“Ten Thousand Leaves, Love Poems from the Man’yoshu”, From “Song of the Nightingale”

July 29, 2015



“Ten Thousand Leaves, Love Poems from the Man’yoshu”

“Thick and fast stream my thoughts of you

Like the layers Of endlessly falling snow

Upon the cedars.

“Come to me at night, my man.”

—– from the Man’yoshu

It was the first golden age of Japanese civilization.  In the eighth century appeared the great metropolis of Nara, (the imperial capital) its broad avenues lined with magnificent temples. Culture rushed in from Korea, China and over the Silk Road, from as far away as Persia, and even from Venice.

We think of Japan in isolation, as it was to become centuries later, but in the 7th to the 10th centuries (approximately) the cultural influences were vast and wide and foreign.

In the 8th century, Japan found it’s first voice, a clear and powerful voice to become one of the most impressive, sophisticated and frank compilations of poetry the world has ever seen.  (There are other earlier and then later collections of poetry, but the Man’yoshu is considered to be the best of the poetry collections.  There are many reasons (cultural and court changes, etc) but this is a long study and can’t be done in this short presentation.

There are not 10,000 poems (leaves) but over 4,500.  Most of these are love poems, where lovers speak with disarming frankness and clarity, speak to us across 1300 years as if they were us.

Actually, the poems express a decided lack of neurosis that we have come to view sex in the last few centuries.  There is nothing of barriers when it comes to the human heart, longing, emotions and sexuality in these poems.  Many of them are openly, expressly erotic.

The authors or contributors of these poems extended from Emperors, Empresses, courtesans, samurai, priests, beggars, fishermen, peasants: a cross section of remarkable variety.  A truly democratic endeavor.  This was never again to happen in Japan, not at least to this extent.

Otomo No Yakamochi (718-785) is considered to be the main compiler of the Man’yoshu.  These poems actually span a 130 year history, from around 630 AD to 759 AD.

There are three basic divisions of the poetry in the Man’yoshu.


Banka: elegy on the death of an Emperor or a loved one.

Somon:  mutual exchanges of love or longing poetry.

Zoka:  Poems of Nature, hunting, etc.

This short presentation will focus only on the Somon form.

Generally the Man’yoshu poetry is considered to be declarative rather than introspective, imagistic rather than abstract.  There is an incredible freshness to it all.

There are basically two forms of poetry in the Man’yoshu: choka (long poem, 5-7-5-7-5-7, etc. ending in 7-7) and tanka.  (5-7-5-7-7). The ‘long poem’, choka (which isn’t very long by our modern and Western standards) died out of fashion, and tanka became the predominant form of Japanese poetry for the next 1200 years.

Although one would think so, there isn’t a lot of Buddhist influence in the poems.  If any religion, there is more Shinto influence especially in the Zoka form, but even that isn’t large.  This may seem strange to us, with our notions of culture in Japan, but even centuries later, with the Priest-Poet Saigyo, there is little Buddhist thought within his poems.  Religion just doesn’t play such a dominant role in most Japanese poetry, especially at this time.

“Going over the fields of murasaki grass That shimmer crimson, Going over the fields marked as imperial domain, Will the guardian of the fields not see you As you wave your sleeves at me?”

— Princess Nukata

This poem is considered by many to be one of the greatest poems in the Man’yoshu.  It is presented near the beginning of the collection, giving it prominence.  The answer by her former husband (she is now married to the Emperor) Prince Oama, (his brother) is a beautiful poem in its own right.

“If I despised you, who are as beautiful

As the murasaki grass,

Would I be longing for you like this,

Though you are another man’s wife?”

— Prince Oama

“Do not let men find out

By smiling at me so apparently,

Like the clouds that clearly cross

Over the verdant mountains.”

— Lady Otomo Sakanoue

There are more poems by this poet than any other woman in the Man’yoshu.  What is remarkable are the amount of women poets included in the Man’yoshu.  This is only possible because the Confucian philosophy was not prominent yet in Japan.  When it became influential, women lost much status: before they were allowed to own property, title, name, divorce, to keep custody of their children.  After, they were relegated to indoors, stripped of much power and status.-

“Whose words are these,

Spoken to the wife of another?

Whose words are these,

That bade me untie

The sash of my robe?”

— Anonymous

Many of the poems in the Man’yoshu were folk songs, or parts of folk songs. And this repeated interest in ‘the wife of another’ was an object of male desire; the Man’yoshu is full of this theme.

“As I turn my gaze upward

And see the crescent moon,

I am reminded

Of the trailing eyebrows

Of the woman I saw but once.”

— Otomo Yakamochi

This was written by Otomo at the age of 16!

“I have fallen into a yearning

With no requite,

For a girl who, when night comes

Sleeps pillowed in another’s arms.

— Anonymous-

“If men can touch

Even the untouchable sacred tree,

Why can I not touch you

Simply because you are another’s wife?”

— Otomo Yasumaro

To finish with some anonymous poems:

“The flowers of the plum,

Were covered with fallen snow

Which I wrapped up

But when I tried to have you see

It was melting in my hands.”

“This body of mine

Has crossed the mountain barrier

And is here indeed!

But this heart of mine remains

Drawing closer to my wife.”

“The moon crossed the sky

And I saw him only once In its pale ligh

t Yet, the person whom I saw

Does appear to me in dreams.”

“I shall not take a brush

To this hair that lies

Disheveled in the morning,

For it retains the touch

Of my dear lord’s arms that pillowed me.”

— Anonymous

I’ll prime the pot with one of my own

“Glimpse of a white wrist

Feel the pulse of blood beneath-

This is seduction!

But catch a wry, cunning smile

One learns all is artifice.

Or something a bit different.  Many of the poems were built one upon the other, answers brushed upon a fan, or something suitable, even a large leaf. In the ‘spirit’ of this method that is found in the Man’yoshu, I offer this modest poem:

Thick and fast stream my thoughts of you

Like the layers

Of endlessly falling snow

Upon the cedars.

“Come to me at night, my man.”

Come to me

If  only in my dreams

Where my head rests upon my arm

And not yours–

Let this veiled moon

Above and these dark, brooding pines below

“Be witness to our love, my man.”

Jane Kohut-Bartels (aka Lady Nyo)

Copyrighted, 2015

“The Stillness of Death”, from “Song Of The Nightingale”

July 23, 2015



It’s taken 4 years to complete, but “Song” is now available to the public.  Hope there is enjoyment in the reading of this saga.  There are also two essays at the end:  “The Man’yoshu” and “Building Upon the Man’yoshu”.

Nick Nicholson’s photos are wonderful inside, and he did a great job formatting and designing the book.

The cover painting, another painting inside and the calligraphy are mine.

Lady Nyo

(link to Amazon.com/ Song of the Nightingale)


This is the second episode of “Song Of The Nightingale”.




“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:



And drink.

Tonight he strung

His seven foot bow,

Donned his quiver

High on his back.

He looked at the pale face

Of his aging wife,

His eyes blurry, unfocused.

He remembered the first time

pillowing her.

She was fifteen.

Her body powdered petals,

Bones like butter,

Black hair like trailing bo silk.

The blush of shy passion

Had coursed through veins

Like a tinted stream.

Still beautiful

Now too fragile for his taste.

Better a plump whore,

Than this delicate, saddened beauty.

He drew back the bow

In quick succession

Let five arrows pierce

The shoji.

Each grazed the shell ear

Of his wife.

Life hung on her stillness.

She willed herself dead.

Death after all these years

Would have been welcome.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted , 2015, available from Createspace, Amazon.com

“Ode To A Coopers Hawk”, from “Pitcher of Moon”

July 18, 2015
was to be the cover painting for

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

To my friends: enduring and good people.  The world is full of good people, we must not forget this.

Lady Nyo,… poem dedicated to my beautiful Sparky and Maggie, gone but not forgotten.


Come to me.

Come to me,

Winged celestial beauty.

Come to me with your notched

Mermaid tail,

Your silken roll of feathers.

Fly down into my hollowed-out soul,

Fill me with your sun-warmed glory

Nestle in my arms

And bring the curve of the horizon

Embraced in your outstretched wings.

I need no white bearded prophet,

No mumbled prayer, no gospel song

No hard church bench, no fast or

Festival to feel close to the Divine.

The glory of the universe,

Is embodied in your flight

As you tumble through heavens,

Ride the invisible thermals

Screech with joy at freedom

Fill your lungs with thin air

And play bumper car with an Eagle.

I, earthbound,

No hollowed bones to launch me,

Just tired soul to weigh down,

No soft plumage to feel the course

Of wind through glossy feathers

No hunting call to herald my presence.

Still my soul takes flight

The breeze lifts my spirit,

My eyes follow you,

And we will find that glory

Transcend a sullen earth,

Transcend a mean humanity

And soar together into the blue eye of God.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010-2015, “Pitcher of Moon” published 2014, Createspace, Amazon.com

“July Moon” from “White Cranes of Heaven”

July 14, 2015


The summer is so beautiful, despite the heat.  Last night the moon looked like a beggar’s cup, brilliant in the sky.  The days in the Deep South are sultry, but the wind picks up in the late afternoon when a storm is coming and then these huge oaks and pecans are whirligigs high in the sky.

Barley tea, iced tea and lemonade are the drinks of choice during the summer, harkening back to earlier times.  Closed drapes, blinds in the heat of noon day sun actually work to regulate the temperature , though one doubts this will.

The heat brings to life the cicadas, or whatever is making a constant buzz outside.  It comes in waves, where one group, or species, competes in sound with another.  The dogs of summer are wise: they flatten themselves on the cool tiles of the laundry room and remain motionless until the cooling of the night where they chase rats in the kudzu.  They also have developed a taste for watermelon, and we sit on the steps of the back porch and share with them, while a wood owl sounds from an huge oak above us. We never see him, but his hoots are a fixture of the summer nights.

Lady Nyo



A pale moon rises,

Unheralded, surprising us

With its presence so early at dusk.


The summer heat makes it waver

Like a ghost under water.

The cicadas hold their breath-

Their leg-fiddles muted,

And the earth turns quiet

If only for a moment.


Brushing the lush green tree tops

It floats upward into a still-lavender sky,

Gaining presence, strength, gleam

As it balances in the darkening light,

A well-trod path– fascinating eternity.


A world-weary face appears

And casts a bemused gaze downward

Before sailing through the night

Into the harbor of Dawn.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010-2015

“White Cranes of Heaven” available from Lulu.com

Family Narcissism Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree…..and “Seasons Change”, poetry

July 12, 2015


Family Narcissism Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

People who know me know that my mother  and I have never been close.   This goes way back, for about 4 or 5 decades. It took me a couple of therapists to figure out her behavior. She’s a narcissist: whether pathological or ‘just’ destructive, or malignant  it doesn’t matter. It’s all bad.  Regardless the title, it causes extreme pain and suffering in  victims which is the reason for this behavior. Narcissists love to create pain…as long as it is in others.  They are great wimps when someone gives it back.  My mother goes ballistic.

In 1990 when I started writing a novel, she wrote to me that “no one would ever read you, and you would never be published.”

Surprise, you ol’ bat!

With the publication of “Song of the Nightingale”, I have just published my 5th book. Five books in six years is a lot of work. I don’t recommend it. But I am proud of the books…and this last one is so beautiful in the hand that it shimmers. It’s been out less than a week and people are already buying it.

This book is about the life of a 17th century Japanese couple, both of samurai and once powerful families. The dynamics of this are sharp in the book, and I have relied upon the beautiful 8th century Man’yoshu, a document of over 4,500 poems to draw upon for the 13 part saga. I studied Japanese for 4 years to get deeper into the traditions and customs of Japan. Only the Japanese sushi workers at Whole Foods encourage me in this, and I know now I can order sushi in the language, but little more.

The cover is especially interesting. Ten years ago I gave this painting (cover now) to mother and apparently she didn’t like it, or couldn’t find a place in her house for it, so she hung it on a closet door. It fell, and I found it under a bed. The glazing was broken, as was the frame so I took it home for my sweet husband to fix. Then I decided that she wasn’t going to get it back. She didn’t deserve it.

You should have heard her yowls!

In the same vein, 3 years ago I published “White Cranes of Heaven”, a selection of seasonal poems. The first phone call from her was full of praise (I sent her a copy) and then the second phone call was this: “Too many Winter poems, and I’ve seen all your sketches before.” (no sketches in this book…full on watercolors and oils….of which she has never seen because she has not been in our house for over 15 years. My husband has forbidden her here. I agree. First time she met our 3 year old son she slapped him across the face, leaving her handprint there. “He spit at me!”. I should have thrown her out a window.)

She read the dedication and she wasn’t in it. Nope, she wasn’t. After her years of cutting down my abilities (except when she wanted something) she didn’t deserve a dedication. Then in 2012, a short, scribbled over card: “I can never be truly proud of you because you haven’t let me into your artistry.”

Nope ‘mother’, I haven’t. And your words are the leitmotiv of a real Narcissist. It’s always about them.

It’s crazy making but when I sent her a poem, she immediately thought (and said) it was about her. It wasn’t. Ever. But Narcissists grab at everything they can to inflate their faltering ego.

For the last ten years I have been seriously involved in the study of psychology. I majored in it in the mid ‘80s. It took me a long time to understand what and why she was behaving like she does. Well, I believe that narcissism starts with one or more parents and some are seriously stung with the narcissism disease. Her sainted mother was a concert singer and her daughter had little voice. She also had two sisters younger who her mother described as ‘beautiful, pretty….and you’ll do.” This is a direct quote from mother. I think she really was hurt by her mother and it fed into her psychological problems. Many things did, and perhaps her narcissism (from the age of 5 according to a dead sister) was a defense mechanism. Most youths grow out of that stage by 17 or so, but mother never did. Pity.

Very recently I received a ‘note’ from her after I sent a poem. “Seasons Change”. It’s been published on this blog before, and in “Pitcher of Moon” and it certainly isn’t about her. Her reaction? “I’ve never been terrified by water, but you were, and I never asked you to save me.” (There is an old photo of my beloved father holding me in his arms on a bridge over a gorge in New Jersey. I’m yelling my head off. I was all of 9 months old. )

What kind of woman throws that up to make her argument? Not even a “good-enough mother.”

I had enough. I have never confronted her for her crazy narcissism. I wrote a short note to her, saying her behavior came from her narcissism, and she was mired in her hatred, anger and jealously.

I felt  I had finally found the nuts to tell her this. Or, as my family says about her: “Shut up, sit down , put a filter in your mouth.”

Today I got  emails from my brother. Hateful, demeaning emails. Pompous shit, and not very original. Just throwing crap like a little boy.  Good God!  He sounded just like his old mother! And yes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the Narcissist Tree.

I thought it was funny was he tried to form it into a haiku.  I should have responded this way:  “Yawn, another bad attempt at haiku.  Stay on the porch, boy, you are  no poet.”  I made the mistake of taking this pompous ass seriously.  Won’t do that again.

This is the family who when my husband had a stroke….no one said a word. Not the Narcissist, not the wives, not the other brother….total silence. ( this brother did in a way, but we wondered IF he had even mentioned this stroke to anyone else.) His wife said two years beyond the stroke: “Oh, I thought you were over that by now.”  But we never heard from her when it happened. Total silence.  We just thought this is their “Christian” way. They had no reason to hate my husband.

Years ago, when our son was small, this same brother had a stroke, was blind for a while (rampant and uncontrolled diabetes) and we were deeply concerned.  Enough to send money we could have used on our son, but I loved my brother deeply, and he was a priority.  I used to respect him, thought he was wise, compassionate, but now?  He’s a carbon copy of his mother, just throwing around abuse and contempt.  A born again Narcissist….forget about Christian.


The pollution of narcissism must be only on this side of the family. My father’s side were all wonderfully supportive. Fred received advice from my cousins, aunts, etc.. Quite a difference from my side of the family. But then again…narcissism wasn’t the ruling disease from my father’s side.

Amazing. I could put all this crap aside, but they claim to be Christians. I have to say that I kept away from Christianity because (in part) I saw how they behaved, and I really didn’t know Christians then. I do now, and I can see that these troublesome folk are nothing of that nature.

Our son said this recently: “Mom, you don’t want anything to remember her by, you want to forget her. Her abuse of you and others is your personal PTSD. You will have it for life.”

He’s right. He went on: “Remember the women in our family, Aunt Jean, Aunt Pauline, etc. who WERE your real mothers. Remember them. They loved you like  she never could.”

Ah, God. To top it all off, I get a final email from Facebook from this brother wanting to be  ‘friends.’

Are you kidding? The Devil looks kinder than this sibling. But it’s this: After decades being the narcissistic supply and sacrificing his  family to the will of this mean old woman, (95 and still venomous) he has become exactly like her: Another Narcissist.

His ‘friend request’ had nothing to do with being friends. It was just more of his deception.  It did startle me until a friend explained his real purpose in this. Jesus Christ.  How low can he drop?

Remember  your own howls at the behavior of your mother? How you wanted to drop her into a swamp for the alligators? Do you remember saying there would be a rush on her coffin to tighten down the screws?  Do you remember your mother stomping her feet her driveway, insisting that you choose between her and your wife?  You have probably blocked all of this to survive. You have had to develop a defense mechanism to withstand her  behavior, but you’ve lost your humanity in the process.  I guess that’s called a coping process.

I love my brothers, (they don’t understand or follow un conditional love so they wouldn’t understand this sentiment….they are too much under another influence) but I also  pity them.  They have always been under the influence of this narcissist and frankly? They are rather ….sad.  It’s sad to see men in their 60’s who remain emotionally  children.  But that is the fate of people who rely on the ‘benefits’ of the central narcissist.  Only by understanding the pitfalls in doing can one be able to move away and grow.  Narcissism is a black hole for them. Tied to the apron strings of a master manipulator, they will never escape , and even when the narcissist is dead, they will  be impacted heavily by her history and the independence they have given up in life.  Heinz Kohut and Rollo May, along with many others have emphasized the importance of escaping the vortex of the Narcissist.  Real growth isn’t possible without  leaving this influence.  But that takes work, and both are too entrenched (and lazy) to do so.

When we are raised by a narcissist, we will always have fleas. Some of us know and are mindful of this. Others? Well, they could care less. And a further thought. Narcissism and Misogyny go hand in hand.

But the world is FULL of good people.  I have met many, and some have become friends.  And when you come from such a family as mine, you don’t realize that everyone doesn’t function in such destructive ways..  When you get away from the abuse, you can think straight and grow.  You can actualize your talents and you breathe better.  There are so many good and supportive people in the world you come to realize that this is the ‘norm’ not what you have known. There is grace in this, there is redemption. The others will disappear in the fog.

And perhaps the real question is this:  What price our humanity, compassion and empathy?

For some, it’s not even on the agenda.

And, since this is mostly a poetry blog, I will post the ‘offending’ poem.



I took a walk this morning.

The seasons have changed here

though where you are they don’t.

The dried, brittle grass beneath my feet

made a consistent crackle,

echoed by the gossip of sparrows above.

The leaves are stripped from the birches and maples.

They fell like rain on a fallow ground one day

and I didn’t see them go.

I think of your rounded arms when I see the shedding birches,

the smooth bark like white skin with a faint pulse of the river beneath.

Do you remember that river, when it scared you to stand close to the bank?

You thought the earth would slip inward,

take you on a wild ride downstream where

I couldn’t retrieve you,

and I saw for an instant your raised arms imploring me silently to save you—

though it never happened and you never slipped down the bank and I never could save you.

But imagination plays with your mind when it’s all that is left.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015……definitely NOT about ‘mother’.

I came across this article from the Irish journal “Inside Out”: issue 66, Spring 2012:  “Narcissism: Humanity’s Secret Weapon of Mass Destruction“.  I haven’t read it thoroughly, but it is fascinating.  It presents the development of narcissism before birth, and the child impacted by arguments, violence, trauma while in the uterus. It’s on the web.  It poses some good research.

“Song of the Nightingale” finally published on Amazon.com (Createspace)

July 6, 2015


It’s taken 4 years to complete, but “Song” is now available to the public.  Hope there is enjoyment in the reading of this saga.  There are also two essays at the end:  “The Man’yoshu” and “Building Upon the Man’yoshu”.

Nick Nicholson’s photos are wonderful inside, and he did a great job formatting and designing the book.

Lady Nyo

(link to Amazon.com/ Song of the Nightingale)





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

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

Lord Mori was fortunate in his exemption of having to travel the months to sit in attendance on the Emperor. He was awarded this exemption with pitiful letters to the court complaining of age, ill health and general infirmities.  He sent his eldest, rather stupid son to comply with the Emperor’s demands. 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 loss 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 stand to entertain any reader of this tale.

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

The present Lady Nyo, descended from generations past.

“A Kapitany”, Chapter 27 from the novel.

July 1, 2015

de la Motte house

In 2007, I started writing “A Kapitany”.   A number of books got in the way, but last year I finished it.  Revising, reconsidering, etc. is now and hopefully this violent and graphic novel will be published next year.  The theme is this:  Vadas Dohendy owns a rundown vineyard near Eger, Hungary, an area famous for wine production. He also has inherited a 300 year chateau that is unlivable, and a  hunting lodge where he lives, with intermittent electricity (that haunts most of NE Hungary) and a really old Aga that backfires like a gun.

Vadas is also an art thief, a half-hearted Dom (now that he has fallen in love), and attempting to put most of that 30 year career behind him. He wants to leave the sordid life of crime and marry Elizabeth. He wants to recover his vineyard and at 60 he doesn’t want to look over his shoulder every day.  Soffia is one of his ‘henchmen’ though she is a woman.  They have worked many years together and have a long history.  Vadas is overbearing, Hungarian and no fool.  Elizabeth has been tortured, raped by his partner, Miklos Farkas. Both haveheir own gangs of men and are hunting each other.     (Vadas sort of means “hunter” in Hungarian, Farkas means ‘wolf”)

Violence and guns play a role in this novel and I drew from my own experience.  Guns are not something I like, but I have them.  Shotguns and pistols.  I used to shoot skeet, and wasn’t very good.   If you have guns you should learn how to use them and learn the safety rules.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

July 4th, 2015…may it be a peaceful one.

Kapitany, Chapter 27

“Soffia, I need a favor, darling. Yes, I know, your Vadas only calls when he needs a favor. Soffia, listen to me. I must come to Budapest.”

Vadas grimaced and pulled at his cigarette. Soffia could be a hard ass and right now she was being just that. He shifted the phone on his shoulder and stretched his legs.

“I have several things to do in Budapest. What I need is you to come here and stay with Elizabeth. No, she is much better, she is walking around. Yes, she is better, but I don’t want to leave her alone right now. I still don’t know where Miklos is, and I don’t want him showing up here when I am gone. No, I have men posted to watch, but I don’t want to alarm her.”

Vadas held the phone from his ear. Soffia was full of grievances this morning. He wasn’t in a mood to listen.

“No, darling, I haven’t told her yet you are coming. I thought I should ask first. Yes, I know, Soffia, I take great advantage of you. I will make it up. What? You pick. You know your Vadas will buy what you desire. I always have, darling.”

Vadas blew smoke towards the ceiling. “Listen, Soffia, Elizabeth has agreed to marry. Yes, I am speaking the truth. No, I didn’t burn her passport. No, I didn’t break her arm, funny lady.”
He rolled his eyes. Soffia was chattering on. “Look, you can help with planning the wedding. What? Yes, it will be a wedding. A big wedding. You will be maid of honor or whatever they call the woman next to the bride. Where? Some church in Eger. You take her around and show things. You can buy the dress, and another one for you. Yes, like last time. I trust you, Soffia. She will be a pretty bride. You both will be pretty brides. What? I’ll marry you off to one of my men, ok? You will like living in the countryside. No, I am teasing, Soffia. I know you are too sophisticated for these men around here.”

A few more minutes and Vadas got what he wanted. Soffia was coming out by car and would stay with Elizabeth for a few days. This would give him the time to go to Paris, see his lawyers and visit the old aunties. They were his only living relatives. It was crucial he at least visit and invite them in person. They held some important purse strings.

At lunch Vadas asked Elizabeth what should be done with the frescos.

“For now? Nothing, Vadas. First secure the roof. Anything done before that would be pointless. Then fix the plaster in the ceilings. It’s rather scary lying under that ceiling in the bed. It could all give in at any moment. But the frescos should not be touched. They are too valuable and historic for any hands besides professional conservators. And that would cost a lot of money.”

Elizabeth pushed around her salad. She still wasn’t eating much.

“Probably the damp in the house doesn’t help. Fix the windows in the rooms where there are frescos. Where there aren’t, board them up properly. They will be costly to fix anyway. Those sashes have to be custom made.”

Vadas smiled over his coffee. “You have been thinking, no? You speak good sense, Elizabeth. Now, I have a plan. You do that stuff on the internet, you know, press those buttons, and find the people who can fix the roof first. You can go into Eger and ask. I would start there first.”

Elizabeth looked doubtful. “Vadas, do you remember I don’t speak Hungarian? They would laugh at me first, and then throw me out.”

“Well, I have a solution. I have asked Soffia to come up for a couple of days. Now, listen to me, Elizabeth. I have to go to Budapest for a couple of days, on business only and no you can’t come. I will be racing all over and you will not be able to keep up. Plus, I have to call upon my old aunties and invite them to the wedding. You and Soffia can plan the wedding, you two girls. This is woman stuff, and it best left in your capable hands. Four capable hands.”

Elizabeth still looked doubtful. In fact, she looked upset. Vadas guessed what was worrying her.

“Listen, Elizabeth. Soffia has promised to be good. She has promised not to get you under her or whatever she does. Ok? No hanky panky from her. Plus, she is Hungarian and can help arrange the workmen. It will be fun. You won’t even miss me and I will be back before you do.”

Elizabeth said nothing. She continued to push her food around the plate.

Vadas sat back and watched. “Do you remember, Elizabeth, when I told you I would feed you? That you would eat from my hand only? Do I have to do that now? You are going to look like a scarecrow at your wedding. What man wants to sleep with a woman who is skin and bones? The winter, Elizabeth, is hard in these hills.”

Vadas had no trouble with his own appetite. He cut up his meat and held out his fork. “You come here, Elizabeth. You eat this. Then you eat another mouthful.”

Elizabeth looked at him, her eyes filling with tears. “Vadas, I’m scared.”

“What? You  scared of meat?”

“You know, you must know. What if Miklos comes back when you are gone? What if he comes here? Soffia is no defense against him. You know that.”

Vadas sat back and patted his knee. “You come here Elizabeth and I will explain something.”

Elizabeth knew his behavior made her look like a child, a ‘good girl’ in his terms. But she was scared and the news he was going away put her on edge.

She sat on his lap and Vadas wrapped his arms around her. He had this habit of humming off key when she was close by, and Elizabeth found it strangely comforting.

“Now look, Elizabeth. You and Soffia will be safe. I have men here you won’t see. But anyone who approaches by foot or car will be known. These men are hunters and they know this particular prey. And you are wrong about Soffia. I would rather go up against two men than Soffia. She is a good shot, too. I will give her a gun. Hell, you can have a gun, too. Ok? Dry your tears and eat this good food.”

“Vadas, I can handle a gun. I have before.”

“What? You know how to shoot? I will sleep with one eye open from now on. Eat another piece of meat.”

Just to see if she was telling the truth, Vadas took her out behind the lodge where there was a meadow. He set up some bottles as targets and loaded a large pistol. Standing behind her with his hands around hers, he told her to gently squeeze the trigger. She missed.

“Ok, we do this again. You hold the gun steady, Elizabeth. You are jerking when it went off.”

“Vadas. Let me do this without your hands all over. Let me try, please.”

Vadas backed off and Elizabeth considered the target. She closed one eye and aimed carefully. The bottle exploded.

“Good girl! That was beginner’s luck. You try again.” Elizabeth hit the bottle but the gun was heavy. It wasn’t a light pistol, but a heavy European model. The sound scared her.

“Enough, Vadas. My wrist hurts. I have shot a gun before. I don’t use pistols, so this was hard. I have my own shotgun.”

“What? You have a shotgun? What, a lady’s gun? Maybe a small gauge? Something for mice?”

Elizabeth laughed. “No, Vadas, I have a 12 gauge for bird hunting. I have another, a breech loader, I use with skeet.”

“Oh, skeet don’t taste good, Elizabeth.” Vadas was laughing.

“Each day I learn something new about you. This is good, Elizabeth. By the time we are married I will know all your secrets.”

Elizabeth smiled. “Don’t bet on it, Vadas. I have lived a long life. I have many secrets.”

Vadas took the gun from Elizabeth. He put his arm  around her shoulder and they went back to the lodge.

That evening Elizabeth asked him. “So when are you leaving and when is Soffia coming?”

Vadas looked up from his paper. “Are you pushing me out the door? Well, Soffia is coming tomorrow and I thought I would hang around until she got here. Then I can read her the riot act again.” Vadas went back to his paper.

When Soffia arrived, Vadas brought her into his study and closed the door. They were in there for a while and Elizabeth decided to take a walk. She would see if she could spy these men lingering about. Vadas said they would be invisible, but she wanted to see for herself. When she came back in the lodge, Vadas and Soffia were by the fire drinking whisky.

“Ah, Elizabeth darling! You look good! So much better than those first few days in hospital.”

“Hello, Soffia.” Elizabeth went and kissed her on both cheeks. “It’s good to see you again.” She sat down on a small sofa. Vadas held out his whisky to her and she shook her head.

“Vadas has given me a list of things we can do and things we can’t do,” Soffia said brightly. “But we can spend his money and that is the best thing.”

Vadas sighed. “Always you women spend my money. That is constant.”

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2007-2015

“Songs of Summer”, from “White Cranes of Heaven”,

June 22, 2015
Giant English Hollyhock

Giant English Hollyhock



Summer cartwheels through the sky!

The fertility of months

Shines from field to orchard,

Above  and deep below,

Where earth gathers green energy

 transforms by magic

Fruits for the mouth and eye.


Fledglings tipped out of nests

Try new-feathered wings on warm currents,

Calves butt heads and race in calf-tumble

Climbing rocks and playing king-of-the-hill,

Spring lambs past the date

For the tenderest of slaughter

Coated in white curls,

Smell of lanolin sweet in their wake.


There is fresh life in the pastures,

Now with steady legs and bawling lungs,

They graze upon the bounty

And grow fat for  future culling.

Tender shoots of wheat and corn,

Waist-high, defying devious crows,

Paint once-fallow fields in saffron and

A multitude of hues-

Golden tassels forming,

Waving under an oppressive sun,

And when the sky bursts open

In random welcomed rain,

Heaven meets Earth-

The cycle complete.


These are the songs of Summer:

The bleat of lambs,

The cymbals of colliding clouds,

The plaints of cows with udders tight,

The loud quarrelling of a swollen brook,

The scream of a hunting hawk

Calling for its mate,

The pelt of an unheralded storm

Upon a tin roof,

And the quiet sighing of

An unexpected wind-

A benediction to the day.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011-2015

“River of Death” from “Song of the Nightingale”

June 13, 2015

Song Book cover

images (8)

“Song of the Nightingale” is a story in 12 episodes about a marriage in 17th century Japan.  Lord Nyo and Lady Nyo, he a samurai and she from the powerful clan Fujiwara, have been married since she was fifteen.  Now she is thirty and Lord Nyo sixty. Magic, a tricky Tengu and a baby plucked from the surface of the moon figure in the story.

The poetry of Saigyo is noted:  where it isn’t, it is mine.

Episode 11 is a scene from a battlefield, as Lord Nyo is a general in the provincial army of Lord Mori, an aging and despot daimyo in north west Japan, near Moon Mountain.

“Song of the Nightingale”  will be published around July, 2015, a work of 4 years.

Lady Nyo…but not the one in the story.




There’s no gap or break in the ranks of those marching under the hill:

an endless line of dying men, coming on and on and on….


When the news of Lady Nyo

Birthing a son

Reached Lord Nyo

He was far from home,

To the east,

Over mountains

In dangerous, alien territory.

A general in the service

Of his lord,

The gore of battle,

The issue of ‘dying with honor’

Began at first light,

The air soon filled with sounds of battle-

Dying horses, dying men

Drawing their last gasps of life,

Churned into the mud of immeasurable violence.

The river of death is swollen with bodies fallen into it;

in the end  the bridge of horses cannot help.


Death, not new life

Was before his eyes at dawn,

And death, not life

Pillowed his head at night.

A battle rages around me,

But inside this old warrior

A battle rages inside my heart.

It is heavy with sorrow,

So tired beyond my old bones.

 What good have we done

In watering the soil

With blood and offal

of sons?


He stunk with the blood of battle

As his bow and swords cut a swath

Through men in service to another

And when the battle horns went silent,

With tattered banners like defeated clouds

Hanging limp over the field,

Acrid smoke stained everything

And the piteous cries of the dying

Echoed in his ears.

He wondered if his life would end here.

But the gods that he didn’t believe in

Were merciful.

His thoughts turned from fierce, ugly warriors

Towards home and a baby.

Still, he could not leave.

He was caught by status,

The prestige of his clan.

He could not desert the

Fate set out from birth. –

Ah! This was fate of a man in servitude

To his Lord Daimyo.

This was the fate

Of a man chained to Honor.

Still, in the darkest hours of the night

The soft and perfumed shape of his wife

Floated down to him from the fleeting clouds,

Came to him through the smoke of battlefield fires,

And he turned on his pallet

To embrace this haunting comfort.

Off in the distance

There I see my loved one’s home

On the horizon.

How I long to be there soon

Get along black steed of mine!

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015



“A Dish of Skylarks”……

June 9, 2015

New Knocker 2

Spring is in full bloom here in Atlanta.  Started a new rose garden and have a serious head cold.

Yes, spring is in full bloom.

Lady Nyo




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,


And offered a feather.


I thought it gracious

Considering what I had done

To his neighbors.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014, from  Pitcher of Moon, Amazon.com


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