“The Kimono”, Chapter 25

May 18, 2015

Samurai Lovers, #2

Lord Sojobo, King of the Tengus

Lord Sojobo, King of the Tengus

I started writing “Kimono” 7 years ago, and life got in the way.  Other books, too.  But it’s a long novel, transposing from the 21st century to the early 18th. Mari is a 21st century woman flung backward (by a magic kimono) into feudal Japan. 

Lord Yoki is a former samurai, but more importantly, he is a Tengu.  Mischief making creatures who adopt the appearance of whatever species fits their needs.  This Lord Yoki is able to travel between centuries.

Lady Nyo

The Kimono, Chapter 25

The women were gathered apart from the men, under the trees. The glow from lanterns fell prettily on their faces; at least the faces Mari could see, veiled in the shadows of evening. The men were at a distance, sprawled under the trees, surrounding a brazier where brown sake bottles warmed in an endless kettle.

Mari had eaten dried bonito, roasted seaweed, and rice dumplings enough for a month. A screen had been set up between the two parties, and Mari realized the advantages of this device. They could eat, instead of picking at a small piece of fish, a teaspoon of rice. It would have been unseemly for women to eat with any gusto in front of men. Soft laughter sounded in the dusk, as women and even the two servants of Lady Nyo joined in the finger and guessing games of the girls from the inn.

 

Lady Nyo is called upon by Lord Ekei to play the samisen.

Though there was soft laughter from behind their screen, it was much different amongst the men. The clink of sake bottles, the laughter, and the general noise the men made as they related their stories, boastings and lies made this cherry blossom viewing more of a loud disturbance than a quiet, reflective contemplation of the beautiful blossoms. Mari wondered how long this would go on.

The blossoms only lasted three days before they fell. Surely the men could not last so long!

A servant came to the screen, knelt down and relayed a message to Lady Nyo. She was respectfully requested to entertain the men with her samisen. Lady Nyo rolled her eyes at Mari and Mari burst into laughter. But duty was duty, and Lady Nyo approached the men, bowed low and settled herself on a cushion with the instrument.

Lord Mori patted a cushion next to him and Mari could see by his face he was already drunk.

Lady Nyo quickly tuned the samisen and started a sad song.

Mari heard the strange tinny sounds of the instrument and the voice of Lady Nyo. How surprising was her voice, a low contralto, rich and not at all what Mari expected. Though Mari couldn’t understand the words, the tune apparently was well known to the men, as they fell quiet and seemed to contemplate other things than their drinking and merriment. Another song was requested by Lord Ekei after the first, and this was more upbeat than the first. Or perhaps it was just in a different key? It seemed to be less sad and her playing was faster.

Mari already knew poetry would be her part of the entertainment. She wracked her memory for some of the poems of Saigyo and Ono no Komachi. These she studied from a small book Lady Nyo had given her. She cobbled verse from words she could identify. It wasn’t easy, and it wouldn’t be the poetry of these fine poets, but it was all she had. Since there was to be a full moon tonight, Mari thought she would recite some of Saigyo’s moon poems. She didn’t trust her memory completely but thought the sake the men had already drunk would dull their own memories. She was betting on this.

 

Mari had to pee, excused herself and walked with a serving girl apart from the gathering. There was a narrow path leading upwards from the cherry trees and into a bamboo stand. When she came out and was making her way back, a man standing on the path bowed to her. He was dressed very elegantly, a handsome man, but there was something a bit familiar about him. Mari bowed to him, out of politeness, and supposed he was one of the many people out to admire the cherry blossoms and the rising of the moon.

She was about to pass when he spoke.

“Ho! You do not recognize me? Perhaps my robes are too fine for a mere tengu.” He smiled broadly at her and chuckled.

Mari recognized Lord Yoki, but what a difference from the first viewing! Tall, with shiny black hair arranged on his head, his robes were embroidered with silver thread on a dark plum background. Only his feet in his sandals with the claws of a bird, gave him away. Mari started to laugh when she saw his feet, but realized she would offend and threw her hand over her mouth.

“Send your girl ahead and we will stroll back and talk.”

Mari gestured to the servant and she disappeared down the path.

“So, my dear lady. Have you found why you are on pilgrimage with our Lord Mori?”

Mari considered her answer. No, she hadn’t, not really. But perhaps giving any information to Lord Yoki would be disloyal to Lord Mori.

The tengu watched her out of the side of his eye. She was playing her cards close to her bosom. Perhaps she really didn’t have a clue why she was accompanying her lord.

“What I do know, is this, my lord. Women are not allowed on Gassan, so I, with Lady Nyo and the servants, will remain in a temple at the foot of the mountain. More than that, I haven’t been told.”

This was only part right. Lord Mori had informed her, though only in a few terse words, that he was seeking counsel from someone on the mountain, that he was pushed between the actions of Lord Kiyama and the lord Tokugawa. Who this man he was to seek counsel was unknown, at least to Mari.

“Ah. I see. You are informed correctly. Women are not allowed on the mountain. The kami up there are particular about whom they choose to entertain. They are not known for their friendliness either. They are a tricky bunch of demons up there, so Lord Mori’s plans are in consideration for your safety.”

Lord Yoki didn’t reveal that Gassan was a historic home of tengu, and they classed women in the order of arrogant priests: something to bedevil and dismay upon crossing. He also did not say that the ‘man’ Lord Mori and company would be meeting with was the all-powerful Lord Sojobo. He would be the most dangerous tengu of all. He held a fan made of feathers and when he was displeased, not uncommon for him, he would casually wave the fan and all sorts of mischief could happen. One might be swept from the mountain and find themselves in a ravine somewhat bruised for the journey. Lord Yoki knew this from personal experience. He seemed to get on the nerves of his Lord Sojobo easily.

“Well, there is a journey of at least two days between here and Gassan, so you might find out more what you seek. Then again, you might not. It is hard to determine fate.”

Mari figured he knew more than he was telling, but she also knew that men of this century, even men- appearing tengu, could not be forced to give up much information. It was something about their nature.

They returned to their site, and Mari bowed to Lord Yoki, noticing that his robes had seemed to lengthen, covering his feet. If, by his appearance he surprised or confused the men assembled under the trees drinking sake, they gave no sign of it. Mori, Ekei, and Nyo bowed from their cushions and Lord Yoki was made room for amongst them. Mari returned behind the screen, accompanied by Lady Nyo.

In a low voice, Lady Nyo began to speak.

“My lady, we were concerned for your safety. When I saw you approach with a gentleman, I was most worried. But I see that it was Lord Yoki, and my mind settled. Please consider your safety when you venture out without at least a few servants. There are robbers on these trails, and Lord Mori would hold us all accountable if anything were to happen to you.”

Mari looked at her in surprise. How did she know it was Lord Yoki that stood beside her? Perhaps he appeared differently to her than to the others? Perhaps Lord Yoki threw glamour over him to befuddle her eyes? Or perhaps Lady Nyo was used to his tricks? There was more than Mari had answers, but then again, there was much more to these woods and this century than she could fathom.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008-2015

 

Alerts to Threats in Europe by John Cleese…..

May 12, 2015

Terrorism is not funny, but John Cleese is.   This was first penned in 2012.

ALERTS TO THREATS IN EUROPE: BY JOHN CLEESE by John Cleese – British writer, actor and tall person.

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Syria and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let’s get the Bastards.” They don’t have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from “Run” to “Hide.” The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” and “Surrender.” The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France ‘s white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country’s military capability.

Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing.” Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides.”

The Germans have increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs.” They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbour” and “Lose.”

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels .

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from “No worries” to “She’ll be alright, Mate.” Two more escalation levels remain: “Crikey! I think we’ll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!” and “The barbie is cancelled.” So far no situation has ever warranted use of the last final escalation level.

A final thought – ” Greece is collapsing, the Iranians are getting aggressive, and Rome is in disarray. Welcome back to 430 BC”

John Cleese.

The US is noticeably missing from this round up…. But it’s not forgotten.  Drones, bombing Pakistani weddings, etc.. The Hackers don’t help….the threat level changes, but not much.  It’s like blood pressure…always high.

Jane

“O Absalom” …..a passionate poem of love.

May 11, 2015

waterlily in our pond.

(water lily in our pond)

O Absalom,

Ensnared by long hair in the

Boughs of an oak,

Pierced through the heart three times–

The shimmer of life fading.

I,

Pulled into mysteries

So abandoned by love

Now given over to lust

Charged with stolen rapture

Dizzy as a drunken dervish-

One hand up to Heaven

One hand spilling to Earth

Skirts stiffened with sins hard as stone

Corrupted over a life time and now–

Flayed on an unending mandala.

Mystery of Life,

Unstoppable desire,

O beautiful Absalom,

We float upon a divine river

Entangled in the reeds of human wanting.

This is our nature,

This our calling while

Flesh answers flesh.

What quarter be given when the heart is

Overwhelmed by passion’s excess?

Lie still–

Let the waters cleanse our loins,

Mud of the banks soothe our wounds,

Our blood mingle with the floating grasses,

Our hearts sink beneath the surface.

Let the rivers of Babylon

Carry us away.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015, “O Absalom” originally published in “Seasoning of Lust”, Lulu.com, 2009 and then revised and published in “Pitcher of Moon”, 2014, available at Createspace, Amazon.com

“Mother’s Day….Oh, the pain of it all!”

May 8, 2015

Mother in Law

Right now I am sitting on my back porch watching my five Easter hatchlings swoop and flutter around the yard. This is the second day they have been set free….instead of an 8×8 foot chicken yard. They run up to me, lifting their heads and extending their short wings. I guess I’m their mother now, and that is fine by me.

Mother’s Day is an uneasy time for many of us adult children of mothers who are mentally ill, neglectful, abusive, discarding, or just narcissistic. The last category probably contains all that goes before. So, we are left feeling uneasy, marginalized, because we don’t buy into the rosy ‘memories’ of our mothers and our childhood. We can’t march in step with the Hallmark sentiments, the other hoopla of this very commercialized holiday.

What to do? I think it depends upon the stage of our recovery. By recovery, I simply mean where we have come in our own minds, where we have confidence in our own abilities. (this ‘centeredness’ that Rollo May talks about). Of course it’s much more than that, but I am proceeding what to do on this ‘holiday’ by summing up where the last 5 years has brought me, and the last 10 years of therapy with a woman who was definitely a mother substitute. She stood by me as I worked out of a very dark place, and supported (and encouraged mightily) each point of progress. In the last 6 years I have published 5 books, the last to be published this July, and each book (except the first because it was full of sex…but I was flapping my wings…) she embraced as a major stepping stone in my development. I can’t help but compare her attitude to my own mother. At the publication of my third book, I received the last letter from her, the first in years, stating: “I can never be truly proud of you because you didn’t allow me into your artistry.”

Well, IF I was confused before what she was and is, (and at 95 she isn’t about to change) that simple statement certainly clarified her for me: This is the leitmotiv of a true Narcissist.

There is no winning faced with such a narcissist. They take up too much internal landscape and energy. I went No Contact 5 years ago, and I needed the time to work on myself without the constant slings and arrows of this woman. I had enough. And the process was liberating.

So, what did I do about Mother’s Day with her? I sent her a card. This will shock my friends, who know the history between us, but I did it for me. 90% for me, and 10% for her.

As my husband said: “At least you know your soul will be clean.” That went straight to the meat of it. I was not cowing to convention, I was releasing myself from her control and power. And this card wasn’t sentimental, and I just signed it “Cheers, Jane”. But I was stepping out of her shadow, though many might not understand this. She has not been the mother, ever, to celebrate. But that doesn’t mean that I must follow her anger, rage, hatred, contempt and vengeance. Life is too good to do that. People are too good for that. As the grave approaches her, and at 95 this will happen, at least I am cleaning my soul of her destructive psychic energy. That, I believe, is the part of the recovery process.

I received a card from some loving relatives from my Dad’s side: Wishing me “Smiles and admiration, contentment and peace, joy and love.” (And the best of luck with the new book.)

Now that’s what Mother’s Day should be about.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

MOTHER

 

I am always aware of my mother,

Ominous, threatening,

A pain in the depths of my consciousness.

My mother is like a shell,

So easily broken.

Yet the fact that I was born

Bearing my mother’s shadow

Cannot be changed.

She is like a cherished, bitter dream

My nerves cannot forget

Even after I am awake.

She prevents all freedom of movement.

If I move she quickly breaks

And the splinters stab me.

—Nagase Kiyoko (1906- 1995)

Nagase Kiyoko wrote poetry for 65 years. She never called herself a ‘professional poet’, but referred to herself as ‘a useless woman’. She was a farmer, and wrote her poetry at the kitchen table before dawn, while her children and husband were asleep upstairs. Because of her sensual and cosmic verse, Nagase Kiyoko is considered by many Japanese women poets to be the “Grandmother” of modern poetry. Just a short reading of her verse goes deeply into the heart of the reader. She is ageless in her verse.

Lady Nyo

Saigyo, Warrior Priest and Poet, some of his poetry and a little of mine.

May 4, 2015
was to be the cover painting for

was to be the cover painting for “Pitcher of Moon” but didn’t work out. Jane Kohut-Bartels, small watercolor.

This is a very  little of Saigyo, the Heian-era priest and poet.  Reading Saigyo is like falling into the rim of the Universe: you have no idea where you will land nor what you will learn.  But the trip will  profoundly change you.

In “Mirror For the Moon”, a collection of translations by William LaFleur of Saigyo, one gets the idea that Saigyo transcended the usual route, the accepted and comfortable route of poet/priests of that era.

There were tons of poetry written by many poets, officials, etc. about the moon, nature, flowers, etc.  But Saigyo’s poetry had an ‘edge’, a difference:  his view of blossoms, moon, nature, was not just the usual symbol of evanescence and youthful beauty:  his view of blossoms, nature, were more a path into the inner depth of this relationship between humanity and nature.   He spent 50 years walking the mountains, road, forests, fields all over Japan and his poetry (waka) reflected his deep understanding of the physicality of nature:  all seasons were felt and experienced not from the safety and comfort of a court, surrounded by other silk-clad courtier/poets,  but out there in the trenches of nature.  His poetry is fomented in the cold and penetrating fall and spring rains, the slippery paths upon mountain trails, the ‘grass pillows’ and a thin cloak, the deep chill of winter snows upon a mountain, the rising  mists that befuddle orientation,  and especially, the loneliness of traveling without companionship.

Saigyo became a poet/priest, but before that he was and came from a samurai family.  He was, at the age of 22, a warrior.  He always struggled with his past in his long years of travel, wondering how this  former life impacted on his religious vows.  His poetry reflects this issue.

I have begun to re-acquaint myself with Saigyo and his poetry, having first come across his poems in 1990. There is something so profound, different, that calls down the centuries to the heart.  His poetry awakens my awe and wonder of not only nature-in-the-flesh, but in the commonality of the human experience.

Lady Nyo

Not a hint of shadow

On the moon’s face….but now

A silhouette passes–

Not the cloud I take it for,

But a flock of flying geese.

Thought I was free

Of passions, so  this melancholy

Comes as surprise:

A woodcock shoots up from marsh

Where autumn’s twilight falls.

Someone who has learned

How to manage life in loneliness:

Would there were one more!

He could winter here on this mountain

With his hut right  next  to mine.

Winter has withered

Everything in this mountain place:

Dignity is in

Its desolation now, and  beauty

In the cold clarity of its moon.

When the fallen snow

Buried the twigs bent by me

To mark a return trail,

Unplanned, in strange mountains

I was holed up all winter.

Snow has fallen on

Field paths and mountain paths,

Burying them all

And I can’t tell here from there:

My journey in the midst of sky.

Here I huddle, alone,

In the mountain’s shadow, needing

Some companion somehow:

The cold, biting rains pass off

And give me the winter moon.

(I love this one especially: Saigyo makes the vow to be unattached to seasons, to expectations, but fails and embraces his very human limitations)

It was bound to be!

My vow to be unattached

To seasons and such….

I, who by a frozen bamboo pipe

Now watch and wait for spring.

(Love like cut reeds….)

Not so confused

As to lean only one way:

My love-life!

A sheaf of field reeds also bends

Before each wind which moves it.

(And Love like fallen leaves….)

Each morning the wind

Dies down and the rustling leaves

Go silent: Was this

The passion of all-night lovers

Now talked out and parting?

From “Mirror For the Moon”, A Selection of Poems by Saigyo (1118-1190)

Three of my own “Moon” poems….in the form of Tanka.

The moon floats on wisps

Of cloud that extend outward

Tendrils of white fire

Burn up in the universe–

Gauzy ghosts of nothingness.

——–

Shooting star crosses

Upended bowl of blue night

Imagination

Fires up with excited gaze!

A moment– and all is gone.

_______

(and one more….)

——

The full moon above

floats on blackened velvet seas,

poet’s perfection!

But who does not yearn for a

crescent in lavender sky?

———-

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015……these last three poems were from “White Cranes of Heaven”, Lulu.com, 2011, Jane Kohut-Bartels

 

Three Spring Haiku and Three Spring Tanka

April 30, 2015

May Roses 2

May Roses

spring garden 4

It is spring and so beautiful  in Atlanta.  Tulips and daffodils have finished blooming, the azaleas are fading, but the tender greens of the trees, these huge oaks, maples and pecans are touching the sky with their new leaves.  The light is gentle, the winds so far gentle, but spring in the South goes through a tempestuous time where nothing is settled or predictable.  Tornadoes sweep the land and violent rainstorms sweep in from the ocean and gulf.  Right now it is calm, and sitting outside under rose bushes and geraniums in a gentle sun is a lovely break in the day.  The grass is growing at a pace where it is hard to keep it mowed, and I am thinking of broadcasting wildflowers instead of getting out the mower every few days.  But wildflowers need a cultivated ground to take, and it’s just too much work to disturb the soil right now.  The weather makes me feel lazy, but that might also be allergies and pollen.

Lady Nyo

 

 Three Spring Haiku

Dogwoods are blooming

The crucifixion appears

White moths in the night.

(Dogwoods are a Southern tree here in the South.  White blooms having the form of the Christian Cross, with nail heads.  They bloom in the spring right before Easter. They are a symbol of Christianity in Nature.)

A swirl of blossoms

Caught in the water’s current

Begins the season.

The moon, a ghostly

Sliver sails on a jet sea

Wild dogs howl beneath.

 Three Spring Tanka

The sound of frog-calls,

In the pond floats a pale moon

Fresh life is stirring

An early owl goes hunting

Wise mice scatter for cover.

Thin, silken breezes

Float upon a green-ribbon

Of spring—pale season.

Scent of lilies, myrtle, plum

Arouse bees from slumber.

Restless and confused,

Birds cry out, sky darkening

Rain lashes, flooding

Freshly planted fields drown

Wind sails red tiles from roofs.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011-2015

“I Remember the Scream”, Albert Kohut 1915-1989

April 26, 2015
PItcher of Moon, available from Createspace, Amazon.com

PItcher of Moon, available from Createspace, Amazon.com

He was my father.  Had he lived, he would have been 100 years old today.  He didn’t, but even after 25 years, I remember the parent that always loved me. I have nothing material of his, except a mouthpiece from his French horn, but I have his DNA and I was his first child and his only daughter.  I have a lot of memories.  I remember this man who was loved by everyone, even the caged rabbit down at Tornquist’s, the corner store in Griggstown, New Jersey.  It took me years to understand him, and unfortunately these things sometimes only come after death.  He was  kind and gentle, basically a quiet man full of accomplishments and talents. No fanfare, no hysterics, and especially loved by stray cats and dogs.  Although he died before I started to write, he did see a few small paintings and I know he is the reason I am a poet.  His heart was huge, and he stands as an example of what is good in humankind. I’m proud he was my father.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

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 my 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 comforts the living.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

“I Remember the Scream” from Pitcher of Moon, available at Createspace, Amazon.com, 2014

“The Token Rose”

April 23, 2015

The Token Rose

It is spring here in the South, and the tenderness and fragility of life brings memories of those who have died over the years.  Token was a suicide, driven to this by the intolerance of her family, and mine.  Her ‘sin’ was that she became a lesbian, after marriage and children to a fundamentalist pastor.  Religion can be a ‘cup full’ of bigotry, intolerance, ignorance.  It’s not supposed to be so, but in the hands and minds of narrow bigots, it becomes something with the capacity to maim and kill.

Token was very kind to me when I was severely injured in an accident.  When she died, it was a shock. . It was incomprehensible to me that a beautiful young woman could be driven to such an act.  I planted a white rose bush in my front garden many years ago in remembrance of Token.  It is the first rose to bloom and continues on throughout the year until frost. 

Token’s kindness and beauty are present in those blossoms. They are a reminder to me to show compassion and acceptance to others as was given to me by Token.

Lady Nyo

The Token Rose

Outside it is cold,

No leaves flutter

In bitter winds,

No birdsong to

Sweeten the air,

Just the Token rose

Trembling in fierce gusts

Howling round the eaves.

Too early this spring,

This rose started to bloom,

A miracle of season,

A miracle of mercy.

Named for a woman

Who died by her own hand,

A hand forced by ignorance

Intolerance

Isolation, and

No Mercy.

We are so hard on those

We say we love,

We lack compassion

To those who march out of step,

Who don’t believe as we do,

And then we hide from

What we have wrought,

Uneasy but still righteous.

If there is any hint of shame

We bury it deep

As deep as the grave

She now lies in.

The Token Rose flutters in the cold.

Pearly white tinged with pink

Catches the feeble sunlight

And waves a forgiveness

That we, hardened of heart,

Do not deserve.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

A Short definition of Humanism:

an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems.

Religious Fundamentalists hate the thought of Humanism.  It’s not only the ‘absence of theology’ in humanism, but the inability of fundamentalists to control the thoughts and creativity of humanists.  Power and Control seem to be the two legs of fundamentalism.  Where they can’t achieve this ‘order’, they will raise Hell. In my opinion, there is no difference between the oppression and ignorance between Christian/Jewish/Muslim fundamentalism.  They are of the same cloth.

Steve Isaak’s review of “Pitcher of Moon”

April 18, 2015

Steve Isaak is a poet and writer, a friend of almost 10 years.  He is prolific, and has been a poet many years ahead of me. Every so often, he publishes a poetry book and sends it to me to review.  I do the same.  Steve’s ability to wrestle with my poems and to create something new in my eyes about these works always amazes me.  And making that connection with other readers, but especially with other poets….always astounds me.

I am not sure why we write poetry, since it is a very marginalized medium today, but perhaps we write because we find souls in common and we don’t have to explain ourselves.  Steve has been a great encourager of my verse for the past 8 years and with supporters like him, well….they keep you going.

Steve has just published and sent me two more of his books.  They are heavy with what a real poet does and they take me a while to read and now…review.  Friend Steve, I’ll get to them, and a review, I promise….soon.

His website for reviews and literature is :  http://www.readingbypublight.blogspot.com

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Pitcher of Moon by Jane Kohut-Bartels

(pb; 2014: poetry anthology)

From the back cover: “If there is a singular theme that informs and underlies the diverse poems in this book, it is compassion. An expansive emotive range is traversed here, from heart-rending tragedy and despair to the sunny light of humour and optimism, and through it all flows a deep river of compassion for humanity, the world, nature and its wondrous creatures”….. .

.” Overall review:

Pitcher is an excellent and mood-effective collection of theme-tight and -mingled verseworks. These themes, recurrent in Kohut-Bartel’s evolving, increasingly masterful collections, include: relationships — with family, spouses and Nature; the moment-to-moment vagaries of life and change, with their infinite permutatons and surprises.

This is a great anthology from a great poet (and all-around writer). It can be purchased here.

Standout Poems:

1.) “O Absalom!“: Desire and nature are one in this proclamatory, healing versework. (A different, less streamlined version of this appeared in Kohut-Bartels’ first poetry anthology A Seasoning of Lust.)

2.) “High Road“: A traveler makes a choice between divergent paths, with the help of an old man. This, with its poetry-familiar echoes of Robert Frost, breathes new life into a known metaphor.

3.) “A Dish of Skylarks“: Excellent poem with especially sharp writing and a laugh-out-loud finish. This is one of my favorite entries in this collection. Here’s a taste of it:

A dish of skylarks fell into my lap,

and I, ravenous with a multitude of hungers, ate them.

 Between burps one did escape,

shook himself, bowed, and offered a feather. . .

4.) “Imaginary Friends“: Straightforward and effective poem about a boy’s inner life and his physical reality.

5.) “Night Fire Road“: Stanza’d, vivid musing about a mysterious backroad.

6.) “Night Poem“: Excellent, aurally-rich versework. One of my favorites in this collection.

7.) “Poem For My Husband“: Tender, disturbing (for its veracities) work about the underlying nature and fragility of intimacy. This is an exemplary, nailed-it piece. One of my favorites in this anthology.

8.) “The Apple Tree“: Sad, warm and strangely hopeful poem about its titular object and the memory of illness. (This is an alternate version of a same-titled piece in Kohut-Bartels’ first anthology A Seasoning of Lust.)

9.) “Nippon Tsuki“: Beautiful, three-part Japanese-themed poem.

10.) “Autumn Coming“: This one is about a seasonal, possibly cosmic shift, as experienced in a moonlit pond.

11.) “Rude Spring“: Stark, excellent and effective take on the transition between winter and spring.

12.) “Turkey Vultures“: Interesting take on the titular bird.

13.) “The Thaw“: A woman’s new openness to love is equated with the warming of a creek. Excellent metaphorical work.

14.) “Autumn Poem of Mid-November“: Beautiful, superb poem.

15.) “Dusk“: Soothing, beautiful versepiece. One of my favorites in this collection.

16.) “Original Blessing“: The true nature of birth and divinity is poetically, effectively illustrated.

17.) “Snakes in the ‘Hood“: Gentle, loving stanza-work about the wrongly maligned snake (in the present) and its celebration in the distant past. One of my favorites in this anthology.

18.) “Attending to the Spirit in Spring“: Beautiful poem about its titular season.

19.) “Viva Negativa“: Stark-toned, excellent piece about the cyclic and inherent nature of winter.

20.) and 21.) “I Remember” and “I Wonder“: This companion-themed poems are two separate, progressive parts of a verse-story. The first poem, “I Remember,” shows a woman recalling her father’s death and how it affected her. The second, “I Wonder,” once again delves into the themes of darkness and parent-child relationships, this time in a different way.

22.) “Coppermine Road“: Vivid tale-verse about a Jersey copper mine and strange nature. One of my favorites in this collection

23.) “The Homecoming“: American history, memory and ambivalence shape the tone of this one. Especially good work.

Labels: favorite reads 2015, Jane Kohut-Bartels, poetry anthology

“Do Black Lives Really Matter….and to whom?

April 16, 2015

 

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Obviously, not to the APS defendants….

In a world of higher moral ground, all life should matter. But today, it seems there are some great disparities concerning life in general.

I live in Atlanta, the home of the Atlanta Public School Cheating Scandal. For decades, not just when these offenses were discovered, black children have been shuffled off from grade to grade. I know personally some of these teachers. Some come from my neighborhood. Some are better than others, and a few have dropped out of teaching. The battle to educate these children was an uphill battle on all fronts and life is short.

The most visible signs that Black lives matter seems only when Black people are shot and killed by white police. Then we see the outrage of people in the streets. But incidents of Black violence in these Black communities are constant and generally ignored, or something of that nature. I’ve read different stats about this, so you can pick your numbers: Between 93% to 99% of Black people are victims of their own race. But you don’t see demonstrations in these communities of Atlanta against this constant violence. You see the violence daily when you turn on your TV, and you are hit with a barrage of car jacking, home invasions, domestic violence, robberies, gang activities, murder, etc. Where are the preachers and so-called Black Leaders when this is going on? They are generally absent. You won’t get Al Sharpton down in the hood demonstrating against this violence. There isn’t enough national TV attention or money for these vultures to do so.

We have Black criminals who kill and when finally caught, are revealed to have 30 arrests and convictions. The jails and prisons are so filled that they either serve minor years for major offenses or they are sprung early enough to go out and do it all again. One grandmother has grandsons who are constantly (drug dealers) (from the age of 14) arrested, but for some reason, even with weapons charges, they are back out on the streets in days. One killed the young mother of his three children at her work place with three bullets in the head. He got ten years…..a cheap price for the value of a Black woman.

I have been in Atlanta for 46 years now. I have seen a couple of generations start school and leave. They leave illiterate. They don’t see that school has any value for their future. So they drop out at 12, 14, 16. Drug dealing and assorted crimes hold much more potential for their futures. They become predators at an early age.

And why? People can site many reasons, poverty, racism, disadvantages, neighborhoods, bad, underfunded schools, but it starts in the home, it starts with the influences in the community. It starts with the cultural standards. When a 16 year old can’t read a cereal box, look to what the parents can or can’t read. The breakdown of the Black family is generally cited. Perhaps this is the basis but you can’t force women to not have children and raise them by themselves. Raising a child or children with the ‘help’ of a father in the home is hard enough, but when a woman doesn’t have that support, it becomes overwhelming. I’ve seen this over and over in my years in Atlanta. Up close, too.

I put my only child in a local public school in the elementary years. That is before he was threatened with a knife in the neck by a group of 3rd graders. He had been seriously injured at 6 in kindergarten where his tooth was knocked out and his palate broken. He was picked up and flipped into the toilet by two boys, aged 9 and 11 in an after school program. That was when I was a good Quaker and thought I shouldn’t isolate my son from this ‘community’. I was stupid. These two boys were drug mules for the uncle and both were in foster care because of this. (This was revealed only before a judge later) My son could have easily died. We ended up homeschooling him for the rest of his school years and then he went into the Navy. He escaped the violence of Atlanta but the world is a violent place. He spent four years chasing Somali pirates in the Navy, but still thinks Atlanta is more dangerous than chasing armed Somali pirates.

The APS Cheating Scandal and the behavior of the defendants and their supporters are especially galling. I also believe this is the ‘seat’ of the corruption and a key aspect that leads to the violence within Black communities. Dozens were exposed, having parties to change the answers, breaking the heat seals on the tests to erase answers (and then sealing them up again with heated knife) to make it look like these children were progressing. There were a few teachers who did complain to Dr. Beverly Hall (superintendent) but she ignored them. Or they were forced out of their jobs. She was getting outrageous bonuses per year for the ‘results’ and it was a situation to ‘improve the progress’ for the teachers or lose their jobs. Hall died in March of breast cancer and never came to trial. She was the queen bee of the corruption of this horrendous scandal and she escaped. Green was the color that mattered to her and the trickle down.

However, the behavior of the defendants was shocking. The belabored and exhausted judge, (who many decades ago along with the dinosaurs) was a product of the Atlanta School System, asked them to apologize and admit their guilt for reduced sentences: surely they would realize the real victims were the thousands of black children who were harmed by the ‘push them through though they couldn’t read, write or spell’ teachers. But the vast majority of these so-called ‘educators’ refused to admit guilt. Though the evidence was there and the jurors convicted them of RICO and other criminal behavior, they refused to see that they were not the victims…..the children they robbed of an education were the real victims. This was lost on them. It didn’t seem to be on their radar. Nor on the radar of their lawyers or their supporters. The preachers and ‘community leaders’ only talked about these ‘righteous’ educators and that prison was no place for teachers. Huh.

And this sets up the behavior of criminality in the black communities. When youth are out of school, they have no focus for their future, except indulging in criminal behaviors. That is their future, until they end up in prison or are dead. And the havoc they wreck on their own communities and families pile up.

So, do Black Lives Really Matter? Not really to these Black ‘educators’. Even the Mayor bemoaned the ‘waste of talent’ of these educators in their convictions. Nothing from him about the waste of potential of these robbed children. It starts in the culture of denial and entrenches itself in all aspects.

Cheaters get a pass in the Atlanta Public School System. Not a crime.

They have destroyed the lives and futures of thousands of black children by their personal corruption and arrogance. It will be a long time before this scandal will be put behind Atlanta. Of course, their apologists are already mouthing the words: “We are moving beyond this now”.

The trust of the APS system is broken with the majority of those with morals and common sense. But the black children in these schools will never recoup what was robbed from them in the very beginning with the corruption of these ‘educators’ who don’t deserve that hallowed name.

I thank A. who started this conversation with me. She is a deeply compassionate intellectual, totally involved in our community who has a higher moral standard than many in Atlanta. I am grateful for her friendship.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015


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