savage pas de deux, as

an ardent moan escapes from her throat.

This morning, he is gentle, her sex sore,

almost virginal, challenged by the heat

of the night

and with gentle touches, he commands

her arousal,

And calls her out to dance again.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008

landscape sketch

November 7, 2020

“I Remember…”

November 5, 2020

I Remember….

I remember the scream

In the middle of the night

Of something dying

Down by the river,

Killed by an owl

Or possibly a fox.

I remember bolting awake

In my parent’s bed,

My heart in my throat

My father just died

The funeral over

Sleeping in

His bed,

Afraid to move from this reality

To the next,

No comfort to be had

Even with the scent of

His tobacco in the sheets.

I wandered the house,

Touched the walls,

Looked through windows

To a landscape not  

Changed over years,

Ran hands down the

Black walnut banister,

Smooth, smooth

As if the days would turn back

Just by this touch

And he would be here.

That scream somewhere on the banks

In the middle of the night,

When I jerked from sleep to

Awake, knowing, he was dead-

The father who loved me

Was gone forever.

I knew then

 I was unmoored from life

Floating out of reach of love.

A scream that challenged dreams

He would come back,

He wasn’t awaiting the fire

He would wake up,

Much as I did,

In a cold-sweat fear

And slowly, slowly

Resume his place in the living.

There are unseen things

That happen in the night,

Down on the river bank,

Where life is challenged by death

Where a rabbit screams his mighty last

Where the heart leaps to the throat,

Where the most we can hope

Is a silent ghost

Who walks out of the river’s fog,

Extends his arms

And embraces the sorrowing.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2019

“Autumn Dusk”

November 1, 2020

AUTUMN DUSK

Stuttering winds blow across

Clouds tinted by a failing sun.

Brittle air softens,

Now a faded blue–

Shade of an old man’s watery eyes.

A late flock of Sandhill cranes lift off,

Pale bodies blending in the

Twilight with legs

Flowing dark streamers,

Their celestial cries fall to

Earth–

 A harsh, chiding rain.

The trees in the valley

Are massed in darkness

As waning light leaches

Color from nature,

Creeps from field to hillock

And all below prepares for the

Rising of the Corn Moon.

Even frogs in the pond

Listen between croaks

For the intention of the night.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010-2020

raw landscape sketching….before watercoloring

October 17, 2020
Image may contain: drawing

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