This I believe is in “A Seasoning of Lust” but I’ve been rewriting some of the poems anyway, so they are a bit different.

The apprentice period of Maikos is usually a long period of years as these very young girls grow up doing all the manual labor of the house. ( Actually, this varies depending upon location:  Kyoto has a different timetable for this than Tokyo.)   They are educated in music, dancing and conversation.  All this takes years to complete, and it’s really a dying art.

Lady Nyo

Dirty faced little girls
imitate Geishas
in the nighttime
when chores are done.
They practice
seductive glances
on each other,
graceful movements
pouring tea for phantom clients.
Stealing a moment,
they gaze into mirrors
making Geisha- faces
preening, casting
down their eyes,
yet trying to catch
their mirrored reflections.

Now tender Maikos,
white face of lead paint
sit silently
knees padded by the many
layers of stiff underdress
stifling yawns
as Big Sister Geishas
pour sake
ever so slightly
a marble- smooth wrist
that barely blushes with life-
Mysterious seduction!

the silent chorus
behind the performers,
observing the trade
studying the manners
peering out with furtive
looking at the men
rolling around the mats
acting foolish, drunk.

Slender ‘dancing-children’
with tender split- peach hairdos
driving men to lust
a ripe and blushing fruit
sitting above the red neckline of the
a sample of the fruit
ready to be plucked
for the right price
to okiya.

Solemn Maikos,
they are
to follow the ways of
full-blown Geisha,
to be desired and sought
for beauty, grace, talents,
trapped within silken layers
beautiful butterflies and
night’s elusive moths,
dragging through life
clipped wings
of splendid colors.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2009

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2 Responses to ““Maikos””

  1. Berowne Says:

    I like it. Just a couple of nits:

    Should ‘pouring tea for fathom clients’ be ‘phantom clients’? A fathom of tea would satisfy a very deep thirst.

    And in ‘as Big Sister Geishas / pour saki’ is that a variant spelling of ‘sake’? I recall it spelled with an E.

    More subtly, I wonder if some other adjective than ‘full-blown’ in the last stanza would better convey the destiny of the apprentices. It has connotations that may not be intended in the poem; substituting ‘grownup’, ‘mature’ or another term might be worth considering.


  2. ladynyo Says:

    THIS is why we need readers…..or other writers to catch our nits. I know that the proper form is sakE….or o-sake in Japanese….not saki…a slip of the finger there…

    And yes, phantom… not fathom…what is wrong with me??

    Thank you, Berowne…

    I’ll think a bit more on this issue of ‘full-blown’…but will certainly consider your other suggestions.

    Thank you again, Berowne, for reading and for catching this nits.

    Lady Nyo


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