“Lady Nyo’s Torment, Part 2

This poem of Lady Nyo’s is the next to the last in the series. I am very grateful for all the readers and comments on these poems.  They have inspired me to collect them into a small book and each poem will have an illustration.  Thank you for your patience as I make my way around the marvelous poets I have found on d’versepoets.com.

 Many of the poems in this series are from the great 8th century Man’yoshu, or are a combination of my own poetry, mixed with the pieces from that collection.  I find the inspiration from this great historic text to be unending.  If this cycle of poems presented on this blog inspire other poets, readers to take up the Man’yoshu, that is personally gratifying.

Lady Nyo


“The cicada cries

Everyday at the same hour

But I’m a woman much in love and very weak

And can cry anytime


The rain cleared, the sun came out

And all was polished bronze.

Leaves sparkled, the air new-washed.

Lady Nyo would visit a shrine,

Had her palm-leaf carriage

With the white ox made ready.

There on the carriage cushion

Was a bone-white fan.

“How strange. And here

In my carriage!”


Lady Nyo opened the fan,

Saw the character brushed

And her face went from

Pale to red–

Changing with the speed of a squid.

Oh! How elegant!

How sublime this character!

Of an excellent hand,

Surely a noble one,

Of great depth and emotion.


She recovered herself.

How fickle!

How shallow!

How low her nature!

To be swayed

By a stranger’s painted fan!

Where was her dignity?

She would end this.

She would remain

A virtuous wife,

Would not sully these long years

Of marriage with a trifler.

Let her dreams be enough passion,

Let her unbidden dreams keep her warm.

But could she live like that?

Better to be a shaved headed nun

take up the staff with iron rings–

Hold forth a begging bowl!

At dusk,

Lady Nyo took to her inkstone,

And in her journal

Wrote poems,

Verse she hoped would

Cleanse her soul,

Rest her mind–

Calm her heart.

“While I wait for you

With longing in my breast

Back here at home

My bamboo blinds are fluttered

By the blowing autumn breeze.”


“The moon has risen

To that predetermined point

And I am thinking:

The time has come to go outside

And wait for his arrival.”


“Even the breeze

Increases painful longing

Even the breeze

But I know that he will come

So why feel grief in waiting?”

The autumn air floated

Down from nearby Moon Mountain,

A holy place where no woman

Could tread the path.

The darkening dusk

Fused the color of leaves, pines

And a Corn Moon mounted the sky.

Lady Nyo knelt on the veranda

A paper lantern behind her–

Monstrous shadows in the night-gloom.

She would wait for her husband

She would wait until the chilled winds

Of dawn blew down from Moon Mountain

And brought with them–


“From the high mountain

The sound of a crying stag

Carries down valleys

How inspiring is his voice

Like yours, my loving lord.”


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011

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34 Responses to ““Lady Nyo’s Torment, Part 2”

  1. Heaven Says:

    I love it.. vivid imagery of longing, anxiety and conflict of emotions and loyalty. Enjoyed the metaphor of painted fan, corn moon and paper lantern ~


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hiya Heaven!
    Thank you so much for reading and your lovely, supportive comment.

    I’m getting back into a routine now, and will visit other blogs…I’ve missed this these last two weeks gone.

    Some don’t understand Lady Nyo’s loyalty, but that is because of the times…she is from a samurai family, and her loyalty would come under the term ‘giri’. But obviously she still has love for him, though her marriage is troubled.

    Next week will be the End Poem of this cycle….and hopefully it will please readers.

    Thanks again, Heaven.

    Lady Nyo


  3. alee9 Says:

    What joy to read
    your love on paper inscribed
    the fan is it?
    Or the leaves begone, but hush
    your Lord, dear Lady, arrives

    What then your blush?
    we must quicken to brush your cheeks
    the rice powder fluffs
    Your sash we must straighten
    O lovely countenance for it to beam

    Haha…dear Lady Nyo, your work is so inspiring! Look what you’ve done! I hope you take my lines as it were from an admirer walking with you behind the screens. By the way, how can I find or get a copy of your book again? I’m so awake and ready for it!

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful work!



  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Alegria!
    Wow! That was a lovely poem….and right in the same vein. Very good!

    As for the book: it’s just not done yet. Will take a number of months…probably at cherry blossom time….to be finished, because of the illustrations. I am doing these in pen and ink, and as there are 10 main poems, and assorted scenes apart from this series, that means a lot of painting. So this spring it will be published.

    I have a dear friend, Bill Penrose, who has produced my previous books and he will help with this one. Blessed man, Bill. he makes it so easy for me because I am stymied by the tech stuff.

    There will be various tanka and also other related/unrelated theme poems as I have others. I will announce this project finished on my blog or elsewhere and then we shall see. I think I will not use Lulu this time….I will try Createspace, by Amazon. They have offered a lot of support and help and this is wonderful because Lulu are MIA on all of my efforts.

    I have published three books at Lulu but they have a real problem paying royalties! LOL! I have been told that many books have been sold, people, friends, etc. have written saying they have bought them, but Lulu doesn’t seem to respond. Ah well.

    You can find my previous 3 books at Lulu.com…the first one (A Seasoning of Lust) and the last (White Cranes of Heaven) have a lot of the Lady Nyo (first) stuff, and tanka in the last.

    I just don’t have a title for this one yet. Any ideas here?

    Thank you so much, Alegria, for reading and your lovely comment…And poem.

    Lady Nyo


  5. brian miller Says:

    nice…i love this continuing tale…it almost hurts to know there is only one left but it will feel so good to see the possibility of them coming together either come to fruition or…ack…i dunno will you break my heart next week?

    it is great to have you back…


  6. hedgewitch Says:

    Jane that first selection from the Man’yoshu brought tears to my eyes. What poetry! And your own following it, encompassing it, woven into it so seamlessly–I love the description of Lady Nyo blushing ‘with the speed of a squid..” and that white fan is such a perfect ongoing symbol, almost a character in itself in this drama. Thanks so much for going on with this in the face of your personal loss and sorrow. Your post below was a beautiful ‘in memory.’ Great news about publishing these, also.


  7. ladynyo Says:

    Dearest Hedgewitch,

    Me, too. That first poem from the Man’yoshu made both Marge and me cry. She saw it about a week before she died. This Man’yoshu…well, it’s a treasure chest! Inspiration that you can’t avoid and it changes your own poetry in some very subtle way. I am sitting down with about 5 books with these marvelous poems in them, going through them, bit by bit, and there isn’t a poem in there (and there are 4500!!) that doesn’t speak directly to us now. Human nature and love, longing doesn’t change a bit.

    This stuff…losing people in your life, or around your life, or people that just exist…it’s a hard thing, Hedge. I’ve skated through life with little of this, and now? It’s hitting below the belt.

    You are right about that white fan…I am sure that it has much more symbolism in traditional stories than I would ever know…but it will appear again. Promise.

    Thank you so much, Joy, for reading and your always lovely and helpful comments. You guys at d’verse make it ‘work’ for me.




  8. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Brian!

    It’s great to be back. We are so fed by the company and comments, critiques of other poets, that it becomes an important part of our life.

    No, I promise, I won’t break your compassionate heart. Marge read this privately the day before she died, and she said the opening poem (Man’yoshu) made her weep. Ack.
    She became very wrapped up in this character Lord Nyo, giving all sorts of advice (well, she was older by 9 months…) about him, and his possible ‘state of mind’. LOL!
    I loved that she and others have seen these two as ‘real’ and to us, they are.

    The illustrations will take a few months as I work my way through the discipline of sumi-e painting, since this seems right now the appropriate way to present these illustrations…

    But I’m not sure that we have heard the last from these two characters. Lady Nyo has been talking quietly to me lately, and I think there might be another cycle of poems coming over Moon Mountain.

    In Japan, in the Northwest, Gassan (Moon) Mountain is the home of the Yamabushi, and I would LOVE to involve these characters in a cycle of poems. They exist, existed since the 7th century, exist today in Japan as a cult, and they were early warriors….they were also involved in magic, and had a particularly ‘funny’ relationship with arrogant Buddhist priests. Or maybe that were tengu….I get mixed up here. In any case, I think there is fertile material to weave more poems. Certainly there are directives in the poems of the Man’yoshu!

    Thank you, Brian, for reading and your comments. You are such a wonderful, sensitive fellow.

    Lady Nyo


  9. Rosemary Nissen-Wade Says:



  10. Kellie Elmore Says:

    I want you to know that I am following your blog now. and I am very happy to do so. Your writing is so clean and novella! It reminds me of a classic in it’s narrative and eloquence. Lovely, lovely penning! I will return to read again!



  11. ladynyo Says:

    Kellie, thank you so much. I will visit your blog tomorrow. We are having strange weather here for the south! Too early by far for snow, but it’s so cold it’s unnerving.

    And thank you for reading these poems…they have become dear to my heart.

    Lady Nyo


  12. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Rosemary…

    Thank you so much for reading these poems. I will look closely at your blog tomorrow.

    Lady Nyo


  13. ayala Says:

    I love it, Jane. Nice capture of longing and conflict. As always beautiful.


  14. jenneandrews Says:

    Exqusite yet again, Jane– this poem makes me think of how in our writing we transcend the ordinary self, become more than we are in so many respects: this work/toil/labor of love is absolutely brilliant. You make a transfiguring art. I love:

    The autumn air floated

    Down from nearby Moon Mountain,

    A holy place where no woman

    Could tread the path.

    The darkening dusk

    Fused the color of leaves, pines

    And a Corn Moon mounted the sky.

    My stuff is up at http://parolavivace.blogspot.com …xxxj


  15. Charles Elliott/Beautyseer Says:

    This is such lovely, lovely work. The emotion, my dear! We should all be writing our praises on painted fans and slipping them onto the seat of your carriage at midnight! I hope this series will see proper publication. Quite wonderful. It deserves a wide and adoring audience.


  16. vivinfrance Says:

    Such beauty, to be celebrated in gratitude


  17. ladynyo Says:

    Dear Vivinfrance,
    thank you very much…..a lovely comment.

    I’ll be making the rounds today, reading blogs…as soon as I cut this wood for the wood pile. LOL! It’s cold here right now.

    Lady Nyo


  18. ladynyo Says:

    You make me blush with your words….

    It comes to an end next week, but I am thinking of another cycle of poems with the Nyos. Just because they really fascinate me, and there is so much material in this era to plumb…even if they exist in the 17th century…and the Man’yoshu is from the 8th.

    The hard work comes with the illustrations…because..well, just because.

    Thank you, Charles, for consistantly reading these poems and your supportive comments. They make a real difference here.

    Lady Nyo


  19. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Jenne!
    Thank you so much for the praise….and I do hope we can transcend our very ordinary selves with our work…sometimes we can, sometimes we miss by a long shot. At least I do.

    I am fascinated by the Yamabushi sect in Japan, and a lot of the phrases in these poems have a nod to them…Moon Mountain (Gassan) was (is?) a holy mountain where women we not allowed…this is historical fact…lol…and knowing these strange pieces can direct and form your poetry. It all goes into the pot!

    I find it very hard to write about myself in my poetry, but I admire those poets who can reveal so much and so well their emotional landscape. I hide behind other characters. I am more interested in their emotional landscape, but then again, we can, as poets, manipulate them and this. LOL! Not so easily with ourselves, neh?

    Next week is the End Poem of this series, and I hope it brings this little tale to a satisfying close. One never knows, really, but I have grown fond of these two characters.

    Thank you, Jenne, for reading and your encouraging comments. I really appreciate your attention to these poems.

    I’ll make the rounds today, later, when I can actually see! I admire your own work so much, it would be a pleasure to my day to read your poems.

    Lady Nyo


  20. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Ayala!

    Thank you so much for reading and your comments. I’ll be by later today to read your blog.



  21. tashtoo Says:

    Really…what can I say that would do this any sort of justice. I’m always left speechless and inspired to try and be a better poet by your posts. Still drowning in the rich imagery and spellbinding language. Thank you!


  22. ladynyo Says:

    Hey Tashtoo…

    What can I say…I am such an admirer of your work. I draw inspiration from your poetry and just wish I had your boundless energy and your courageous internal landscape.

    Thank you so much for your lovely comments, Natasha…and for reading these poems. I deeply appreciate it.

    Lady Nyo


  23. claudia Says:

    like always, i love the whole poem..the stories you weave..but today i fell heavily and on first sight in love with the opening stanza…
    “The cicada cries

    Everyday at the same hour

    But I’m a woman much in love and very weak

    And can cry anytime”…. and i read it about 10 times…and about to start crying…maybe because i feel a bit weak right now…maybe because it touched me madly, maybe because it’s just beautiful…maybe a bit of everything..


  24. ladynyo Says:

    Hey Claudia,
    That piece from the Man’yoshu that I opened this poem with affected many people…especially women…I was surprised at the extent. One woman thought it was horrible: that it showed women as weak. Ugh.

    I think it supersedes all our preconceived notions of women, feminist or not. It’s a statement of incredible reveal. To me, it goes to the heart of emotions….and that we can and do feel ‘weak’ is no judgement on our abilities as women, and competent women. Ah well.

    I love that poem deeply. It speaks to me as one of the absolute truths of life. And why not? Why can’t we feel and BE weak at times? Love brings strength and weakness to the table. That’s a wonderful thing about love.

    I would be more concerned with a woman who denies this poem (and there have been at least one in my personal existance…). I think when we are truly in love, and it is an abiding and lasting love, we can allow ourselves to be ‘weak’…to melt into the strength of our partner. It doesn’t cast any blame on our selves as strong, intelligent and competent women.

    Ah. The Man’yoshu is such a wealth of human emotions and responses, neh? That is the incredible beauty of this manuscript that speaks so soundly to our hearts from the 8th century. I don’t think I have ever been so moved by a piece of literature in such a continuous way. From what I have read in it, I don’t think there is a false poem in there. How much can we say today about poetry?

    It touches me madly, dearheart, and I weep with you. The relief of tears is certainly a human blessing.

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



  25. Gay Reiser Cannon Says:

    Your work continually inspires me. The subtlety is everything here. Your mix of symbolism and imagery is transcendent. The “how” is achieved my staying achingly true to strong words simply stated and leaving space for imagination to fill in the blanks. These poems of yours are impossible to accurately critique because as Claudia said above, they tune our minds to our emotions with the simplest words and the most complex connections.

    I learn from your work every time I read you.
    Excellent as always.

    I sense you are starting to heal from your immense loss.


  26. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Gay!
    I am so comforted by others (poets) who read and can explain all this poetry stuff to me! I really have no idea of how to ‘look’ at these poems. They have some strong words in them, simply stated I would guess, but other than that…they are all an emotional blur to me. LOL! I have no abilities to be analytical about these poems in particular, but I tend to disassociate myself from them, because I would be all over the page if I didn’t use a fine, distanced brush. Perhaps that is what you mean about subtlety? (Closing an eye or using half a brain would do it too…LOL!)

    I believe strongly that our work, when it is cooking, should leave plenty of room for imagination…we don’t have to dot every i or cross every t. We have to trust in our readers that they will come to their own conclusions about a piece, and I am so happy when they do and relate it to me! It’s like seeing your work through such fresh and uncorrupted eyes. That is the beauty of it all for me, I think. Or at least a big part of it. making some sort of connection to the heart.

    Funny, I thought last week that this poem was the weakest of all this cycle, and didn’t really want to post it. But then again, it does speak to her emotional state: she is weakened by love, by being a woman under these conditions (Japan in the 17th century) and she isn’t ‘like’ her samurai husband. She isn’t a man. And she’s thrown by the present emotions she has. So it fits.

    Thank you, Gay….the death of my friend is something I have not really ‘felt’ completely….I am afraid of the amount of emotion and sorrow that death calls for…and am in avoidance right now. Only when something reminds me of Margie, like this beautiful stretch of road with the leaves almost gone, so sad, and then I think of her. Or that opening poem that Claudia also felt.

    Next week the End Poem starts with a strong and emotional piece from the Man’yoshu that made Marge weep. It was one word that set her off with the tears. But I would expect this from this incredibly compassionate, wise and devoted friend.

    I learn from every poet here on dverse. I learn from you so much, Gay. What a blessing and treasure you are to me!

    Many hugs,


  27. Joanne Elliott (@soulsprite) Says:

    This series of poem would make a lovely volume. I look forward to seeing them enclosed between book covers with beautiful drawings.

    This episode is well done…I feel her mixed emotions and how much love does make one feel vulnerable…weak.


  28. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Joanne!

    Thank you….now the really hard work of doing the paintings….ahead.
    Thank you for reading and your encouraging comments.

    Love does make one feel weak.

    Lady Nyo


  29. Yousei Hime Says:

    Might I suggest a page of links archiving this entire collection when it reaches completion. I’d like to go back and read the whole thing from beginning to end. I’ve really enjoyed all I’ve read so far.


  30. ladynyo Says:

    Hello Yousei,

    I think that is a good idea…only, I don’t know how to do this on the computer. LOL! I guess I can ask or figure it out…I have little tech. expertise.

    I am going to have to make something of a particular section, where she discovers letters, a fan, HER fan, with imploring poems on it….it’s just her poems back, with no ‘longer poem’ so it will take some work here.

    Tuesday I post the “End Poem” of this series….and then I will have to begin to start on the illustrations. That is going to be hard, because I want to do this in pen and ink, sumi-e paintings/ drawings…and I will have to learn.

    Thank you so much for your reading and your encouraging remarks about these poems. This ‘end poem’ I hope readers like.

    Lady Nyo


  31. Nick Says:

    Hi Jane,

    There was a lovely landscape of emotions and imagery here, beautifully traversed by the words of the poem. I thought it needed perhaps a little more polish in a couple of spots, and there were a few too many exclamation points, but overall, it flowed well and carried me on a lovely wave of poetry 🙂



  32. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Nick!

    I’m glad you mentioned this: I found this poem of the series to be most…wanting…something. I agree….it needs polish. They all do! LOL!

    That will come with the rewrite…as we both understand the necessity of THAT!!

    Thanks, Nick…for reading so critically, and your comment!




  33. Yousei Hime Says:

    Actually, I don’t think an archive page should be too difficult. Most of these WordPress themes have additional page creation options. So if you can create a page just for the Nyo’s (you’ll pick a better title I’m certain), then you can just paste the links in a series of lines on that page. You can add your illustrations to the appropriate posts as updates to the original posts (as you complete each one to your satisfaction, of course). You may figure out or hear about a better way, but those were my thoughts. Glad you like the idea and I REALLY am looking forward to seeing your sumi-e That is something I long to spend time with … too much life right now.


  34. ladynyo Says:

    Dear Yousei!
    Thank you so much for all this information about how to format this for “The Nightingale’s Song”. I deeply appreciate it. I will try.

    As for the sumi-e paintings, illustrations…I have ground the ink, made the shades and tried my hand at the “Four Gentleman”. right now they don’t look so gentlemanly. LOL! Rather scraggly I think, but perhaps improvement will come with time.

    I understand about ‘too much life right now.’ I have been making kimonos (stupidly by hand…have made three this fall) to be sent to Japan for women who have lost theirs. I have picked patterns (cloth) that are more acceptable for older women….and I have lined each of them. I need to make two more obis. This is something I do in the evenings, and it quiets my mind. I am supposed to send them through the Japanese Embassy here in Atlanta, but so far, I need to complete work on each of them. The necklines are of the greatest bother.

    So far, the only people who understand my Japanese are the men behind the sushi counter at Whole Foods, but they couldn’t be more gracious. I think they like the kimonos. Or perhaps a woman showing up during the day in one. LOL!

    I’ll post pix of them on my blog soon.

    Lady Nyo


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