“The Punishment”, for OneShotPoetry






Four years ago I discovered shibari.  In Japan, it means the tying of something, usually packages, but an earlier meaning is “the tying of the heart’.  It has a long history in Japan and was used to secure prisoners.  In the West, it refers to the practice of rope bondage, and the word shibari has become common for this practice.

Shibari is a powerful practice.  It can be abused and misused.  In my experience I came to understand that shibari was a many-layered issue.  I have written about Shibari, in “The Shibari Series” in my first book, “A Seasoning of Lust”, and also numerous essays on my blog.  Some can be found with a Google search on Shibari.

“The Punishment” was a poem written from that time.

Different  opinions abound on rope bondage.  There is the issue of control and power, but this entry is not the place to discuss that topic.  I have had different experiences with shibari, but one thing I do believe:  the intent or the expectations of either the binder or the person bound are trumped by what I call “the power of the ropes”.  To the Japanese, in the religion of Shinto, everything has a spirit.  It is called Kami.

From a writing on Shinto religion:

“Kami  is the sacred or mystical element in almost anything. It is in everything and is found everywhere, and is what makes an object itself rather than something else. The word means that which is hidden.

Kami have a specific life-giving, harmonizing power, called musubi, and a truthful will, called makoto (also translated as sincerity).”

I don’t believe in much mystical stuff, but I do believe in kami, especially as it pertains to the practice of shibari.

I have experienced them.

Lady Nyo

THE PUNISHMENT  (Shibari Series)

While binding me for his pleasure

I uttered displeasing words,

And with a level glance

He considered his options.

Too soon he knew

What punishment to apply!

Grabbing my hair

Twisting it in his hand

He pulled me to my feet

And opening the shoji

Pulled me out into

The spring’s snowy morn.

Telling me to kneel,

This time I obeyed,

shivering in fear.

Drawing an early cherry blossom from his sleeve

(a gift that was to be mine)

He threw it in the snow.

It was his pleasure for me to feel

The sharpness of morning

Until the soft snow had covered the blossom.

I, who a month ago would have not cared

What I said,

Now trembled with humiliation

Feeling more than the cold air.

When sentiment grows deep and the heart is overflowing

One submits and becomes a slave to love.

I knelt in the snow,

my nakedness and tears

Showing my shame to the courtyard.

A crow in the cherry tree

Laughed without mercy.

Fearing I would die

The blossom now covered with snow,

He came and

Picked me up in his arms-

Carried me to the warm brazier,

Tucked me deep amongst his robes

And sang a soft song of the foolish maiden

Who would die for the last word.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008, 2011

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16 Responses to ““The Punishment”, for OneShotPoetry”

  1. brian Says:

    oh wow…glad he came for you in the end…a harch punishment, but perhaps a lesson learned that he or she who speaks last does not always come out on top…nice one shot.

    Thanks, Brian….my site won’t let me comment for some reason…LOL! So I’m tagging onto your comment.

    Just a clarification. The poem wasn’t about me…or an experience I had (in shibari…) but just a poem.

    Thank you, Brian…for reading and commenting.

    Lady Nyo


  2. Laura Hegfield Says:

    really intense…when I think of binding one’s heart it is a much more tender image…your beautiful, painful poem, turned this phrase around for me in a very unexpected way.


  3. stevenmgrant Says:

    I love the construction of this piece. The sparse stanzas that force the reader to ponder each word. I know little of this practice but it is very powerful as a poetic devise.


  4. dustus Says:

    Fascinating poem. Pleasure contrasting with punishment seems cruel, yet all the more absorbing in the way it is depicted in the lines. Thank you for the throughout introduction. It helped when reading and shines greater light on the practice. Vivid imagery.


  5. ladynyo Says:

    For some reason, wordpress isn’t letting me comment on each individual comment…so I will try to cover it all here.

    Laura: Yep, there’s pain in this poem….hehehe….I can’t think of anything more painful than kneeling naked in the snow…with a crow laughing at you.

    The crow was included because in Japanese Mythology, a crow is a significant being. He’s a messenger of sorts, but I can’t remember the actual function of his being.

    I would love to write something about the practice of shibari, but there isn’t enough time tonight: suffice to say that it is an ancient practice…and an interesting one at that. Used by police (samurai) and military….to bind and control a group of prisoners. Depending upon the ‘class’ of the offender, the binding was adjusted. If the miscreant was of a rich or higher class, sometimes the ropes weren’t even used. It was of an honor that was expected.

    Today in Tokyo, and Kyoto and other large cities…the police have a short length of rope tucked in one sleeve. Whether they actually use this or not I don’t know….it might just be symbolic.

    I can’t remember the Japanese for “tying of the heart” as shibari, but I do remember the mention. I think there is so much that can be written into this practice as poetry! But it is also full of issues and aspects that are many layered.

    Thank you, Laura for reading and leaving a comment.

    Steve: thank you for reading and your comment. It is a simple construction, I guess. There is so much to plumb in the Japanese culture that has this harsh/tender motif.

    Dustus: Pleasure contrasting with punishment. Yes, is cruel. I think it’s a mindset that we aren’t stumbling over all the time, and perhaps this makes it intriguing and alien. Perhaps one heightens the other?

    Perhaps the contrast I see in this, and what saves it from the usual bdsm writing (at least I hope) is the tender concern that the man shows in the end….and that he acknowledges her ‘spunk’??

    Thank you for reading, Dustus, and your comment.

    Lady Nyo


  6. marousia Says:

    Wow – love it – so complex and so much going on


  7. booguloo Says:

    I enjoy reading about the cultural differences in your writing. Educational and entertaining.


  8. ladynyo Says:

    Still, wordpress is screwing around and I can’t post the usual reply in the way I did before…so…

    To Marousia: I thought it pretty simple poem before, but now I do see it as more complex. Perhaps because we don’t really know much about shibari, unless you study it…experience it. It’s that gorilla in the room in this poem, because most readers don’t have any knowledge about it or this history. I really thought hard about posting this poem because in a way it’s coming out of left field. It’s an early poem and has a certain naivete about it.

    Thank you for reading Marousia and leaving a comment.

    To Booguloo:

    I enjoy writing about alien cultures. I have no idea why, but I rarely face modern culture, or American culture. I just don’t have the ear or eye for it. I wish I did, and sooner or later I will have to develop it if I want to continue writing.

    Thank you for reading and leaving a comment.

    Lady Nyo


  9. hedgewitch Says:

    A difficult subject for me–I thank you for making me take a look at it. Consciously and of my own volition, I would rather stomp someone dead than let them tie me up and humiliate me, but I know that there is a surrender and helplessness in love also, and a power in yielding to another’s strength and will that might make the narrator of the poem act as she did, perhaps to some positive and healing effect; ie, that it might in some circumstances be the right thing to do. (For her; me…not so much. 😉 ) I enjoyed reading about the Shinto concept of karni, and thinking of the ropes having their own spirit takes this to a different and fascinating level.


  10. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Joy!

    It’s a VERY difficult issue…and I agree with your concerns here. Because in the hands of particular people, it can be misused, used in anger, abused, etc. is why I am very, very careful how I write and approach this issue.

    Exactly two years ago today I had a binding. The binder was a man who acted (on line) like a dominant, but he fast fell to a snarly being. Rather hateful, actually, but what I figured out (many months later) was that he was so narrowed by nature and wiring he couldn’t really enjoy the exchange between a man and a woman. That’s my ‘short-take’ on it, but we will leave this poor creature alone.

    About that binding, though. I had what I was told was a ‘waking dream’ (by another very good shibari artist…) where I entered an iron cauldron of two hundred goldfish who fanned me with their tails. (Funny, though, in my memory of these goldfish, they looked more like Piranha!) I believe what happened was this. This kami of the ropes (or power of the ropes) was present because it was a way to protect me from the anger and disdain (he ‘couldn’t be bothered to tie me correctly’ was what he claimed on his blog….lol!) of this wanky binder, who…in this mood violated the possibilities of shibari…which, I was told later by a very good and competent shibari expert is connection. Connection between two spirits….

    Humiliation is a concept within bdsm, (and ultimately that was his intention) and I don’t feel it is something that shibari incorporates. I think it depends upon the ego and intentions of the binder, and this is why there is such a caution in these things.

    But it all came to good, though this poor creature will never understand these things. His ego won’t let him and there are many so called dominants who are so wrapped up in their egos they can’t see anything else. The good was this: I wrote a short story, to be published soon, called “Goldfish” in a very Japanese style….and the binder? He became a kami….a kappa to be exact: a little, green, frog-like creature who loses his power when he bows his head. In the Japanese culture, there is a lot of bowing, so you can see where this is going.

    As for kami…there are also not so benign kami. The kappa is known for farting loudly and looking up the kimonos of women. They also drown children. And the naive.

    Thank you, Joy, for reading and leaving your very good insight. I share much of it with you.

    Lady Nyo


  11. Claudia Says:

    thanks for giving us an insight into this japanese tradition. it sounds really horrible and i think one can only understand it with having the whole background..and maybe not even then..? but for sure this was a piece of powerful poetry


  12. ladynyo Says:

    I agree, Claudia. In the hands of an abuser, a man (or woman) who has many, many issues and a strong bend of sadism, it would be horrible.

    However, the history is more interesting than the sexual issues around shibari. Plus, to the Japanese, it goes way beyond the (Western) ideas of bondage and sex. They strive for beauty, and it’s probably an extreme objectification of women in what they create, with flower arranging sometimes stuck in the curves of a woman, but it’s different than the bdsm mentality of Western rope workers.

    Or so my opinion has come to be formed. And as for understanding it with a whole of the background? Not even then. It’s such a cultural issue, and that is what people don’t realize: it’s complex, in sociological terms, etc. and people don’t want to take the time to study a culture deeply.

    There is a marvelous book: Ruth Benedict’s “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”, (Patterns of Japanese Culture) that is fundamental in beginning to understand this fascinating culture. I have read it and need to read it again.

    Thank you, Claudia, for reading and leaving a comment. It’s not easy sometimes the poetry we read on Oneshot, but I think it can expand our horizons.

    Lady Nyo


  13. Kavita Says:

    OUCH!! What a fine write, Nyo… I embrace all the cultural differences… and yet there is a part of me that says that self respect comes above any culture…
    The cruelty that men (women) have endured in the name of love is really too hard for me to digest… what kind of love is this after all!!

    I think you have brought this out really beautifully in your poem, my dear.. you have a wonderful way with words!!

    Kudos on this fantastic and gripping one shot!!


  14. ladynyo Says:

    Thanks, Kavita. Gotcha.

    I have gotten so far away from so much….and shibari is just one cultural issue that is of interest, but the different forms of poetry is even better!

    I understand your reasonings on love. I think what a well-known shibari expert said about all this above is it is…in the beginning, middle, end…and issue of forming connections….spirit meeting spirit. Where the roles of binder and bindee fall away and something else replaces the titles.

    Or something like this. It’s a knarly issue of course, and bdsm stuff muddies the waters of this issue, but I think there are those (men and women) who can rise above the narrower and baser issues.

    Thank you, Kavita, for reading and leaving such a kind comment.

    Lady Nyo


  15. Steve Isaak Says:

    Intense, vivid, the second time ’round. 🙂


  16. ladynyo Says:

    Hah! The first time around it was a 200 word flasher…so, just to have something new and disruptive to post, I made it into poetry form.

    Didn’t fool you, though.

    You got a good memory, Steve! Who said you were senile??? Bah.

    Lady Nyo


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