“The Darkness Was Deep”

March 24, 2017

0403whe-r01-002

(European Eagle Owl, watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, in a private collection)

 

William Stafford wrote poetry every day, including the day he died in 1993.  When people asked him if he thought a particular poem of the day was weak, he would say “Then I will lower my standards.”  I think this is good advice for any poet. Don’t doubt, reject but keep the flow going.  We learn day by day.

Lady Nyo

 

The Darkness was deep

My father was too

And I craved any lamp

To get myself gone.

 

He wasn’t much with language,

But if I watched quietly

I could see a world

Shaping under his hands

As he carved, planed, sanded

Nothing much into something.

 

This was the beginning of poetry

Though I never knew it for half a century.

The quiet observation of things outside myself

That tumbled into stanzas

With peacock feathers and bird of paradise colors.

 

I wondered what world he was fermenting

With hands colored with wood stains,

Toughened with labor

Cracked with the mechanics of cold and old age.

 

He with his turnings, me with my words

Silently observing what each other was made of

What would come out of that darkness

And be led into the light.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017 (poem for the day)

“The Thaw”

March 23, 2017

0403Whe-R01-009

(Watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2003, “Spring Thaw”

Over at dversepoets pub it is Open Link Night where you can post a poem of your choice. Go see what poems are fermenting there…

For some reason, a small poetry group objected to this short poem.  They thought the last two lines  redundant. I disagreed.   I think that is the natural ending to this short poem.  You have to trust your own vision on these things.  After all, you are the writer.  The haiku was added later.

The Thaw

Spring comes drumming through

Breaking up ice in the creek

Destroying a beaver dam

And with the unexpected noise-

The un-damming of my heart

A softening of my bones

A juiciness of my loins

A waving of budding branches

In a new born wind-

Encircling tender arms-

A phantom will o’ wisp lover.

 

Spring comes drumming through,

Cracking open where winter nailed me shut.

 

 

Fallen leaves crackle.

Sparrows add the treble notes.

Season’s musical.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

 

 

A Sacred Universe….and an Introduction.

March 22, 2017

 

 

Song_of_the_Nightingale_COVER

(Watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, for the book cover above, 2015.)

 

The world can become a sacred universe for poets when we become such.  That ‘golden thread’ William Blake and William Stafford wrote about can bring us to the gates of Heaven but I envision a very different Heaven than what has been spoken about by the religious.  That golden tread  leads through, or encompasses the sights, sounds, chaos and experience that makes up our poems and our dreams can be easily broken. We must not grab it so tightly.  We, and it, must have room to breath. 

Perhaps that is why we compose our poetry in silence, roll it around our mouths, recite it to the cats, and, when we are lucky, recite to other poets. But it is by necessity a solitary pursuit.  There can be no demand to ‘let me into your artistry’ when it is forming.  It must complete itself before seeing the light of day.  It is our contract with ourselves, sacred universe in its being.

Lady Nyo

Introduction to “The Nightingale’s Song”

In Old Japan there was an even older daimyo called Lord Mori who lived in the shadow of Moon Mountain, (Mt. Gassan)  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 wishes. He agreed to have this disappointing young man stay in Edo to attend the Emperor. Probably forever.

Lord Mori, however, continued to hunt, hawk and generally enjoy life in the hinterlands.

True, his realm, his fiefdom, was tucked away in mountains hard to cross. To travel to Edo took months because of bad roads, fast rivers and mountain passages. A daimyo was expected to assemble a large entourage for this trip: vassals, brass polishers, flag carriers, outriders, a train of horses and mules to carry all the supplies, litters for the women, litters for advisors and fortune tellers, and then of course, his samurai. His train of honor could be four thousand men or more!

But this tale isn’t about Lord Mori. It’s about one of his generals, his vassal, Lord Nyo and his wife, Lady Nyo, who was born from a branch of a powerful clan, though a clan who had lost standing at the court in Edo.

Now, just for the curious, Lord Nyo is an old samurai, scarred in battle, ugly as most warriors are, and at a lost when it comes to the refinement and elegance of life– especially poetry. His Lady Nyo is fully half his age, a delicate and thoughtful woman, though without issue.

But Lord and Lady Nyo don’t fill these pages alone. There are other characters; priests, magical events, samurai and a particularly tricky Tengu who will entertain any reader of this tale.

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

 

The present Lady Nyo, descended from generations past.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017 (“Song of the Nightingale” can be purchased at Amazon.com, published in 2015)

 

 

“Seasons Change”

March 21, 2017

Kohut-Bartels-LS-3

(Watercolor, Dawn Breaks, jane kohut-bartels, 2000)

Over at dverse, Paul Dear is giving a prompt of “River” meaning many things to different poets. This is my interpretation.

Jane

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, 2016

Haibun, “The Best Meal I Ever Had…”

March 20, 2017

DSCF2590

(Oil, “Still Life with Melon”, undated? Jane Kohut-Bartels)

The first day of Spring!  Over at dversepoets pub, Kanzen Sakura is posing a prompt to write about the best meal one ever had. I had to think on this, but the winner in my memory is below.  I love food, maybe too much.  Thank you, Toni, for this lovely prompt. And happy First Day of Spring to all!

I still remember a meal in a Japanese restaurant with my ex father in law. His name was Mori, so he knew about the food. But that food! Oh, Dear God! I remember the sizzling rice soup, something I never tasted again. I can still remember those nuggets of rice vibrating in my mouth. I remember a Kobe steak. It was different from any steak I had before. Only many years later I found what this meat cost. My father in law was a doctor. He could afford it.

I remember the owner coming out from the kitchen and bowing to him and him bowing back. They knew each other well and I think this marvelous dinner was because of this. I remember the warm sake bottles, endless brown pottery bottles and weird, misshapen handle-less cups. I thought them strange, but only decades later, long after  kicking his lazy, entitled son to the curb, did I discover these cups cost more than the dinner. Raku, a pitted glaze different on each cup. Priceless, at least to me, beyond my poor budget. Obvious now, not every day sake cups.

I remember getting a little drunk. I remember his brown eyes glittering above his sake cup. He proposed setting up a business for me. That was a great kindness because his son was a perpetual student and never did work. My father in law suggested a high end sake import business. I wanted to import the soup.

I never saw him after the divorce but what a man and what a memory. And what a dinner! I should have married him instead of his God-Awful son. But I would have had to kill his witch of a wife, and doctor’s wives are like vampires, hard to kill.

Ume blossom soup

Frogs bellowing in the pond

Night to remember

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

 

Birthday Party, a haibun

March 19, 2017
My beautiful picture

My beautiful picture

(“Peace in the East”….from my phone camera.)

Sometimes life gets so heavy you topple over, face in the soil.  So I’m posting this short ‘haibun’ to lighten up the load.  It’s a beautiful almost-Spring night, and everyone is tucked in their beds, and it’s almost silent outside.  No crickets yet, and too dark to see the sickle-swallows but the woodstove is empty and there is peace in the house.  Willow, the new kitty who was crippled at Christmas, had surgery yesterday (neutered) and he’s almost smiling. Haven’t heard a yowl yet, but he hasn’t looked in the mirror at his rear end.

There are kind parents in this world, even with major flaws.  My father was one of them.  He died too early, in November 1989.  I miss him terribly but he was a prime example of unconditional love, that issue that is denied by so many “Christians”.  He learned that from his big Hungarian family and a loving mother, my grandmother who died when I was just 12.

 

 

“Birthday Party”

Mean, spoiled Nancy Madsen was having her 10th birthday party. Nancy was always turned out in pretty dresses, with petticoats and a clean face. She had blond curly hair, like Shirley Temple, except without the talent. She was the youngest of three, so her mother took special care with her. My mother? Not so much. I was left to my own devices, and those weren’t always the best. There was no fairy godmother hovering over me.

I was sitting on a stool, stupidly too near the drop off onto the road beneath. I was taking a back seat, trying to disappear. Nancy’s mother didn’t like me much. Her dog, Freckles, a Dalmatian, had bit me in the eye the year before. She blamed me for ‘disturbing his nap.’ Back then there were no lawsuits or doctor visits for this ‘small stuff’. You had iodine slapped on the wound and went back to play. I remember being uneasy about her party, as my mother picked the gift herself. I didn’t know what she had wrapped up in gift paper. I was hoping it wasn’t my Betsy-Wetsy doll.

Nancy floated around the tables, playing birthday diva. She decided to sit on me. A big mistake for a lot of reasons, two of which I remember: One, I was deathly afraid Nancy would tip us over the cliff, and two….she was fat. I thought I wouldn’t survive this. I couldn’t breathe.

So I bit her. In the back. Nancy leaped up screaming and a general riot broke out. I couldn’t get out why I had bit her, but by the faces of the adults I knew I was no longer welcome.

My father ordered me to the car. I went, weeping, sitting in the back of the old Studebaker station wagon. I was very worried, mostly about the anger from my mother as soon as she heard what her only daughter had done. Not that she liked any of the adults at the party, and it was generally mutual, but it clearly was another failing of a daughter she really didn’t care for.

My father approached the car, his face beaming. “We won’t tell your mother about this. Let’s go get some Breyer’s ice cream.”

This wasn’t the first time my father stuck up for me. We were in a secret war against my mother until he died. He was my best friend though I didn’t appreciate it then. I do now.

 

Childhood is tough

Adults are the enemy

Kids fodder for wars

 

 

 

 

 

“What if God Were One Of US?”

March 18, 2017

 

"Eagle" Jane Kohut-Bartels, watercolor, 2005

(“American Eagle”, watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 200o)

 

“What if God were one of us?

Just a slob like one of us?

Just a stranger on a bus

Trying to make His way home

Back to Heaven all alone

Nobody calling on the phone

Except maybe the Pope in Rome…”

—-Joan Osbourne, “What if God was one of us?” lyric on album, “Relish”, 1995

There are some things that bond us to another.  This song is one of them.  Years ago, when my son Christopher was about 18, he sideswiped a car (my car…) and had to go to ‘learn to drive right, idiot school’.  It was way down in Macon, Ga., about an hour or more from Atlanta.  I drove this time, and on the way back we played Osbourne’s album on the then-working cd deck.  No kidding, I was really pissed at my son for the damage and having to take my time to do this.  But this song turned a lot around that day.  We were moved to hold hands and sing along and frankly, it is one of the most memorable moments in our lives together.

Last night Christopher called and we talked about this memory and it had impacted him as much as it had me.  He’s 29 now, and a fine young man and a much better driver.

Childhood wasn’t easy for him.  We adopted him at 3 years, the month we came back from an extended stay in Europe.  I was supposed to be going to school at the University of Edinburgh, but the countryside was so beautiful, I couldn’t sit still.  So we travelled all over the UK and painted in the pouring rain.  When we got back, Christopher was ours in a month.  My mother visited about 2 months later.  I heard this cry from the upstairs bathroom, and racing upstairs, found my son on the floor, crying his eyes out.  Her handprint was blazing across his cheek.  “He spit at me.”  That was her excuse for hitting him. She was non apologetic, very casual about it.  A 73 year old woman and a three year old child who had come from a ‘failure to thrive’ foster home.  I should have frog marched her out of my house, and sent her back to the airport. Actually, I should have dropped her out a window to land amongst the daisies.  I don’t know why I didn’t react, but I didn’t.  I guess I was afraid of her anger and excuses then.  I’m not anymore.  I got her ticket.

With a mother like that, who had shown her  emotional abuse to others her whole life, I was having my own issues ‘being a mother’ at 43.  But I learned to be a better mother than what I had  and he grew up amongst us, my husband and myself with love and devotion. My father’s side of the family were very supportive of our precious son.

But life always brings guilt and regret.  Last night talking on the phone, he said ‘he had no complaints about his childhood.”  It made me cry because I did.  To say that I ‘didn’t know better’ is a lie:  You don’t carry the abuse from your own childhood into your parenting, but it’s something you have to work on.  And the demons from the past are hard to defeat.  They keep rising up and you have to beat them down.

There are so many regrets in my memories, but mostly not protecting him from abusive teachers, strangers, and the above family member who actually is emotionally sadistic.  But he claims he is fine and has rolled with the punches.  I just haven’t.

Last night we sang the above song again, and his memory for the lyrics is better than mine.  This morning I have been playing that song at top volume as I do housework.

I don’t know that I will ever be a Believer in God.  I’ve seen the misogyny and the abuse of family fundamentalists (who rather call themselves ‘early Christians’… a nicer name than fundamentalist…or maybe it’s an attempt at a class status change) but this song has made an impact on both of us on a foundational level.

I am glad my darling boy has survived the abuse of life and the abuse of ignorant parents here.  His start was rocky as he was only 24 lbs at three years, but he has blossomed into a wonderful person. With or without God, this is a blessing.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017, with gratitude to Toni Spencer for her friendship and sensibilities.  With love.

 

 

‘The Stillness of Death’, Chapter One.

March 17, 2017

Song_of_the_Nightingale_COVER

Painting: watercolor by Jane Kohut-Bartels…of nightingales…for book cover.

 

The Lady and Lord Nyo are not me nor he….this is a chapter, or an episode from my book, “The Song of the Nightingale”, published by Amazon.com in 2015.

Lady Nyo

 

THE STILLNESS OF DEATH

 

 

“My heart, like my clothing

Is saturated with your fragrance.

Your vows of fidelity

Were made to our pillow and not to me.”

—-12th century

 

Kneeling before her tea

Lady Nyo did not move.

She barely breathed-

Tomorrow depended

Upon her action today.

 

Lord Nyo was drunk again.

When in his cups

The household scattered.

Beneath the kitchen

Was the crawl space

Where three servants

Where hiding.

A fourth wore an iron pot.

 

Lord Nyo was known

For three things:

Archery-

Temper-

And drink.

 

Tonight he strung

His seven foot bow,

Donned his quiver

High on his back.

He looked at the pale face

Of his aging wife,

His eyes blurry, unfocused.

He remembered the first time

pillowing her.

 

She was fifteen.

Her body powdered petals,

Bones like butter,

Black hair 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, from “Song of the Nightingale” published by Amazon.com, 2015.

 

“Mystic Marriage”

March 16, 2017

Source: “Mystic Marriage”

“Mystic Marriage”

March 16, 2017
DSCF2572

Sailboat, watercolor, Jane kohut-bartels, 2006

I’m removing this poem from the prompt at dversepoets pub.  It doesn’t really ‘meet’ the prompt and so it will be removed.

Lady Nyo.

Mino begs a gift of Poseidon-

From the sea comes a white bull.

 

Glorious Bull! With hooves of gold,

Eyes of fire and sweet of breath.

Pasiphae, Mino’s wife

Besotted with the sight of him

Begs Mino to spare his sword–

Offers her handmaidens

In sacrifice.

 

Tender-hearted Mino allows his queen

To rule his judgement,

All sense pushed aside–

Havoc soon overturns the throne.

 

Pasiphae builds a wooden cow

Now besotted with lust

Climbs into the decoy–

Seduces the golden- hoofed Bull.

 

The Minotaur is born,

Suckled from Pasiphae’s paps,

Grew wild and strong–

A labyrinth

Built as a prison to hold him.

 

Unnatural love-making produces

Unnatural Minotaur

Half man, half bull,

Given freedom only in a maze,

Fed on virgins of both sexes.

 

But Poseidon laughs last.

He was the gift, the snow white bull

And cuckolds Mino

For his greed.

 

Mystic marriage overturns a throne,

A kingdom,

Reveals the deception of a queen–

And produces monstrous offspring.

 

In the Minotaur’s maze

All paths lead to the grave.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016

 


%d bloggers like this: