“Original Blessing”, a poem.

August 14, 2018
DSCF2572

Sailboat, watercolor, Jane kohut-bartels, 2006

 

I wrote this when I felt  battered from Baha’i to Fundamentalist Christians.  I was dizzy with anger and then realized  these people were nothing of great consequence except for trouble and worry.  Their actions were nothing of love but of dominance and hatred.  We all must find our own way in our beliefs. 

Lady Nyo

Original Blessing”

 

I am dizzy with love,

Standing in the rain,

This cosmic blessing

Pouring on my head,

Mingling with tears of gratitude

Til one stream

can not be deciphered

From the other.

 

I am an Original Blessing,

As are you,

And we are not born in sin,

But brought into the light of life

In great joy and anticipation.

 

Our first bellows are not of pain

But surprise at the roominess of the Cosmos,

As we kick our feet, flail our arms

And finally open our eyes at the glorious colors

Of Nature.

 

Original sin would have us

Born rotten,

A theological monkey on our back–

But I know no God of the Cosmos

Who would scar these tiny blessings

With such a heavy burden.

 

Original Blessing is a deliverance,

A deliverance of hope, trust and pride

A heritage where we can discern and save

Ourselves,

Walk in harmony with the Earth,

Stride with God across the span of life–

For this Earth is our cradle,

And all in it our kin.

 

For a truly wise person

Kneels at the feet of all creatures

And is not afraid to endure

The mockery of others.

 

And when the day sidles up to night

I will settle into the nest of the Earth,

Draw the dark blanket of the Cosmos

Across me,

Pillow my head upon stars

And know that the blessings I have been

Graced with today and always

Have come from the womb of God.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017-2018

 

 

 

“The Children of Aleppo”

August 10, 2018

Children of Aleppo pix

For OLN on dversepoets.com hosted by Lillian.

I was watching a PBS program of Holmes, and the “White Helmets”, the men who excavate the ruins looking for survivors of the bombings by Assad, etc.  They call for body bags and bag body parts.  The toll on their lives in all ways, and those of the people is immeasurable.

Lady Nyo

The Children of Aleppo

 

There is no childhood in Aleppo.

There are little martyrs-in-the-making

Where 5 year olds and 8 year olds

Wish for a ‘family death’

Where they can die together

With their parents

Where they live in peace in Heaven

Never tasting the fruits of peace on Earth.

 

There is no childhood in Aleppo.

The children haunt the abandoned houses

Of friends who have fled the city.

There they find abandoned teddy bears

While looking for guns for the rebels, their fathers.

 

A dead canary in his cage

Abandoned by its owners

They flee the rockets, bombs

And mortars.

In the face of daily death

The sight of this bird

Evokes a child’s sorrow.

The gunfire outside continues

(They are used to the noise)

And huddle in the pockmarked

Halls until safe to scatter.

 

The children of Aleppo

Have no teachers, doctors.

These have fled the cities, schools

But they still pine for ice cream,

For music in the streets,

For curtains not torn by violence,

For books and toys

And gardens and flowers,

For friends that have not died

Innocent blood splattering

The dirty cobble stones

At their feet.

 

The children of Aleppo

Are free and children again

Only in their dreams,

And perhaps, if you believe so,

After death.

 

How do you put back the brains

Of a child in the cup of the shattered skull?

How do you soothe the howls of the mothers,

The groans of the fathers?

How do you comfort surviving siblings?

 

The children of Aleppo

Have no future as children.

Suffer the little children.

They are the sacrifice of parents

And factions,

And politicians

All with the blood of

20,000 children

Who have died

In a country torn

By immeasurable violence.

 

The beautiful children of Aleppo

Like children everywhere

Still want to chase each other

In the gardens, on playgrounds,

Want to dance in the streets,

Want to pluck flowers for their mothers

And they still pine for ice cream.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016-2018

 

 

 

 

“Sumo Wrestling”….a haibun.

August 8, 2018

sumo

Sumo Wrestling

 

I love Sumo wrestling. Or at least I think I do. Perhaps it is the only sport where I don’t feel  I have to hold in my stomach sitting there. Watching those mountains of flesh-men grapple with each other makes my heart beat hard. But women are not to enter or touch the sand of the ring. There is such history around this sport, and such a deep tradition. The fact that they gorge themselves with a purpose makes my heart sing. How wonderful that you can eat and eat without any concern for weight or fashion!

And, did you know that those belts they wear can cost a million yen? Or so I have read. I have also read that Sumo Wrestlers are some of the most humble and gentle of men. Here, have another bowl of rice.

 

Mountains of flesh pound

A ring of sandy earth

Cunning and strength vie.

 

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2018

 

“A Clash of Humanity”

August 4, 2018

Roses East 3

(from my garden)

August 6th is approaching, the date of the Atomic bomb dropping on the Japanese people in 1945.  I have read and studied this history and it is beyond shocking to me.  I have great love for these people who suffered.  By the way, my father was part of the crew flying a B-24 in the Pacific around this time and he came home a convinced a pacifist.   I follow his lead.

Lady Nyo

A Clash of Humanity

 

Leah walked into Big Lots, the one where her mother had thrown a shit-fit and insulted an elderly Japanese lady. Her mother was close to 90, and had done so the day before. She had flown in on her broom and stayed three days. In that time she managed to berate, insult and offend quite a number of people, local people who her daughter would perhaps see weekly. She didn’t spare the daughter either, and though the lumps were invisible, they again went deep.

But this last assault was the worst. The Japanese lady had grabbed the sleeve of her mother’s sweater and said playfully: “Give me that pretty sweater”. Her mother raised her hackles. She turned on the woman.

“How dare you touch me,” she hissed. The Japanese lady did not back down, but backed up. She seemed to have common sense. Perhaps she knew about snakes.

“I’m only playing with you. I don’t mean offense.”

Her mother’s eyebrow arched, the expression she used with ‘inferior folk’ when she, a little woman herself, tried to make others submit.

“Hah! You lost the war!” As if this made sense of everything.

Her mother’s words were ridiculous, some 65 years after the fact, but to her, a fine logic. The Japanese woman turned to her racks of clothes and her mother stormed out of the store.

The next day, her daughter made the rounds, apologizing to the employee in the food store for her mother’s insults, at another thrift shop where she became irate when she wasn’t immediately served, and then the scene at Big Lots.   The Japanese lady was as gracious as her own mother outrageous, and she tried to laugh it off. But Leah had seen the ‘look’ before; the hurt in eyes of people who were attacked by her mother. She saw the ‘look’ since she was 15 and had been apologizing for her mother ever since. In her home town people, total strangers to her, would stop and ask: “What is wrong with your mother!” As if she, at 15, would know. Later, much later she would know, but at that age, her mother was a constant source of shame and embarrassment.

“Your mother. She is German?”

The daughter laughed.   “Yes.” (This was a lie)

“She was the Bitch of Buchenwald.”

That was the name her family, except her husband, called her behind her back. She was that bad.

“Oh, I see”, said the Japanese lady, but of course she didn’t.

The daughter had no idea how to deal with her mother’s behavior, and it took four years of therapy to realize it was a particular nasty brand of mental illness. It wasn’t the daughter’s fault, nor did her mother’s behavior spring from what she, the daughter, did.   Nor was it the fault of the grocer, the employee at the thrift store, nor the Japanese lady at Big Lots.

Four years later, Leah, now dressed in a new, hand made kimono, obi sash and a silk parasol, had her husband drop her at Big Lots to pick up a gift. They were going to a costume party and she had picked this kimono to wear. It was peach silk, with a navy blue wide obi, with large goldfish swimming in the background. The final sash was a thin red silk rope, doubled and tied in a samurai knot in front.

She was wearing geta, and the clack- clack of the wood soles sounded like a horse on the flooring of the store. She immediately found a silver plated picture frame, a perfect gift for the queen of the party….and there was the Japanese lady.

“Oh, you look beautiful! But you dead!”

The daughter thought she was nursing the previous insult, but no, the Japanese lady was referring to the way she had ‘closed’ her kimono. Right panel over left was how people were buried….Left over right for the living.

Meicho was her name, and she was all of 80 lbs and only 4’8”. She picked up the hem and looked at the hand stitching and marveled at the patience the daughter of the Nazi showed in stitching the kimono. Tiny little stitches and a lot of them. She opened her wallet and took out two small pictures, stuck together probably from age and handling. One was of her at 16 and the other at 32. Both were taken when she was made up as Geisha.

She was so beautiful, as ethereal as an ageha, a butterfly. This wrinkled, little crone was once as classically endowed with beauty as any famous Geisha. The passage of time had taken that outward beauty but her gracious and generous heart was untouched.

Something had to be done! This stupid girl couldn’t be allowed to remain ‘dead’.

So Meicho did what any sensible Japanese woman would do. There, in Big Lots, in a store almost devoid of customers on an early Saturday evening, she undressed Leah. Off came the first belt, then the obi sash, then the inner belt and quickly she opened, and properly closed the kimono. Leah was wearing a lace bra and panties and they both giggled at the ‘inappropriate’ underwear.

Inappropriate for wearing a kimono.

Meicho slapped the woman’s belly good naturedly. “You get too fat to close kimono!”

She redressed her, correctly bloused the kimono so the vertebra in the neck showed (the height of sexuality in Japan) and rewrapped the obi sash.

Success! She wasn’t ‘dead’ anymore! She got a quick lesson in important Japanese words and how to bow correctly. Meicho got two kisses and the eternal gratitude from this now ‘alive’ woman. She was given quick instruction how to walk with dignity in her high geta, like a geisha perhaps, or a poor imitation of one.

Meicho demonstrated for her the ‘sexy’ figure- eight walk in high geta, the trademark of a professional Geisha. The feet are dragged at a pointed angle forward, in a looping curve, wide out from the body, but with the knees together. One foot slowly placed in front of the other. To do this and still stand, a Geisha would need the support of a maid, so tiny Meicho was her walking support. Back and forth, up and down the aisle they walked, throwing her feet out at Meicho’s direction. The hips roll in a very strange, sexy way and perhaps is why an experienced Geisha will use the figure-eight: It advertises what is under the kimono.

She left Meicho that evening with an overflowing heart. Maichio’s kind gestures had given her much room for thought.

Sometimes the borders between humans disappear, even when great wars are fought and there is bitterness lasting generations.   There will always be victors and vanquished. The human heart is capable of great evil and greater compassion.

Meicho had come from Hiroshima, had lost her family and had been burned in the fires of 1945. From this land of death there was always life to be honored, and she would find a way, even in repairing a badly closed kimono.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

Haibun: Summer

July 30, 2018

 

Kohut-Bartels-LS-17.jpg

(Summer Dusk, jane Kohut-bartels, oil, 2003)

The summer was beautiful, despite the heat.  Last night the moon looked like a beggar’s cup, soft brilliance glowing.  The days in the Deep South are sultry, but the wind picks up in 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, harkening back to an earlier time.  Closed drapes, blinds at noon work to regulate 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. A call and answer of tent meeting insects. The dogs of summer are wise: flattening themselves on the cool tiles of the laundry room, they remain motionless until the cooling of the night when they chase rats in the kudzu.  They have developed a taste for watermelon, and we sit on the back porch and share with them, while a wood owl barks from a huge oak above. We never see him, but his hoots add to the symphony of summer nights.

Sultry air disturbs

The sleep of husband and wife.

They pant without lust.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016

 

 

 

“Spring Orgy” for dversepoets.com

July 24, 2018

backyard with OLWeeks rose.jpg(O.L. Weeks Rose, non fragrant)

Sarah over at dversepoets.com is hosting today, poems about the meanings of flowers.  This is my take.  I have 60 some rose bushes here on the property, some 40 years old and older.  Many just planted this spring.  Husband dragged home 11 rose bushes from a movie set they were throwing away.  All lived.

Lady Nyo

Spring Orgy

 

The roses are having an orgy.

They haven’t the decency to wait for the dark,

But ply their lust in the soft, morning light.

 

Randy Graham Thomas is leering.

Madame Carriere is blushing.

Her pink silk-petal gown flutters

As she twists coyly to avoid his embrace.

 

By 10am the sun warms their scents and foreplay is over.

The wind at 11am entwines the two.

Pistils and stamens are seriously ‘at it’

Brushing languorously over parts

An hour ago were covered discreetly.

 

At high noon in the heat of the day

Pollen is floating all over the air

And even the wide-eyed cats

Sitting under tender foliage are blushing.

 

The garden gnome is licking his lips

While a concrete hand creeps to his crotch.

 

This fall there will be rose-hips aplenty.

Red nipples packed with tiny seeds,

Evidence of a spring-time lust.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2018

“Cosmos Cinquains”

July 22, 2018

fullmoon mystery moon

Andromeda,

Chained lady

Beckoning from galaxies

Teasing the Hunter Orion

Star.

 

 

Bootes

Sees her beckon

Unhoods Aquila fast

Argo-like he sails across space

Soaring!

 

Auriga

Hitching Comets

Calls Sagittarius forth

Anger that he misses

Charioteer

 

Cetus

Sullen monster

Corona Australis

Reticulum thrown unwisely

Failing

 

Canis

Hunting dogs

Leaps across galaxies

Baying at the moons

Carnivores!

 

Stary

Borealis

Pities the Chained Lady

Shifts Heavens to shield her virtue

Protects.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

“The Kimono” Chapter 13…introducing Lord Yoki, the Tengu.

July 20, 2018

Kimono Cover.png

My favorite character in “The Kimono” is Lord Yoki, a riot of a monk. He’s a Tengu, a mythological creature from China originally but adopted very early by the Japanese. Tengus were military trainers of the Yamabushi (mountain warriors) and over time their p.r. changed. But they were known to trip up and befuddle arrogant Buddhist priests. I believe they exist. At least I think I have seen one in my neighborhood.

Lady Nyo

Kunu: state …territory. Japan was made up of 68 states, the Western daimyos fighting with the Eastern.

Koku: is a measure of rice…like a bushel. Wages to samurai and others were paid in koku.

 

At the Hour of the Dragon, Lords Tetsu and Ekei were drinking the first of many cups of cha.

The morning dawned with peach colored clouds over the lake and raucous honking by resident geese. It was cool this morning, though late spring, and the brazier did little to boil the water for cha as Lord Tetsu poked more charcoal beneath the small fire. The brass kettle sweated with cold water filled from a jug.

“Lord Tokugawa will expect a report by the new moon.”

Lord Ekei’s voice was almost a whisper. Except for the distant sound of waterfowl, there was little noise outside the castle except for the nightsoil men making their rounds. The buckets clanged against the old stones as they dropped their poles to shovel in manure left from beasts and oxen the day before.

“I know.” Lord Tetsu sipped his cha, scowling into his cup.

“Our lord is expecting troops and provisions.” Lord Ekei blinked his eyes, trying to wake up. It was still very early and the room cold.

“He asks much to put down a peasant rebellion. It will just rise up again when the rains wash the blood from next spring’s soil.”

Lord Tetsu grunted into his cup, maintaining his scowl.

“The problem” said Lord Ekei, pushing his point, “isn’t what the peasants do, it’s what the daimyos don’t do.”

“And what is that, my friend?”

“The corruption from the tax collectors breeds these rebellions. Too much koku is taken from the fields and not enough left to live upon. Under heaven, there is nothing else to do but riot. Starving bellies are invitations to rebellion.”

Lord Tetsu nodded. “That is a big part of the problem. This is another one. Living in Edo for six months every two years. The cost of this impoverishes every region.”

Lord Tetsu filled both cups with more hot water, adding a small amount of powdered tea to the cups, stirring with a bamboo whisk.

“Yes, yes, that is a large consideration, but until Heaven moves its bowels, nothing can be done about that.”

“A good strategy on the Emperor’s part would help. Or rather the Shogun. The Emperor has no power anymore. He and his court are like painted gourds. The effort to mobilize each daimyo in obedience to the court’s demands does keep us from each other’s throats.”

“I think we better do—“

Suddenly a large bird appeared at the window, startling both lords. It was big like a vulture and had a long red nose and dark iridescent feathers. It was a tengu.

Shaking its feathers violently, a dust storm obscured it for a few seconds. Then both lords saw a skinny priest, dressed in a filthy kimono appear. Both lords bowed respectfully from their cushions.

“Man, those air currents! They would tear a bird’s feathers from his body. Got a cup of sake around? Travel dehydrates me.”

This tengu was a priest from the Yamabushi clan. He hopped down from the window, scratching the side of his face where a scrawny gray beard covered it.

“Lice,” he announced with a grin.

Lord Tetsu spooned powdered tea in a cup, poured some hot water over it, carefully stirred and handed the cup to the scratching man. He took it with a sour, disdainful glance at both lords, and drank it without ceremony, smacking his lips loudly and wiping his hand across his thin lips.

“Lord Yoki, we are honored you have come to advise us”, said Lord Ekei with another bow.

“Beats hanging around Haight-Ashbury. Had to appear as a pigeon to fit in, and all there was to do during the day was beg for breadcrumbs. Did look up skirts at muffs, though.” He laughed, a coarse, wheezing sound.

Lord Ekei suppressed a smile, and Lord Tetsu didn’t a grimace. They had dealt with Lord Yoki before. His antics were well known.

Lord Yoki lowered himself to a cushion and rubbed his hands over the brazier. “You got any sake? Spring’s bad time for travel.”

Lord Tetsu clapped his hands twice and within several minutes a servant appeared with three cups and a brown bottle of warmed sake, placing them on the low table between the lords. Lord Tetsu poured three cups and offered the first to the Lord Yoki. He drank it fast and held out his cup for a refill.

It would be a long morning with Lord Yoki and it best be spent drunk.

“My Lord, our Lord Tokugawa in Kyoto has called upon the daimyos of the western borders to send troops and supplies to put down a rebellion of peasants in Mikawa providence.” Lord Tetsu spoke quietly.

“Yeah? Well, being a vassal is tough. The nature of the beast. Too many kits and not enough teats.” Lord Yoki burped.

“You want my advice? You got bigger problems closer to home. I hear from some other birds Lord Kiyami is looking at your southern border with a covetous eye. That’s a dicey mountain range there, and if he controls those trade passes, he can hem you in. Adding a kunu to his territory would be a feather in his cap.”

He punctuated his statement with a belch.

“If this is true, my lord Tetsu” said Lord Ekei with a slight bow, “then you will have to organize two campaigns at once. That would be very costly, neh?”

Lord Tetsu’s eyes narrowed and he grunted. “I am sure Lord Yoki’s information is impeccable,” he said bowing to the disheveled priest.

“You bet your nuts it is”, said the priest sharply.

“Is this information you have read in history books, Lord Yoki,” asked Lord Ekei?

“Can’t read, never learned” said the priest in a raspy voice. “Some things don’t make the history books. Sometimes pillow talk is more….ah…reliable.”

Both lords considered his words. It was not beyond the pale. Men talked to women, and men talked in their sleep. Either way, information was obtainable.

This news of Lord Kiyami’s interest in his territory disturbed Lord Tetsu. It would be a bad position to be hemmed in at that mountain range.

“Perhaps there is a need to change plans,” suggested Lord Ekei to Lord Tetsu

Lord Tetsu looked at both of the men sipping their sake.

“Do I dare go against the desires of Heaven to thwart the schemes of Lord Kiyami?”

Scratching his scrawny beard absentmindedly, the Yamabushi priest coughed.

“You might be looking at a new portion of Hell if you ignore him.”

“If he hems you in, Higato, you will not be able to serve the needs of Lord Tokugawa in any case,” said Lord Ekei.

“Let me suggest, my lord,” said the priest with a little bow, “that you think about a spy or two in the household of Lord Kiyami. This could glean you some important and timely information.”

“Yes, Higato, this is excellent advice. We need to know his future plans, even if he is to seize your southern territory soon. How many forces he would deploy for this. He also would be called upon by our Lord Tokugawa for his support. He will have some of the same considerations we have.”

“Good. I agree. A couple of well-placed servants should help.”

“I would further suggest, my lord,” said Ekei, “ that you place a spy in his guard. A samurai who can be trusted with such a task. Perhaps an unknown captain of your own guard.”

“Again, I agree.” Higato Tetsu nodded to both men.

“Now we must consider the problem of what daimyos to call upon for support. Surely we have allies, Lord Ekei?”

“Higato, without a doubt our Lord Kiyami will also be looking with the same eyes. Perhaps a visit to one or two would make things better for us.”

“If I may be so bold,” said the priest scratching at his skin inside his kimono, “I agree a visit be made soon. One never knows the plans of another man, especially at a distance.”

Lord Tetsu picked up his cup and glanced at his advisor, Ekei, sitting across from him, and fell into deep thought.

This priest has much sense for an old crow. Perhaps he should be the spy in Kiyami’s household? Could he dare presume upon the favors of such a man? Well, we are all Yamabushi, so there should be something of favor there. Perhaps this has possibilities. Perhaps Yoki will be able to answer to this.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Devil’s Revenge”…Chapter 43

July 16, 2018

Gormosy

(Obviously M. Gormosy…..usually Madame)

I wrote “Devil’s Revenge” back in 2006, but only finished it a year ago.  I had to do a lot of cutting and discarding chapters that took me off the main track of the novel.  I am sure this is not unusual.  It was my second novel and perhaps now with all the clipping and deleting I will publish it next year.  It has a certain flair, but certainly not to everyone’s taste.  The characters flew down on the page and sometimes I felt (most times actually) just a scribe.  They created the book and all the havoc that follows.  But I loved the characters because they were strong, wily and out of control.  Nothing I could have ever produced from my own attempts.  They pushed  me around and wrote the novel themselves.

Lady Nyo

The bedroom door flew open and Garrett stood in the doorway.

“It’s been decided. There’s to be a duel.”

I looked at him, my mouth open in surprise, and twisted around to Madame Gormosy. She was arranging my hair and had a mouthful of pins. She shrugged, her eyebrows raised high and spit the pins into her hand.

“Bon. So tell us about this duel.”

Garrett leaned against the mantel. He grimaced, passed his hand over his face, and pulled at his lips, distracted by his thoughts.

“Better you both know we will be entertaining some devils tonight. M. Abigor will be one of them.”

His face dropped in a scowl and I felt Madame’s hands hard on my shoulders. I could sense there was something else. Perhaps she knew more than she showed.

Abigor again! Well, he was an Arch Duke of Hell and a military advisor. He was also a healer but what that had to do with this situation I hadn’t a clue. Perhaps he replaced the lopped off limbs and bound up the wounds after battle.

But Garrett said ‘devils’. Obviously meaning more than one. M. Abigor struck enough terror in my heart, but the presence of more?

“Who is rounding out the company?” I tried to sound nonchalant but my voice shook.

Garrett looked a bit spooked. His eyes went straight to Madame Gormosy.

“M. Bucon will be dining with us.”

Bucon! The father of Obadiah! My stomach hit the bottom of my gut.

Again Madame Gormosy’s hands tightened on my shoulders.

“Do not fear, ma petite. M. Abigor is his equal and more. Nothing will happen to you tonight.”

Soothing words, but the look that passed between them was not reassuring.

Bucon was not a devil to dismiss easily. Another official from Hell, commanding a lot of legions of lesser devils, and the Demon of Hatred to boot. The Demon of Hatred between sexes. A real troublemaker let loose in the world.

Not to mention Obadiah’s father.

When I was writing the original novel, the one where all these queer and dangerous characters came from, little did I know what lay ahead. Now my life was at the mercy of more devils and I didn’t have any angels appearing in the fray. Any expectations of life were turned on the head.

“I have a particular problem, Louis.” Garrett’s words were spoken softly, his eyes riveted to Madame.

That was strange for Madame appeared as a woman, certainly Louise, not Louis.

“Ah, life is always a problem amongst us devils. How can I be of service, Garrett?”

“I will need a second.”

I stiffened. Of course! But why not Abigor?

Garrett looked at me, reading my mind.

“For the simple reason that Abigor is an Arch Duke, and for him to be a second in this matter would not be a level playing field. Although we demons are tricky, we do have our morals.”

I started to laugh but saw his expression. This was not a time for frivolity.

Startled, I heard a voice not of Madame’s behind me, but of Monsieur Gormosy.

“But of course, mon ami. I am at your service. It should be no other devil than Louis. We have done well through the years. We have a bit of a blood bond, n’est ce pas?”

Garrett was not one to express gratitude easily, more likely to deflect an open show of gratitude with sarcasm, witty remarks. An expression of gratitude would come hard to this demon. But something had changed, perhaps his pride, whatever accounted for this, his face showed relief.

He bowed stiffly to “Madame” still behind me, and that bow expressed his deepest feelings.

***

That evening we went down to the large sitting room to meet our guests before dinner. The house was ablaze with candles, and every fireplace was stoked with a good fire. I supposed this was all done with magic, the particular devilish magic that Garrett and Madame had shown before, but I was to be surprised at their invention.

Garrett said little as he poured sherry into two glasses, handing me one with a little bow. I had been tucked and pinned into a brocade gown, more the style of a few decades earlier, but this was not my choice. Madame Gormosy appeared with this gown and dressed me. It was not the loose and flowing gowns of the present 1820’s but a gown of more structure: a gown needing the benefit of a tight full corset and petticoats. I could barely breathe. My hair was pinned high on my head with one sausage curl falling across my shoulder. At least Madame did not powder my hair. A pair of pearl drop earrings and one gold bracelet was extracted from her jewelry box and I was presentable. Of course she insisted I wear rouge and a patch on one side of my face.

Garrett seemed pleased with my appearance when he escorted me into the sitting room, but since I had worn a dressing gown with uncombed hair for days, this change in appearance would please anyone.

“You do look fetching, Bess, perhaps a bit too fetching for the company. Abigor is known for his charm with mortal women and I don’t want him distracted by such a choice morsel.”

“Are you worried about M. Abigor at this stage of the game? I would think both of your minds would be well occupied with the issue at hand.”

Garrett grunted, his mind quickly elsewhere besides my ‘fetching’ appearance. I could tell he was worried because he paced the room. It surprised me to see him so agitated, but then again, considering the company for dinner, what could one expect?

Suddenly there was soft strains of music, seemingly floating upon the air. It was chamber music, sounding like Handel or Haydn, though I could not exactly identify the composer.   It was not perfectly played, for every so often I would hear a badly bowed passage, either lagging in tempo or gratingly out of tune. Then some cursing. A muffled screech and the music would begin again.

Garrett gave a short laugh, more like a snort.

“We have servants galore tonight, my dear. Of course, they are all minor devils, but useful under the circumstances.”

I must have looked confused, but my confusion competed with fear.

“The devils are courtesy of M. Abigor, Bess. They are just a soupçon of his power, his devoted legions. He has many surprises up his dark sleeves tonight. He is the host of this little dinner party.”

“Where is Madame tonight, Garrett? Shouldn’t she be appearing soon?”

“Ah. I am depending upon Gormosy to show. This dinner would be lacking a certain element if that one didn’t.”

Speak of the Devil, and “Madame” Gormosy appeared in the doorway. But it was no more Madame than a cat. It was Monsieur Gormosy in a white powdered wig, black velvet coat with a red and gold embroidered waistcoat. His white silk stockings sagged a bit around his thin calves, but I would imagine his physique, as Monsieur was the same as Madame, would be similar, baring a few differences for the change in sex.

I stared at him, forgetting my manners. He was a smart looking little peacock, with the makeup that men of the French aristocracy affected in the previous century, perhaps before they went to meet Madame La Guillotine. There was something striking about Louis Gormosy, even dangerous, tonight, something I didn’t feel when he was Madame Gormosy. Perhaps it was the slim sword he wore at his side. But perhaps it was that I knew him to be quite the devil. I would have to have faith in him and his trickery, but my confidence would have meant nothing here. It was all of Garrett’s choosing. The evening and the outcome rested in both the hands of Garrett and M. Abigor.

“Bonsoir, Madame Bess, you are looking ravishing tonight.” He bowed an elegant little bow and I inclined my head with a broad smile. I couldn’t help it. Such a change in appearance from female to male, but still the same ‘man’.

“And you, M. Garrett? Are you feeling up to the evening?” He delivered this with another little bow.

Garrett gave a thin smile and poured Louis Gormosy a glass of sherry and presented it to him.

“D’accord Louis. Tonight is only the beginning. I am grateful for your presence, my old friend.”

Again the music was heard, this time the small chamber orchestra seemed

to be doing a bit better, with only a few sour notes and no cursing. I   listened to the playing, and started to relax a little. Perhaps it was more the sherry that was soothing than the music. Garrett and Louis Gormosy had moved to the far end of the room, by the large windows fronting the house, perhaps talking about the coming evening. I could see a little argument forming between them as one would shake his head, and the other would stomp his foot.   I had to laugh a little. “Monsieur” Gormosy, in his stamping his elegant little foot, still claimed the behaviors of Madame.

Nerves were to be expected tonight because their future….our very lives, rode upon the alliances and the strength of them.

We both heard the clip clop of horses, and a carriage with gleaming lanterns came across the front windows. I looked at Garrett, expecting him to greet his guests at the door, but he just winked.

I heard soft footsteps and saw a man with a white wig, dressed in red cross my vision as he went to the door. I raised my eyes to Garrett, and he smiled.

“More of M. Abigor’s magic?”

“A bit more. The evening will be entertaining. I promise you won’t be bored.”

I heard voices and within moments M. Abigor was in the room, bowing first to Garrett and then to M. Gormosy. I rose from my chair and looked at M. Abigor, unsure of what to say or do besides a general greeting.

“Ah! Madame! You look lovely this evening. You grow more beautiful each time I see you.”

He was his most elegant as he bowed over my hand and when he raised his head, I saw nothing disturbing in his dark eyes. I believe he knew what had happened to me when we met that first time. Perhaps Madame Gormosy informed him of my suffering, but then perhaps such a powerful demon knows what he does. He counts on it. It’s part of his power and control of beings around him. Usually there are no accidents with devils.

Suddenly the room was colder. A short figure stood in the doorway looking hard at me and I shivered in spite of the heat of the fire.

It was M. Bucon, the father of Obadiah. The father of the man who had raped me those months ago. He was followed by a woman, but in no way did she appear quite human. There was something about her appearance that just wasn’t ‘right’.

Garrett face hardened as M. Abigor made introductions, and he gave a stiff, short bow to M. Bucon. M. Gormosy gave him a wide grin, but there was nothing friendly about it.. I was introduced by M. Abigor but M. Bucon only nodded his head in acknowledgement. Thankfully, he did not bend over my hand.

“May I present Madame D’Aberge. She is visiting and M. Abigor thought she would be an interesting addition to your dinner.”

Madame D’Aberge made her curtsey and whipped out her fan. She had frizzy white hair piled high on her head, a face painted chalk white and a red cupid-bow mouth. Two large circles of rouge sat like pompoms on her cheeks and her eyebrows were painted black wings threatening to fly from her forehead. I smiled and gave her a curtsey and she again curtsied and fluttered her fan. Clearly she was some lessor demon rustled up for this event, a way to round out the company with feminine presence.

My first impression of M. Bucon was this: he was an unimpressive man, neither attractive in face or figure. I was surprised he didn’t wear a wig, as the other two men did. Garrett never did, but pulled his hair back in a pigtail for formal occasions.

Bucon was short, rather rotund, and badly balding. It looked like moths had attacked his head, for though he had hair on the front of his head and around the bottom, all between were patches of burnt, dark skin and little attempt to coax his remaining hair into something that was presentable. But perhaps the most prominent feature was his mouth: though his lips were not without form, his face seemed to fall naturally into a sneer. He had a peculiar way of closing one eye as he looked at a person, and a disdainful manner. If I had seen him on the street I would not have noticed him. Here in the house, in a sitting room illuminated by the soft lights of tapers and a good fire, he seemed out of place amongst the natural elegance of the other three men. Perhaps M .Bucon would only evoke contempt in all he met, and therefore he responded with hatred?

Again the music floated into the room and these devils weren’t doing a bad job of it. A little Corelli, a violin solo that sounded like bad Vivaldi, perhaps some obscure Handel, and here and there a taper appeared to light a corner or grace a sideboard. It was if an invisible servant were placing candles to illuminate parts of the room. A nice trick, but rather disconcerting.

A red coated devil, obviously part of the liveried staff came in with a tray of glasses followed by another one with a tray of spirits. They were dark, little men, probably French devils, or rather well sizzled denizens of their place of origin. In any case, they looked like burnt carbon copies of each other, and I wondered if they were part of the loyal legions of M. Abigor or M. Gormosy? Probably M. Abigor for he was he reigning head cheese tonight. They served without noise, seemingly to float over the floorboards, and were more like haunts than men. But of course! They were devils and bound by their magic. Or someone’s magic.

Madame D’Aberge’s mouth was so red her teeth had a yellow cast. She would look at me, smile, her upper lip rising like a horse about to sneeze, and then she would pull her lip down to meet her bottom lip. I was not sure that she had something to say, but I found her interesting to look at. Her hair was powdered white, her face and bosom so ghostly that the dabs of red on her cheeks stuck out like beacons. She reminded me of a rag doll I had when I was a child, except with white frizzled hair, not red yarn.

The men did not sit down but stood stiffly apart from Madame and I. Louis Gormosy did come over to where we sat and made a formal bow. Madame D’Aberge tittered and up went her lip. M. Gormosy also bowed to me, catching my eye and giving a wink. He made small talk amongst us, more I believe to reassure me than to effect any real conversation, but I was grateful for his attempts. The combination of the tight corset and the tension of the night made me uncomfortable and uneasy.

Madame D’Aberge’s mouth was so red her teeth had a yellow cast. She would look at me, smile, her upper lip rising like a horse about to sneeze, and then she would pull her lip down to meet her bottom lip with a snap. I found her interesting to look at. Her hair was powdered white, her face and bosom so ghostly that the dabs of red on her cheeks stuck out like beacons. She reminded me of a rag doll I had when I was a child, except with white frizzled hair, not red yarn.

The men did not sit down but stood stiffly apart from Madame and I. Louis Gormosy did come over to where we sat and made a formal bow. Madame D’Aberge tittered and up went her lip. M. Gormosy also bowed to me, catching my eye and giving a wink. He made small talk amongst us, more I believe to reassure me than to effect any real conversation, but I was grateful for his attempts. The combination of the tight corset and the tension of the night made me uncomfortable and uneasy.

When we finally went into dinner, I was famished. Behind each chair was a devil- in- waiting. M. Abigor and Garrett sat at either end of the long dining table, M. Bucon and Madame D’Aberge across the wide table. M. Gormosy sat next to me, and this was a relief. A quick squeeze of my hand under the table was reassuring. He took the liberty of an additional squeeze of my thigh.

The servants were excellent, both noiseless and gliding like ghosts, serving from the left and placing bowls of the first of two soups before each diner. I looked at mine, a shrimp bisque with clams and the little devils were still jumping in the cream stock and flipping their tails. Pretty little pink cooked shrimp should not be behaving in that fashion. A clam spit a stream of soup upwards, missing me but making me blink. I looked at M. Gormosy next to me and saw him smiling into his bowl. I carefully spooned the broth.

Next two servants brought in a stuffed and glazed swan on a huge platter. They placed it in the middle of the table and left. The swan started to sing, a melancholy voice that praised Apollo and sang of his sweet love of life. Suddenly I realized I knew the music: “The Roasting Swan Ballad” from Carmina Burana. There was no way I was going to eat that swan. I looked at M. Gormosy and saw he was struggling not to laugh. I looked at Garrett at the end of the table, and his face warned me not to say a word. A servant reached across the table and twisted off the head in mid song. It’s wings flopped over the platter and on to the polished table. It was dead.

Another servant brought in a fat and steaming capon and the bird started to crow. This was enough even for M.Abigor. He whispered into the ear of a devil behind his chair and the man left. Within minutes, a covered salver was returned to the top of the table. I could only guess what it contained under its dome, but all the activity of our food ceased immediately, and we dined.

(End of part one of Chapter 43)

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2006, 2011, 2018

 

 

The Kimono, Chapter 43

July 16, 2018

Geisha

After 12 years, “The Kimono” is finished and I am aiming at a publication date of September, 2018.  It’s been a long haul, where I studied Japanese culture, mythology and language for all those years.  This will be my first full length novel, though I have published 6 books in between this one.

Lord Yoki is a Tengu.  Tengus are big birds, originating from China but very much tied into Japanese mythology.  They are shape shifters, and bedevil arrogant Buddhist priests.  Lord Yoki figures greatly into this novel.  He also, as does the main female character, Mari, travel from the 21st. century Kyoto  to 17th century Japan.  Over the course of a year, this Tengu has fallen in love with Mari.

Lady Nyo

Lord Yoki perched on the window ledge. He felt most comfortable perching. A Tengu was just a big bird, after all. He was still dressed in an old linen kimono, badly patched and stained. It was this or feathers. It was harder and harder to maintain the glamour. He had to concentrate on those parts that were reverting, his hair and limbs, but he could do nothing about the feet. They would always remain clawed.

He was conflicted. This was the first time in centuries that his heart hurt. He was racked with emotion from the time he awoke until the time he roosted. He thought he might be in love. And, of course, his beloved had to be someone who was out of his league: a mortal woman.

How could he have fallen to such a state? Lord Yoki prided himself on being a tough old bird. He looked at the world through a cynical eye. He only believed in the warmth of the thermals and sake. And a few pretty trinkets, for he had a magpie nature. Now he found himself in love. How could he reveal himself to her? Would she find him distasteful, ridiculous, insane? He pecked at a flea amongst his breast feathers. He had fallen in love and knew she would be horrified if he revealed the truth of his form. He was a skinny, molting old bird and a scrawny old “man”. A devil cannot hide in the form of an angel for long. Nature rebels. He remembered the story of Lucifer. He certainly felt like Lucifer, the Great Deceiver. Could she overlook his appearance to see into his heart?

He was fooling himself. His opposition was too powerful: a mortal man. Even without the magical advantages of a Tengu, the man would surely win any battle between them. He also knew that he had much more to lose than a friendship. His rival would wear his severed head on his battle helmet. He had joked to his beloved about this but he knew this man was still a barbarian at heart.

No, his love, his admiration for her would have to remain concealed in the bottom of his heart. He chanced losing both of them and that would be unbearable, even for a stoic Tengu. If not through love, how could he protect her? Only the mystical gods knew what would happen and even they sometimes faked it.

Bah! He wished he was back in San Francisco, in that park, in the form of a pigeon. Then he could look up skirts as he strutted around and there would be no complaints. Still, he knew why he mourned. She was the only one who knew what the world was about. The parochial mentality of the people around him drove him nuts. They waved their amulets in the faces of the sick, smoked up the room with incense until the sick couldn’t breathe and brewed noxious potions to make them swallow. They usually died, perhaps because of these ignorant customs. A little common sense and some soap and water would work miracles. She knew this. She also knew nostrums that could save lives. Further, she was the only one he could talk with about history. He couldn’t read, there were no schools for birds, but he could ask questions. And he did. She told him about the world before this century, and of course, the centuries after. The world was an immense place, and though his eyes were closed as he flew by the moon, he knew something of this.

These generals! These nobles! They thought they knew about warfare? Hah! They knew nothing. As a pigeon walking around San Francisco, he had watched television in store fronts. His hackles raised at the inhumanity of people! Nuclear bombs, chemical weapons, these were just some of the arsenal of these modern warlords. These 17th century daimyos who went to war against each other may as well have hurled rocks and sticks at the opposition considering what was to come. This century hadn’t seen real guns yet. They only had the blunderbusses that the Spanish had thrown away. The men of this century were savages. They killed for the sport of it. The only laws were those that came from Edo and most of those were ignored. The real law lay within the two swords carried by men and there were enough of them to go around.

Even if his beloved could come to love him, where would he take her? Tengus lived in mountains, in nests, where they fought other Tengus for territory and tripped up arrogant Buddhist priests. What would she think of that? She didn’t lay eggs and wouldn’t know how to clean a nest properly. And she didn’t have feathers to fluff in the cold months. She would be disgusted by the food she would have to eat. It would be a bitter life for her. He loved her more than that.

He knew she was a pawn in a bigger game. Lord Tetsu was an ambitious daimyo and he needed her knowledge to increase his power and build a larger life for himself. Could she deliver what he wanted?

Lord Yoki realized that if his beloved tied her wagon to Lord Tetsu, he would have to secrete her away from court life. She would always live in the shadows of the castle. Was that any better than living in a nest in the mountains?

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2018

tengu.jpg

Tengus are warriors, martial arts experts and teach the Yamabushi (mountain- yama, bushi-warrior) their skills at warfare.  They are shapeshifters, and have magical arts. They also don’t like arrogant Buddhist priests and cause trouble for them.  Over the centuries, their ‘pr’ has changed.


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