‘Lord Nyo’s Lament’

Lord Fudo

I promised a response by the character Lord Nyo last week, little suspecting the trouble I would have in fashioning this poem.  In part it was because I was trying to develop his character within the context of this poetry, and in part because I kept going far afield in the doing of this. Perhaps the best excuse is that there were so many ‘issues’ that seemed applicable to his being that I couldn’t choose what to write and what to leave out. 

I kept thinking of the poet/priest Saigyo, one of my favorite Japanese poets: he had been a samurai, trained early in the service of a powerful family, a captain of the guard by the time he was eighteen, and then he became a Buddhist priest around the age of twenty-three.  His concern, as he expressed it in letters and poetry, was that his new Buddhist belief and practice would be scarred by his samurai past. He acknowledged the duel between his spiritual side and his warrior past and he was sensitive to what this all meant as he travelled Japan as a beggar priest-poet.

This is not exactly what Lord Nyo is facing: but there is some consciousness in there making him uncomfortable by his actions towards his wife.  Readers have expressed that he was a brute, was brutish in his behavior towards Lady Nyo, and he is now contemplating what he has done.  So am I in trying to make poetry out of this violent fellow.

This is a first pass in this attempt, and it will have to go through some changes as this theme clarifies.

Fudo is a Buddhist deity, also important to the Yamabushi (Mountain warriors/priests) cult.  He is shown with a rope to bind up passions or to pull you from Hell, and a sword for cutting through illusions.

Lady Nyo

Lord Nyo’s Lament

The song of the arrow

As it flew into the sea

Was as tuneless

As a badly strung samisen.

Gun- metal clouds

Stretched across a dull horizon,

The sun still asleep

As he should be,

His quiver empty,

His heart, too.

When had the callousness of life

Become as comfortable as breath to him?

Too much the warrior,

Too little the man.

Perhaps he should pray.

What God would listen?

And then it came to him–

That joker of a Buddha, Fudo

With his rope to pull him from Hell

And his sword to cut through foolishness-

Fudo would listen.

Fudo knew the quaking hearts

The delusions embraced

To stomach battlefield gore.

The fog of drink,

To face  life-

A samurai in the service of Death.

Lord Fudo would listen.

He remembered  years before

When being near her

Watching her white wrist

Peek from her sleeve

With that river of passion

Just below the skin

She could bring him to his knees

With the promise of dark mystery

Between silken thighs

And how he had steeled his heart

Believing himself unmanned

For the love she induced.

Three cranes flew low to the shore,

Legs streaming like black ribbons behind.

Three cranes, three prayers, three chances

To find his way back

Bound up in Fudo’s ropes,

Prodded by Fudo’s sword.

He would write a poem

On a bone-white fan

To leave on her cushion.

She would know his love

She would know his sorrow.

He would eat his shame.

The sea took his arrows

Beyond the breakers,

The glint of sleek feathers

Catching thin rays of light.

A small peace came over him

As they journeyed far from his hands.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011

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30 Responses to “‘Lord Nyo’s Lament’”

  1. Steve E Says:

    Occasionally I read a blog post (in this case, follow a story) of such significance, describing the human condition, that there would only be one way to satisfy my craving for more understanding, more knowledge. And that would be to sit for an hour or two in comfortable garden (no mosquitoes!) with plenty coffee, some sweet bread, and talk face-to-face.

    To write an epic in poetry is what only GREAT poets can do well. To internalize the story, dissect it and then produce it in reasonable rhyme is the mark of a specially gifted soul. You have been so gifted, Jane, IMO, and it is my gift to even ‘know’ you here.
    Thank you!


  2. ladynyo Says:


    I am quite overwhelmed by your praise. I usually find myself poking around in the dark on these issues of human condition and poetry…LOL! But thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    I, too…would love that hour in a garden, with coffee and danishes and talk about life…without mosquitoes…they have been especially bad this year, neh?

    Steve, this series has been a lot of fun for me. It grows a little bit, rather slowly, like the ginko tree, and hopefully it will keep it’s leaves. It goes dormant for a while and then shakes itself, and has more to say.

    Both these characters, though set in the 17th century, have an appeal I believe because the human condition, or human nature doesn’t change from century to century. We are stuck with a commonality that transcends time and place.

    This dissection you mention? If this is what is happening, it gives a chance to go more deeply into these unknown characters and draw out their attributes…good and bad. I believe strongly that there is nobility and craveness in all of our natures; we draw upon this for our characters in poetry and other literature. Again, it’s a timeless theme.

    Thank you, Steve, for your encouraging comment. Thank you also, for being my friend.




  3. claudia Says:

    ah great that you give us a glimpse into his brain as well jane…highly enjoyable after getting to know her side first last week…


  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Claudia,

    I didn’t like that he was nothing but a brute last week…or whenever he shot those arrows….but I thought him redeemable.

    Thank you, Claudia, for reading and your insightful comment.



  5. Laura Hegfield Says:

    Jane there is great depth to your writing, to the way you have searched his soul to find some kind of “logic” to his psyche…You are a master at this work, this deep, deep listening, culling a human heart for answers (even if it is one of your own invention).


  6. hedgewitch Says:

    This is a perfect follow up–giving him humanity, bringing him to some idea of who he once was. I think you took it in exactly the right direction here, and the words themselves were measured and musical, especially the image of the arrows floating away. That is one mean looking Buddha-figure also–the rope and sword are used adeptly in your poem as well. Thank you so much, Jane, for giving us more of Lady Nyo’s world.


  7. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Hedgewitch!

    Thank you so much for the vote of approval! This one was really tough. I had the first stanza for about 4 days on my head, and then nothing. Or really too much. LOL! I didn’t know where to take this except in very vague ways, so last night….around midnight, I just gave up and stopped trying to direct it so much.

    It had it’s own pathway and I just had to get out of the way. LOL!

    Sometimes, as you well know, that is just about the only thing you can do with a budding piece of poetry.

    As for Lord Fudo…LOL!! I think there is some ambilevance about him in general. And yes, he’s pretty fierce looking for a Buddha… I came across him about three years ago, when I was researching the Yamabushi cult, and he figures strongly in their parades, festivals, etc. He’s a strong character that is for sure!

    Thank you, again, Hedgewitch…for reading and your blessed comment.



  8. Pat Hatt Says:

    You just keep delving more and more into your story, of course that’s easy to do when you know the characters at play, but you pull it off masterfully, another great added verse to your tale.


  9. ladynyo Says:

    Dear Laura…

    Oh, wow! I have to get my little pointed head around that beautiful compliment!

    Thank you so much, Laura. I’ll try to live up to that depth.

    I have known a few people..actually one man and one woman that I felt had nothing in their souls except repeated evil. I couldn’t get past this evil to get to the logic of it all , and why. But Lord Nyo was not inherently evil, I think…just lost, folded, multilated by life…and a hard life as a warrior.

    This is where it gets tricky. Writing, trying to write novels, you invent a character, many of them, and then you have to sit back and see what they are all about. They tease, reveal themselves through the seven veils….LOL!…Or they are glum for some unknown reason, and you have to wait for them to light their own fires….and start to breathe.

    I have tried to put on certain human characteristics of my own ideas, thinking, and so many times it just doesn’t work. It’s artificial and the writing shows this. I don’t know the actual process….IF there is any real process to the character development…except to wait and watch, and let them play out around you. When this happens, it is truly exciting. It’s like: “Look, Ma….no hands!”

    LOL! I guess you just have to respect and trust your characters….they will animate themselves if you can stay out of the way.

    Most times…..

    Thank you, Laura, for reading and your lovely comment. I am so touched by these heart felt comments about Lord/Lady Nyo’s theme.




  10. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Pat!
    But I don’t know them….LOL! I’m punting here.

    I think it’s a process of them revealing themselves, their lives, and you eavesdropping. Or something like this.

    I like these characters, but they are very different from those two in my unfinished novel: “The Kimono”….Lady Nyo there is a jealous shrew at times, a manipulator, not the ‘nice’, long suffering woman she can appear here in poetry. In the book, she has a lot of power, maybe unrealistically so, but she’s become a main character now. LOL!

    And Lord Nyo? Well, he’s not fully developed in that book yet. I have made passing glances at him, in scenes with his wife, but he’s not strong enough yet. He doesn’t exactly follow in the wake of his wife, but he’s no where near of interest.

    Thank you, Pat. More than half the fun of writing is these people that people our hours. And I am rarely in control of the circus.



  11. jenneandrews Says:

    A hundred percent exquisite– doesn’t seem to me you miss a beat in this poem. I especially loved this image:

    Three cranes flew low to the shore,

    Legs streaming like black ribbons behind.

    Three cranes, three prayers, three chances

    To find his way back

    Your work delivers so much meaning and beauty~! xxxj http://parolavivace.blogspot.com .


  12. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you so much. This poem was 100% befuddlement for so many reasons. One, I had promised a poem as answer to the last week offering; two, I didn’t have a clue as to where this should go.

    I just threw away about 5 papers with writing front and back: stanzas that didn’t complete, make it, took the poem (if there even was one at that point!) off in different ways. I put it aside until midnight last night and then it came together: sort of.

    As for meaning and beauty? The Japanese culture has that in abundance. I am just beginning to learn some of it. It affects me deeply. This culture is just made for poetry.

    Thank you, Jenne, for reading and your lovely, encouraging comment. I appreciate it.
    Lady Nyo


  13. Elizabeth Young Says:

    Beautiful work here Jane, I particularly liked the line ‘he would eat his shame’ (similar to the Western phrase of ‘eating crow’), because there is so much humility placed in one small phrase. Thank you for reworking humanity into this character and revealling that none are beyond redemption!


  14. Margie Says:

    This was worth the wait! I didn’t much care for Lord Nyo before, only knowing him through Lady Nyo’s thoughts–but he touches my heart with his yearning for redemption, and I’m so happy the poem on the fan was his!


  15. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Margie!
    Ah! But we don’t know that yet…about the fan. I think that it could be a good plot twist…LOL! and be his, but then again, perhaps he has some well deserved competition?

    Yep, even the most brutish of men probably deserve redemption? Except for one I can think of…..

    LOL! Thank you, cousin, for reading and your comment.

    Love you!


  16. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Elizabeth!

    I am so happy you have read this poem. I agree about the humility in a small phrase. Perhaps its size makes it go down easier?


    I have an idea that Lord Nyo’s redemption will not be easy…something about his nature is a bit….stubborn.

    Thank you, Elizabeth for reading this poem and for your comment.




  17. brian Says:

    too much warrior, not enough man…that sums it up eh? but the part about the slightest hint of her flesh on her wrist bringing him to his knees speaks heavily of what once was and is now lost…very nicely penned…sorry i am so late in the coming…


  18. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Brian,
    You have your plate full…..I am very late responding myself.

    Thank you, Brian, for reading and your comment.



  19. Charles Elliott/Beautyseer Says:

    He seems to me to be surprisingly unselfjustifying, and much more redeemable than I would have guessed from your other postings from the Lady’s POV. And yet I liked it. And especially the quirky fact that he chooses to communicate his love and shame via the same medium as the Lady’s secret admirer. Won’t she be confused! LOL


  20. ladynyo Says:

    Hello Charles!
    I was hoping you would chime in here, as you were the propellant to this latest poem. Some things you said perked my thoughts on Lord Nyo’s behavior and I decided to include what you mentioned…

    Do you have a blog? I have a hard time with Youtube for some reason.

    I am so glad you do like this “Lament”, and yes, she will be confused….LOL! Or perhaps she will be very angry IF her husband turns out to be her admirer.

    Thank you, always, Charles, for reading and your insightful comments.

    Lady Nyo


  21. johnallenrichter Says:

    Lady Nyo, it has been an absolute pleasure following the evolution of your story, week by week, and I must say that each week has me entranced…… This poem, “Lord Nyo’s Lament,” is simply beautiful in that it shows his more sensitive side of Lord Nyo, his giving side, the part of him that fell n love with Lady Nyo. It’s a part of him that I knew was always there, why else would she have fallen in love with him? It’s the one constant, if you look for it in any relationship you will find that at least once it was there. And it’s beautiful too. Thank you for sharing…..


  22. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you so much. I feel ambilivant about this group of poems….and would like to extend them further, but it’s a lovely distraction.

    Actually, I wanted to work in some of the cultural traditions of our couple: they are 17th century people both from powerful families, though of minor branches. Lady Nyo has more ‘pounce’ in her lineage than her husband, so he knows that there are limits to him….and he has already overstepped these boundaries. However, the authority of the husband in these marriages is absolute…so he’s been coasting on this. She is Fujiwara, though again, a minor branch, but she does have prestige behind her sleeves.

    These marriages weren’t necessarily love matches..not at all. They generally were politically motivated or positioned for the benefit of the broader family. I would like to think that Lord and Lady Nyo….she was 15 and he double her age when married….had something of what you are describing. But I am constrained by time and energy in writing more about them apart from this unfinished novel from where they came.

    By the 17th century, because of the Tokugawa regime that lasted for 250 years, up until 1868, the role and power and position of the samurai were massively changed. This era was generally one of ‘peace’….and the samurai lost so much power because of the weaponery introduced by Westerners…The arbutus (spelling??) could cut through mounted samurai and infantry easily.

    Thank you for reading these poems, John, and for your enlightening comments.

    Lady Nyo


  23. Joanne Elliott (@soulsprite) Says:

    I love the end, his letting go and how that brings him peace. A beautiful and well told tale you weave.


  24. Gay Reiser Cannon Says:

    I think what makes bad guys human is that they have rationalized their behavior, but when they explore their actions, “examine their consciences”, they sometimes make a turn — sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently. That quality with your great metaphors and gentle treatment particularly in the sheer poetry of the last stanza make for good drama, good theater, good literature. This is a great story and we’re all hooked. Love the way it’s developing. Really beautiful, Jane.


  25. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Gay!

    Do you remember when we were so attracted to the ‘bad guys’? When we were younger and thought they were exciting? Ugh.

    LOL! Then we grow up and realize that some of them…these ‘lost boys’ really ARE lost…and of no benefit to any healthy relationship. I have known of a few who have never examined their consciences….in fact, they exhibit no conscience, but that’s another story. Those are the sociopaths that probably were the exciting ‘bad guys’ of our youth.

    Thank you, Gay. I really don’t know whether to take this onwards….it’s a lovely distraction for me, and I am thinking of future pieces for this but again, it’s a distraction right now. I was thinking of Lady Nyo finding out that it was her husband who was courting her and what would be her reaction? Can she fall in love again? Can any of us do so with such a brute? I think that is where he has to do the work….LOL!

    Thank you Gay, for reading these pieces and for your insightful and helpful comments.



  26. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Joanne!

    Thank you….I just wish I could figure out whether or where to take this series….perhaps it will come to me, but commentors have been so helpful with suggestions, that they have actually pushed this last poem of Lord Nyo’s into life. Something about him being a brute really made me think.

    Thank you, Joanne, for reading and your comment.



  27. Liras Says:

    Brava, dear Lady, brava!

    Two verses slapped me right across the cheek:

    “When had the callousness of life

    Become as comfortable as breath to him?

    Too much the warrior,

    Too little the man.”

    (Look at how you summed up discontent and massive unease in so few words!)

    “He would write a poem

    On a bone-white fan

    To leave on her cushion.

    She would know his love

    She would know his sorrow.

    He would eat his shame.”

    (Determination, touch of humility, ruefulness, resolution. to right the wrong.)

    Great and glorious job on this. 🙂


  28. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Liras!

    I’m thinking ahead here….first I said that I had no more ideas for the continuation of this series…or what has become such….and then….some ideas popped into my head.

    They were a funny bunch of ideas, and might make some uncomfortable, but so it goes…LOL!

    I am so happy readers are taking to this little series. It’s a challenge, but it’s also fun in a way.

    Thank you, Liras, for reading and your lovely comment!

    Lady Nyo


  29. jannie funster Says:

    Jane, this is SO GOOD!! To see a snippet from his perspective. This seems to deep and admirable of you to make him not merely the brute of his actions, but a man with more levels. A REAL person. Writing that makes us want more of him and his life with Lady Nyo.

    And of course your writing is so wonderful. That part about her white wrist revealed and their passions revealed is just so juicy. As I said, now I want more.

    And your little button is up on my site. I really really like it, and hope you do too. Let me know if you do not. I can re-do.

    Oh, loved the preamble on this too about Saigyo. You — Miss Hungarian belly-dancing poet lady in Atlanta have so much to share, and I appreciate it.



  30. ladynyo Says:

    ROTF! Jannie!

    You busted me! Some think I am Japanese, an elderly Japanese woman….LOL! Well, I am getting aged, and I’m not going gracefully!

    I am so glad you like this series. Just when I thought I would put it down , Jannie, another ‘piece’ of him materialized…at least in thought. This should be funny, too. At least it makes me laugh. LOL!

    Jannie, I love your blog and will do the blogroll thingy, too. Thank you so much and for reading and your riotous comments!




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