“A Winter Prayer”

November 21, 2019

via “A Winter Prayer”

“A Winter Prayer”

November 21, 2019

mignot-winter-skating-scene

 

O, Mysterium Tremendum!

Winter’s palette stark, unadorned

Devoid of the juiciness of Summer,

The prismatic beauty of Fall,

Yet still the perfect backdrop

For cardinals, nandina berries,

The holly and the evergreens.

 

We rejoice in Nature’s gifts

Of silence, stillness

When Earth has tucked in,

Burrowed down with pallid

Earthworms and things

That survive underground.

 

Above, mystical, blurred

A sudden snow storm has

Softened the brittle edges of vision

And brought about a mystery

This season gladly provides.

 

The flash of a cardinal

A blood-red streak in the sky,

Startles and lifts the heart,

And Nandina berries have changed

From the orange of autumn

To brilliant Christmas red.

 

Now humanity watches

For the return of the Sun and

The lengthening of days.

 

O, Overwhelming Mystery,

We, tucked in your bosom

With faith we will survive

The winter storms,

The howling winds

The hoarfrost,

The biting cold,

The darkness lasting too long,

The haunts in the attics

Shivering in hambone frenzy–

The wolves at the door.

 

The Earth will turn again

To be warmed by a new season.

Now we are grateful

For the gifts of silence and stillness

This leached season bestows us.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2018

 

mignot skeetch 2

My beginning attempts in watercolor….

“High Road”

November 18, 2019

via “High Road”

“High Road”

November 18, 2019

Kohut-Bartels-BOP-5

(painting above by author below)

 

Asking directions to the high road,

I got shrugs and blank stares

yet knew there were two roads-

both led into infinity

both coursed through

all manner of life with pitfalls, trenches

where bones were broken

skulls rattled loose from moorings

like ships in high winds, dangerous waters.

 

What was the difference

and why should it matter?

The effort costs

energy regardless the choosing.

 

An old man sat at the crossroads,

a bum, grizzled gray hair

sprouting porcupine’s quills,

rheumy, pale eyes staring at the world–

little interest in what passed by.

 

I asked him the way to the High Road

and with a toothless grin

he stared at my feet, my hands,

lifted his eyes to my face.

I thought him mad and cursed myself

(asking questions of a fool!)

And was moving away when I heard his voice:

 

“Did I know of the eagle and crow,

how they soared upon thermals

higher and higher

became dark, formless specks upon a limitless sky,

lost to human eye, invisible even to gods?”

 

I thought him crazed and started away-

he cackled and spat on the ground.

Something made me turn, startled,

And saw the wisdom of Solomon in his

now- shining eyes.

 

“The crow harries the eagle, the eagle flies higher.

Vengeful, annoying crow flies round eagle’s wing

turning this way and that, yet the eagle flaps upward

soars upon thinning air until the crow

breathless and spent, drops to the common ground-

falls to his death.”

 

“The High Road, the path of the eagle.

The low road, the path of the crow,

mingling with dullards

daring nothing, with eyes cast downward

only saving a bit of energy

learning nothing of worth.”

 

Silently he sat, an old man

eyes glazed with age and fatigue.

With a nod to his wisdom and a toss of a coin

I gathered my strength and pushed onward,

Upwards, the lift of eagles, now under my limbs.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Mlle Duchamps”

November 18, 2019

Many years ago there was an elderly gentleman who lived along with his invalid daughter Marie, in the Vercors region of France, near the Swiss Alps. Comte d’Epinay was impoverished, due to the death of so many relatives by Madame Guillotine, and the taxation upon those of the aristocracy who managed to keep their heads.

 

For a while, Comte d’Epinay was addressed as “Citizen d’Epinay”, but the country folk reverted to M d’Epinay, and an uneasy peace existed. M d’Epinay lived without the luxuries of his youth in a decaying house, too small to be considered a chateau and too large for economy. The roofs leaked, the fireplaces could benefit from a good cleaning, but beyond a shotgun blast up the chimneys every few years, there was little improvement in the draw. The tiles tumbled off the roofs with the Mistral, which swept down the Alps and did much damage. It was locally held that anyone who went mad with the sounds of the wind would be pardoned of their crimes.

 

The household staff had dwindled to a housekeeper and a steward, M and Mme Pennay, leftovers from the ancien re’gime along with Mme Fournard, who was the governess for Marie d’Epiney. Social visits had diminished in the early years after the Terror, even this far removed from Paris. Gone were the parties and fetes of M d’Epinay’s early marriage, and gone was his wife. She had grown feeble with each packet of news from the Paris and finally one morning, was found stiff and cold in her bed. It was said Madame had died of grief for her beloved France. The locals thought otherwise, but as isolated people do, they believed evil had blown down from the mountains and played a hand in all misfortunes in the countryside.

 

This part of France was prey to all kinds of superstition and haunts. If a cow stopped giving her rich milk and gave a watery stream, it was the hand of a witch. If a flock of chickens started eating their eggs, it was because a malevolent spirit haunted a farmer’s house.

 

The spring came early and with it the rains. Each day, Marie d’Epinay would limp her way around the bedroom, and holding onto the chairs and sofa, she would make her way slowly to the big window that gave her the outside world. Mlle d’Epinay’s governess had grown to be a companion, for her charge was now in her twenties. Mme Fournard was herself almost elderly, a woman whose life had passed her by in the service of the d’Epinay child.

 

Marie!” Mme Fournard had come into the room and saw her charge leaning on the windowsill, staring out at the pouring rain. “Marie, come away from the window, ma cherie. The cold from this rain will make you sick.”

 

Marie’s usual thought passed across her mind when Mme started her scolding. “How much sicker will I become before death takes me away?” But this of course she did not impart to her governess. Mme Fournard was deeply religious, or superstitious, and to Marie’s thinking, there was little difference. Perhaps it was the loneliness of her days spent in dank rooms with a book in hand that created such cynicism in Mlle.

 

One late afternoon, in a heavy downpour, there was a long knocking at the door. The housekeeper, grumbling at the impatience of the knocker, hurried to answer. A man was standing there on the steps with water running off his hat, and in his arms a bundle. Without a word, the man entered. The housekeeper, of course, would not deny him entrance in such weather.

 

“Thank you, Madame. We have been traveling from the east and our carriage has overturned on the road. Mlle Duchamp has been injured and your house was the only one I could see in this rain. Please forgive the intrusion.”

 

The knocking drew the household, M d’Epinay amongst them. “Mme Fournard, please help Mme Pennay, take this young woman to a bed.” M d’Epinay was a gracious soul. His own lack of fortune would never turn his heart cold to the distressed.

 

When Mlle Duchamp was deposited in a bed, and the man had withdrawn to the warm kitchen, Mme Fournard opened the blanket and saw an almost lifeless young woman. She had drab red hair, made worse by the rain, such pale skin that there was no bloom of life, and a breast that barely rose. Stripping her garments, the two women noticed she had signs of extreme malnourishment. Her ribs stuck out painfully and her skin was translucent.  She appeared to be in her twenties, but she could have been older. It was impossible to tell due to her present condition.

 

Over the course of a few days Mlle Duchamp regained consciousness but remained very weak regardless good broth and simples applied to her lips. The man who had brought her went out in the pouring rain and was never seen again. No trace of a carriage was found later on the road, for M.d’Epinay sent men out to help put things to right.

 

Mlle d’Epinay heard from her governess of the guest in the next bedroom. She was curious to see the girl. She had a key to the adjoining bedroom, and when Mme Fournard was down in the kitchen or somewhere in the house, she would unlock the door between the rooms and would make her way slowly into the bedroom, lurching from chair to table, and finally to the bedside. Usually the woman was asleep, muttering in a deep dream. Today she was awake but motionless.

 

“You are finally awake! Bon! I am Marie d’Epinay, this is my father’s house. I am glad to see that you have recovered.”

 

The young woman before her struggled to focus her eyes and a small smile formed on her lips.

 

“I am so cold, Mlle. I am so cold. Come to me and keep me warm.”

 

Marie did not see any reason to refuse this poor woman, and went down beside her, over the top of the blankets. She gingerly put her arms around the woman and felt the bones of her shoulders. Louise Duchamp, for that was her Christian name, sighed sweetly, and the two of them fell into sleep. They awoke later that afternoon, both refreshed and talking and this is how Mme Fournard found them, when she came with a tray for Mlle Duchamp.

 

It was true the house was cold and damp, and remained that way until the heat of the summer, so Mme Fournard did not have any immediate objection to the two young women taking a nap together. She had a servant stoke up the fire and propped upon pillows, both women would read aloud to each other, and both sets of cheeks seemed to color with some health.

 

Marie would sleep in her own room during the night, but insisted Mme Fournard leave the adjoining door open so she could hear the sighs of her now dear Louise.

 

One night Marie awoke in the darkness and gasped in fright. It was only Louise standing there over her, as if sleepwalking. Pulling back the covers Marie beckoned for Louise to join her, for the spring was a long and wet one and the rooms still damp. Louise lay down on her pillow, wrapping her arms around Marie. She drew her close, and kissed her shoulder, travelling with little kisses down the virginal breast of Marie. At first Marie stiffened in her arms, then relaxed, for surely Louise was dreaming and could not know what she was doing. Louise found a soft nipple through Marie’s nightgown and started to suckle her. Marie, surprised, felt a tremor travel from her breast down her body. She gave a little moan and Louise smiled, stopped and fell back asleep.

 

After that, Louise would visit Marie and when the stillness of the house was complete and nothing disturbed the absolute silence except the moaning of the wind outside, she would fasten her lips upon Marie’s breast. She would suck and nibble, and Marie would moan. When Marie awoke in the morning, Louise was asleep in her own bed, the roses in her cheeks showing her recovery. Marie remembered nothing unusual, except a strange, continuing dream that left her languid far into the morning.

 

The visits continued for several weeks. One night, Marie found Louise beside her, and this time, Louise had bunched up the muslin of her nightgown. Slowly, almost like a moth’s gentle touch, Marie felt her fingers in her sex. She stroked back and forth, back and forth, barely touching the flesh. But for Marie, it felt like an angel’s wing to her, and she experienced a sensation that had her hips arch off the mattress.

 

The next night, Marie found Louise in her bed again, and this time she moved her head lower and lower, until she was blowing her sweet breath on Marie. Marie, trapped in this sensation for which she had no rational name, spread her legs slightly. Louise parted Marie’s nether lips and with her tongue, lapped and tickled, sucked and swirled until Marie started to scream. A hand shot up from between Marie’s thighs and clamped over her mouth. This was no impediment to the new sensation, for the joy she felt unleashed deep in her body, soared out her throat and into that hand. Kissing it, crying with sweet relief, Marie fell asleep and in the morning Louise was back in her own bed.

 

After that, Louise brought another game to their night time hours. Pain. At first she would bite a little of Marie’s lips, and then when Marie jumped, she would apply her lips and tongue to the part of Marie that flew her to heaven. Each night, Louise would increase the pain just a little, and Marie looked forward to the pain because in her mind it became mixed with the extreme pleasure Louise imparted. More and more pain, and then the resulting pleasure. Marie’s lips became bloody and tender, but that a small sacrifice for the ecstasy she felt. Their play touched Louise too, for her pale and sallow skin had more bloom, obviously due to the great devotion she had for Marie.

 

One night Marie and Louise were playing their love game. Marie’s pleasure was so intense she had to stuff a pillow over her mouth when she was thrown into ecstasy.   Louise now was sitting on her thighs, with Marie’s parts pulled up to her mouth. It quite overcame Marie, and she went limp with spent passion.

 

That morning a carriage appeared at the door. Louise Duchamp was downstairs tying her bonnet. She was smiling at herself in the large glass in the hall. She looked radiant, her red hair curled and bright, her complexion glowing, her green eyes gleaming with secrets. A restored beauty and Mme Fournard quite amazed with the young woman she was watching at the bottom of the stairs. She hadn’t thought Mlle Duchamp would recover, much less to such an extent!

 

“Oh, Madame, you should check on Mlle d’Epinay. I thought her a bit restless during the night, but when I looked, she was fine. Perhaps a nightmare?”

 

Mme Fournard agreed and climbed the stairs. Soon a loud scream erupted from upstairs, followed by a piteous moan. At the same instant, Mlle Duchamp blew a kiss at her reflection, walked out the front door and was helped into the carriage.

 

Marie d’Epinay was dead, pale as a ghost in her bed, and Louise Duchamp was never again seen in the Vercors region of France.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

 

“Mlle. Duchamps” a short story with thanks to Ann Rice for her encouragement many years ago.

November 17, 2019
Image result for women victims of vampires

Many years ago there was an elderly gentleman who lived along with his invalid daughter Marie, in the Vercors region of France, near the Swiss Alps. Comte d’Epinay was impoverished, due to the death of so many relatives by Madame Guillotine, and the taxation upon those of the aristocracy who managed to keep their heads.

 

For a while, Comte d’Epinay was addressed as “Citizen d’Epinay”, but the country folk reverted to M d’Epinay, and an uneasy peace existed. M d’Epinay lived without the luxuries of his youth in a decaying house, too small to be considered a chateau and too large for economy. The roofs leaked, the fireplaces could benefit from a good cleaning, but beyond a shotgun blast up the chimneys every few years, there was little improvement in the draw. The tiles tumbled off the roofs with the Mistral, which swept down the Alps and did much damage. It was locally held that anyone who went mad with the sounds of the wind would be pardoned of their crimes.

 

The household staff had dwindled to a housekeeper and a steward, M and Mme Pennay, leftovers from the ancien re’gime along with Mme Fournard, who was the governess for Marie d’Epiney. Social visits had diminished in the early years after the Terror, even this far removed from Paris. Gone were the parties and fetes of M d’Epinay’s early marriage, and gone was his wife. She had grown feeble with each packet of news from the Paris and finally one morning, was found stiff and cold in her bed. It was said Madame had died of grief for her beloved France. The locals thought otherwise, but as isolated people do, they believed evil had blown down from the mountains and played a hand in all misfortunes in the countryside.

 

This part of France was prey to all kinds of superstition and haunts. If a cow stopped giving her rich milk and gave a watery stream, it was the hand of a witch. If a flock of chickens started eating their eggs, it was because a malevolent spirit haunted a farmer’s house.

 

The spring came early and with it the rains. Each day, Marie d’Epinay would limp her way around the bedroom, and holding onto the chairs and sofa, she would make her way slowly to the big window that gave her the outside world. Mlle d’Epinay’s governess had grown to be a companion, for her charge was now in her twenties. Mme Fournard was herself almost elderly, a woman whose life had passed her by in the service of the d’Epinay child.

 

Marie!” Mme Fournard had come into the room and saw her charge leaning on the windowsill, staring out at the pouring rain. “Marie, come away from the window, ma cherie. The cold from this rain will make you sick.”

 

Marie’s usual thought passed across her mind when Mme started her scolding. “How much sicker will I become before death takes me away?” But this of course she did not impart to her governess. Mme Fournard was deeply religious, or superstitious, and to Marie’s thinking, there was little difference. Perhaps it was the loneliness of her days spent in dank rooms with a book in hand that created such cynicism in Mlle.

 

One late afternoon, in a heavy downpour, there was a long knocking at the door. The housekeeper, grumbling at the impatience of the knocker, hurried to answer. A man was standing there on the steps with water running off his hat, and in his arms a bundle. Without a word, the man entered. The housekeeper, of course, would not deny him entrance in such weather.

 

“Thank you, Madame. We have been traveling from the east and our carriage has overturned on the road. Mlle Duchamp has been injured and your house was the only one I could see in this rain. Please forgive the intrusion.”

 

The knocking drew the household, M d’Epinay amongst them. “Mme Fournard, please help Mme Pennay, take this young woman to a bed.” M d’Epinay was a gracious soul. His own lack of fortune would never turn his heart cold to the distressed.

 

When Mlle Duchamp was deposited in a bed, and the man had withdrawn to the warm kitchen, Mme Fournard opened the blanket and saw an almost lifeless young woman. She had drab red hair, made worse by the rain, such pale skin that there was no bloom of life, and a breast that barely rose. Stripping her garments, the two women noticed she had signs of extreme malnourishment. Her ribs stuck out painfully and her skin was translucent.  She appeared to be in her twenties, but she could have been older. It was impossible to tell due to her present condition.

 

Over the course of a few days Mlle Duchamp regained consciousness but remained very weak regardless good broth and simples applied to her lips. The man who had brought her went out in the pouring rain and was never seen again. No trace of a carriage was found later on the road, for M.d’Epinay sent men out to help put things to right.

 

Mlle d’Epinay heard from her governess of the guest in the next bedroom. She was curious to see the girl. She had a key to the adjoining bedroom, and when Mme Fournard was down in the kitchen or somewhere in the house, she would unlock the door between the rooms and would make her way slowly into the bedroom, lurching from chair to table, and finally to the bedside. Usually the woman was asleep, muttering in a deep dream. Today she was awake but motionless.

 

“You are finally awake! Bon! I am Marie d’Epinay, this is my father’s house. I am glad to see that you have recovered.”

 

The young woman before her struggled to focus her eyes and a small smile formed on her lips.

 

“I am so cold, Mlle. I am so cold. Come to me and keep me warm.”

 

Marie did not see any reason to refuse this poor woman, and went down beside her, over the top of the blankets. She gingerly put her arms around the woman and felt the bones of her shoulders. Louise Duchamp, for that was her Christian name, sighed sweetly, and the two of them fell into sleep. They awoke later that afternoon, both refreshed and talking and this is how Mme Fournard found them, when she came with a tray for Mlle Duchamp.

 

It was true the house was cold and damp, and remained that way until the heat of the summer, so Mme Fournard did not have any immediate objection to the two young women taking a nap together. She had a servant stoke up the fire and propped upon pillows, both women would read aloud to each other, and both sets of cheeks seemed to color with some health.

 

Marie would sleep in her own room during the night, but insisted Mme Fournard leave the adjoining door open so she could hear the sighs of her now dear Louise.

 

One night Marie awoke in the darkness and gasped in fright. It was only Louise standing there over her, as if sleepwalking. Pulling back the covers Marie beckoned for Louise to join her, for the spring was a long and wet one and the rooms still damp. Louise lay down on her pillow, wrapping her arms around Marie. She drew her close, and kissed her shoulder, travelling with little kisses down the virginal breast of Marie. At first Marie stiffened in her arms, then relaxed, for surely Louise was dreaming and could not know what she was doing. Louise found a soft nipple through Marie’s nightgown and started to suckle her. Marie, surprised, felt a tremor travel from her breast down her body. She gave a little moan and Louise smiled, stopped and fell back asleep.

 

After that, Louise would visit Marie and when the stillness of the house was complete and nothing disturbed the absolute silence except the moaning of the wind outside, she would fasten her lips upon Marie’s breast. She would suck and nibble, and Marie would moan. When Marie awoke in the morning, Louise was asleep in her own bed, the roses in her cheeks showing her recovery. Marie remembered nothing unusual, except a strange, continuing dream that left her languid far into the morning.

 

The visits continued for several weeks. One night, Marie found Louise beside her, and this time, Louise had bunched up the muslin of her nightgown. Slowly, almost like a moth’s gentle touch, Marie felt her fingers in her sex. She stroked back and forth, back and forth, barely touching the flesh. But for Marie, it felt like an angel’s wing to her, and she experienced a sensation that had her hips arch off the mattress.

 

The next night, Marie found Louise in her bed again, and this time she moved her head lower and lower, until she was blowing her sweet breath on Marie. Marie, trapped in this sensation for which she had no rational name, spread her legs slightly. Louise parted Marie’s nether lips and with her tongue, lapped and tickled, sucked and swirled until Marie started to scream. A hand shot up from between Marie’s thighs and clamped over her mouth. This was no impediment to the new sensation, for the joy she felt unleashed deep in her body, soared out her throat and into that hand. Kissing it, crying with sweet relief, Marie fell asleep and in the morning Louise was back in her own bed.

 

After that, Louise brought another game to their night time hours. Pain. At first she would bite a little of Marie’s lips, and then when Marie jumped, she would apply her lips and tongue to the part of Marie that flew her to heaven. Each night, Louise would increase the pain just a little, and Marie looked forward to the pain because in her mind it became mixed with the extreme pleasure Louise imparted. More and more pain, and then the resulting pleasure. Marie’s lips became bloody and tender, but that a small sacrifice for the ecstasy she felt. Their play touched Louise too, for her pale and sallow skin had more bloom, obviously due to the great devotion she had for Marie.

 

One night Marie and Louise were playing their love game. Marie’s pleasure was so intense she had to stuff a pillow over her mouth when she was thrown into ecstasy.   Louise now was sitting on her thighs, with Marie’s parts pulled up to her mouth. It quite overcame Marie, and she went limp with spent passion.

 

That morning a carriage appeared at the door. Louise Duchamp was downstairs tying her bonnet. She was smiling at herself in the large glass in the hall. She looked radiant, her red hair curled and bright, her complexion glowing, her green eyes gleaming with secrets. A restored beauty and Mme Fournard quite amazed with the young woman she was watching at the bottom of the stairs. She hadn’t thought Mlle Duchamp would recover, much less to such an extent!

 

“Oh, Madame, you should check on Mlle d’Epinay. I thought her a bit restless during the night, but when I looked, she was fine. Perhaps a nightmare?”

 

Mme Fournard agreed and climbed the stairs. Soon a loud scream erupted from upstairs, followed by a piteous moan. At the same instant, Mlle Duchamp blew a kiss at her reflection, walked out the front door and was helped into the carriage.

 

Marie d’Epinay was dead, pale as a ghost in her bed, and Louise Duchamp was never again seen in the Vercors region of France.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

 

“The Passion of Japanese Poetry”

November 11, 2019

via “The Passion of Japanese Poetry”

“The Passion of Japanese Poetry”

November 11, 2019

cover

 

Brave man like the catalpa bow

That, once drawn,

Does not slacken-

Can it be that he is unable to bear

The vicissitudes of love?

—-Anonymous

 

This is one of my favorite poems of the Man’yoshu. I used it as a heading in an episode of the  published “Song of the Nightingale”, where Lord Nyo frets as to his resolve and manhood. He finds himself, as the figure in the original poem, bewildered that he, ‘a strong man’ could find himself powerless to resist the invisible passion of love. He is more used to war and weapons, something tangible, not the chimera of love.

Lady Nyo  (the one today….)

********

 

Life gives  such beauty and pain, sometimes in almost equal measures. I find solace in reading selections from the great Man’yoshu, this document from 8th century Japan. I have written here before about this great collection of over 4500 poems, but of course, not all of them appeal to our modern senses and tastes. In particular the love poems from the Man’yoshu, written over a span of 130 years, are poems that liberate us, throw us into a free-floating dreamscape, where our sentiments connect within those lovers who lived 1500 years before us.

The passion of these poems cannot be denied. They speak over the centuries to our own hearts, and in some lucky cases, to our own experience. I will attempt to give some explanation to each poem, but this not fully my own interpretation. I am relying on commentary by Ooka Makoto and translations of Ian Hideo Levy, from “Love Songs from the Man’yoshu”. This small, beautifully bound and illustrated book (by the late Miyata Masayuki) is published by Kodansha International in Tokyo.

Lady Nyo

 

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 is one of the most famous poems in the Man’yoshu, given prominence as it appears towards the beginning of the document.

It is answered by Prince Oama:

 

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?

 

Those the poem seems to be of a love triangle, it is not actually so. Princess Nukata is now married to the emperor Tenchi, and her heart is torn between Prince Oama, her former husband. These poems have a gracious melody and a way to stir the emotions of modern readers.

 

In a single sprig of

Of these blossoms

Are concealed a hundred words;

Do not treat me lightly.

—–Fujiwara Hirotsugu

 

This is a courting poem. The poet plucked off a branch of cherry blossoms, tied his poem to it, and sent it to a young girl. This was a well-used method of presenting a poem. A twig of blooming tree flowers, a blade of sawgrass, a branch of plum, wild plum or maple leaves in the fall. The answering poem from the girl was touching, too. It says that the reason the sprig is bent is that it couldn’t support all the words it contains.

The heart longs to say yes. But language still hesitates.

 

Whose words are these

Spoken to the wife of another?

Whose words are these;

That bade me untie

The sash of my robe?

—-Anonymous

 

This is most likely a folk song, and these kind of poems figure in great amount in the Man’yoshu. “the wife of another” was an object of male sexual desire; the poets of the Man’yoshu showed a special attachment to this theme of secret love.

 

The silk-treeflower that blooms in the day

Closes as it sleeps,

Yearning through the night.

Should only its lord look upon it?

You too, my vassal, enjoy the sight.

—–Lady Ki

 

Lady Ki was the wife of Prince Aki, but he was sent into exile and she became familiar with the great poet, Otomo Yakamochi. There is a reversal of sexes here as Lady Ki writes as a man. This is not unusual for the period. Actually, Otomo, the scion of the great Otomo huse, was above her. This is poetic license for the time.

 

Fearful as it would be

To speak it out in words,

So I endure a love

Like the morning glory

That never blooms conspicuously.

—–Anonymous

 

It is thought that a curse would be brought upon the speaker to speak the other’s name. Hence, we read many poems like this one above in the Man’yoshu, not naming the two lovers.

 

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

 

One of my favorites and written when Otomo was only 16! There is an expression that comes from the Chinese meaning ‘eyebrow moon”, i.e., the new moon, the crescent moon. This poem refers to the painted trailing eyebrows of women in this ancient period. But how precocious of Otomo at just 16!

 

Though I sleep

With but a single thin rush mat

For my bedding,

I am not cold at all

When I sleep with you, my lord.

—-Anonymous

 

A lovely, poignant poem, though it seems the woman, with her single thin rush mat of the lower class. However, beautiful enough to be included in the Man’yoshu. And about that: The Man’yoshu was the first and probably the last collection of poems that included such a range of people in ancient Japanese society: fishermen’s songs, weaver’s songs, priest’s poems, prostitute’s laments besides the imperial court and upper classes. It would never be seen again.

 

O for a heavenly fire!

I would reel in

The distant road you travel,

Fold it up,

And burn it to ashes.

—–The Daughter of Sano Otogami

 

One of the most famous love poems in the Man’yoshu. She was a female official who served in the Bureau of Rites, whose precincts were forbidden to men. She had a secret affair with a minister named Nakatomi Yakamori. Their affair was discovered and he was sent into exile as punishment. They exchanged around sixty-five poems expressing their concern for each other’s safety and pledging that their love would not be changed by exile. The distant road is the long road he must travel to exile.

It is Autumn in Atlanta. These love poems churn the mind and enflame the passions, along with the pollen and winds. One would have to have a heart of stone not to be swayed by such passionate beauty in verse.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016-2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tanka…

November 7, 2019

via Tanka…

Tanka…

November 7, 2019

Kohut-Bartels-LS-18

(Watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 07)

 

Like the lithe bowing

Of a red maple sapling

My heart turns to you,

Yearns for those nights long ago

When pale skin challenged the moon.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2019

 

 

 


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