“Moon Child” from “The Nightingale’s Song”, Part II

Utamaro wood block print from


This poem is new and going through revision. Many  years ago I read a short story by an Italian author (I can’t remember the name) about walking on the moon.  That was the generator of this present poem, plus a dream.

Lady Nyo

Notes: Lord Jizo is the kami (saint) of pregnant women, children, stillborns, travelers.  There are many statues and simple temples along country roads where Lord Jizo is bedecked with bibs, toys and knitted clothing in gratitude for babies, and in memory of children who have died young.

Tengus are mythological (??) birds (kami) who shapeshift into humans.  They bedevil arrogant Buddhist priests and are tricksters. They also were known to teach martial arts to samurai.  They generally reside in the mountains and are associated with the Yamabushi cult.

Murasaki is a purple color and also a grass or flower

“Tsuki” means Moon


“The Nightingale’s Song”, Part II  “Moon Child”


Lady Nyo was barren.

Once there was hope of heirs,

Babies to raise, coddle.

But fate provided nothing,

Not even a stillborn to mourn,

Buried under the snow

With the fog of incense rising

To a leaden sky.


Many times Lady Nyo

Passed the temple of Lord Jizo,

Riding in her palm-leaf carriage

Drawn by white oxen adorned with ribbons and bells.

Many times she peeked through curtains

At his simple, stone statue,

Bedecked with babies’ bids, knitted hats,

The offering of a grateful mother, or

A mournful one.


Ah! To be as much a woman

As her lowest servant with a swelling belly!

How she wanted to leave her own offering

Of her child’s garment at his feet!



Lady Nyo decided on a pilgrimage.

She would walk barefoot through the fragrant murasaki grass,

She would wear a humble cotton gown,

She would seek advice from temple priests.


Lady Nyo and her old nurse set out one morning,

And though her old nurse grumbled and groaned,

Lady Nyo was the vision of piety walking

Through the delicate morning mists –

These frail ghosts of nothingness.


The priest had a long, red nose,

Wore a robe none too clean,

And he scratched at lice

Under the folds of his gown.

He had feathers growing in his ears

And feet like a large bird.


A Tengu!

A trifler of men and women!

But they were staring at his nose,

And missed his feet.


“When the Moon grows full,

Row out in the bay,

Directly under the Moon

And climb up a long ladder.

You will be pulled by the Moon’s tides

To its surface,

And there you will find what you want.”


When the Moon blossomed into a large

Bright lantern in the sky,

They rowed out in the bay,

Two trusted ladies to steady the ladder

And one to spare.

Lady Nyo kicked off her geta,

Tucked her gown into the obi

(exposing her lady-parts),

And ignoring the clucks of her old nurse,

Climbed directly under the Moon.


So powerful

Was the pull of the Moon

That fish and crabs,

Seahorses and seaweed,

Octopi, too

Rose straight up from the waters

Into the night’s air!

Lady Nyo’s hair and sleeves

Were also pulled by the Moon

And her kimono almost came over her head!


With a somersault

She flipped onto the surface

And found her bare feet

Sinking into the yellow-tofu of the Moon.


She heard a gurgling

And gurgling meant babies,

So she searched on spongy ground

Followed by a few seahorses who were curious

And a few fish who weren’t.


Past prominent craters

One could see from the Earth,

Lady Nyo found a baby tucked in the Moon’s soil.


Ah! A fat little boy blowing bubbles,

Sucking on toes,

Bright black eyes like pebbles

Black hair as thick as brocade!


Lady Nyo bent down,

And lifting him

She heard a sucking noise.

He was attached to the Moon

By a longish tail

That thrashed like a little snake

As she pulled him free.


She placed him at her milk-less breast

But soon he grimaced and started to howl,

 So she tucked him in her robe,

Aimed for the ladder,

Somersaulted back into the night,

Where she and her ladies rowed for shore.


The baby, now named Tsuki,

Was put to a wet nurse

His tail mostly disappearing,

Shriveling up like a proper umbilical cord–

Though there remained a little vestigial tail

That wagged with anticipation when placed at the breast,

Or when the full Moon appeared

In the black bowl of night.


The Tengu had flown the coop,

Never to be seen again.

But Lady Nyo no longer envied ladies

With swelling bellies,

For her own arms were full and heavy

With this yellow Moon-child.


Through fragrant fields

Of murasaki grass,

Lady Nyo and Tsuki

Would walk alone,

Where they would lay

Offerings of knitted bibs,

Strings of money, toys

And a feather

At the feet of Lord Jizo,

When the Moon was fullest

In a promising sky.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2012






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32 Responses to ““Moon Child” from “The Nightingale’s Song”, Part II”

  1. CZBZ Says:


    You may not like it when I select certain passages or words that stand out for me but well, tell me and I’ll quit doing that. Until then, I love this passage:

    “He was attached to the Moon

    By a longish tail

    That thrashed like a little snake

    As she pulled him free.”

    I really love that, Jane. Do I need to know why?



  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hey CZ!

    I LOVE it when people pick out certain passages or words that they like: that’s the whole point of poetry, I believe!! Making that particular connection to a reader’s experience or thoughts or whatever!

    And no…I think it may be different for each reader…or poet reading….regarding the ‘why’. It’s this mystery of poetry or magic of poetry, that responds to the individual heart of the reader.

    I am DEEPLY moved when a reader, or another poet, picks something from the pile and says that “this passage speaks to me.” And besides….that helps in registering if there is any connection made, and that is the point of poetry for me. It may be different for other poets, other writers, (and you are an EXCELLENT writer, CZ…) but just making that point means everything to a poet.

    We LIVE for that connection. That tells us that we are making something important with our work.

    Thank you so much CZ, for reading and taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it.




  3. naramalone Says:

    I loved this part: “She heard a gurgling

    And gurgling meant babies,

    So she searched on spongy ground

    Followed by a few seahorses who were curious

    And a few fish who weren’t. ”

    I could see it so clearly. Lovely story.


  4. Steve E Says:

    The first paragraph I had to read (so far) four times. Not for lack ofunderstanding, but because I loved choices of words with which you suggested (to me, anyway) “the rest of the story”.

    And a beautiful story, BTW!


  5. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Steve!

    It’s a weird poem for sure….and I don’t know how much to continue with “Tsuki” but something is brewing here.

    Thank you so much for reading and your comment. I will make the rounds tomorrow and catch up.

    Love and Peace!!!



  6. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Naramalone, and I have no idea why your comment ended in spam, but I will make the rounds tomorrow and read.

    Thank you so much for reading “Moon Child” and your lovely comment.

    Lady Nyo


  7. claudia Says:

    wow…just speechless..what a story…moon-born…magical…love all the details with the feet for example…love how you weave such birth magic together with things like feathers growing in his ears..this keeps it earthed and makes it all the more charming..


  8. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! Claudia!!

    I really had to curb the detail on this story because I was going wild with it!! I love the idea of Tengus….and they are so baaaad….LOL! Originally from China, they were dogs I think , but in Japan they transformed….but not reformed….hehehe. THey trip up and trick arrogant Buddhist priests and are quite the characters.

    Thank you, Claudia….for reading and your comment. Your poem of today set my tears flowing…so delicate and beautiful.



  9. Pat Hatt Says:

    Wow, always have no idea what to say when I get through yours. You have a nact for sucking me in until the end and wonderful story telling everytime. also liked your wordplay through this one, wonderfully done once more at your shore.


  10. Heaven Says:

    What a lovely story…I like that verse when you described the pull of the moon on the sea creatures and on her…….and Sinking into the yellow-tofu of the Moon….vivid images….I enjoyed this Jane ~


  11. hedgewitch Says:

    This is just delightful, Jane. I felt I was there, sitting in the boat and watching as the Moon sucked everything up to her tofu arms–every line of this just flows naturally into the next, and it has a real feel of another culture’s fairy tale-a much nicer one than I chose to tell today, too. ;_) Thanks for giving us such an engaging encore of Lady Nyo.


  12. Gay Reiser Cannon Says:

    I loved “Moon Child”. As with all your work, you are so careful taking your reader on not so much a journey but a sail. One is blown into the impossible which is so vivid, so mythological, and so magically realistic that one believes it without question. I love everything you write. This is breathtaking. Stunning imagery, creative world building, amazing characterization!


  13. ladynyo Says:

    Dear Gay,

    You make my head swell. Thank you so much for reading this poem. It was fun, but needs some revision. I deeply appreciate the praise and the reading.



  14. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Hedge!

    Well, it was a lot of fun, but it did make me sweat. As it should, but it was a light sweat compared to your marvelous piece this week.

    You absolutely amaze me with your invention.

    Thank you so much, Hedge, for reading and your comment.



  15. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Heaven!
    thank you for reading and your lovely comment. I’ll make the rounds tomorrow and read you.



  16. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Pat!
    This was a wild ride, and has my therapist scratching her head…she’s suggested I read Jung on dreams, and that is way too hard!! LOL!

    I have an idea for one more ‘poem’ in this series, but it will take a bit of time.

    Thank you so much, Pat, for reading and your comments. Always deeply appreciated.



  17. brian miller Says:

    goodness jane…what a magical tale…i was fascinated as i consumed each word…when everything flipped rising up …as her to the moon…what an awesome visual…saw it all…i know the pain of not having children through friends which made the journey all too real as well…very well written…fantastic story telling….


  18. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Brian.

    I wonder where things turn for the bad….do we follow these thoughts in poetry, and create more, or does it fall into something abject, awkward? I have another idea for a continuation of this saga, but I think I need to allow some time and thought before committing to it.

    This Lady Nyo proved barren, hence our adopted son. Perhaps our dreams are all too real and rise up to haunt us in life?

    Thank you, Brian, for reading and your lovely comment.



  19. bajanpoet Says:

    Man I LOVE this poem ….

    “So powerful

    Was the pull of the Moon

    That fish and crabs,

    Seahorses and seaweed,

    Octopi, too

    Rose straight up from the waters

    Into the night’s air!

    Lady Nyo’s hair and sleeves

    Were also pulled by the Moon

    And her kimono almost came over her head!”

    That image made me laugh…

    Loved how you described the feel of the moon too:

    “found her bare feet

    Sinking into the yellow-tofu of the Moon.”

    Awesome …. loved it immensely!


  20. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you so much, Bajanpoet for reading this and your lovely comment.

    Some won’t, will think it strange, weird, too much the fantasy for serious ‘poetical’ consideration, but then they probably are boring poets! LOL~

    I had a lot of fun with this and really delight in the joy of other poets who have read this “Moon Child”. Fantasy is good in poetry, not as a steady diet, we have to come down to earth, but we also have to soar in our imaginations. It keeps us juicy as poets and writers.

    And, I believe, humor is important in poetry…it can shift the subject and make it fly.

    Thank you, again, Bajanpoet, for your support and encouragement.

    Lady Nyo


  21. bajanpoet Says:

    Lady I agree with you – humor can help a poem soar! My poem Luscious that I posted in OLN once – that piece is a love poem with a twist – and the humour in it helped me to win a national silver award for our independence celebratory arts competition last year… and Fantasy is also a great escape from reality 🙂 Loved your piece immensely!


  22. Neha Says:

    Such a beautiful story. I am always stumped with poetry that weave complete stories. I can usually just pluck at the corners of a story. wonderful verses.


  23. CZBZ Says:

    I had to come back and read your poem again. This is my favorite poem. So many phrases and words have stuck with me, coming to mind at odd moments of the day (or night).

    I just LOVE this poem. It inspires me to dig my hands into clay and make a bulging pot. A three-legged pot incised with full moons and squiggly snakes. A stoneware pot for eating tofu.



  24. ladynyo Says:

    Oh CZ!

    That is the BEST praise any poet/writer can receive….that their work inspires other people to create!!! I knew you were a potter, something I have totally failed at….and I think this is wonderful news…and I like your vision of the pot!! And three legs!! LOL!

    If you ever find a GOOD recipe for tofu…send it to me!! Mine takes like clay….regardless of the spicing!

    Thank you, CZ, and I am SO delighted that this poem has inspired your own creativity. And you, (and how it effected you) inspires me to write more on this saga. I was a little afraid that there wasn’t any more story, but I think there is….perhaps the education of Tsuki??? and his father, Lord Nyo?

    LOL! You gladden my morning, CZ..something that started out grumpy. With rain.



  25. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Neha!
    Thank you so much for reading “Moon Child” and your comment.

    You know what? I first formed this poem into a couple of paragraphs…prose….and then took the individual parts, ideas, and shortened them into poetry lines. That is the first time I have done this, and it was a bit of labor, because this isn’t the way I generally write poetry, but for some reason it worked.

    Perhaps if you try it this way: write out a story, and pluck out the lines that ‘sound’ poetical. Or make them so. Shortening sentences can usually lead you to poetry…and then carefully go over and don’t be shy about deleting stuff.

    I was afraid that this ‘poem’ would be seen more as prose, and wouldn’t be poetry, but with work, and a ear for rhythm (which I have yet to develop well….) you can make it become so.

    Again, thank you for reading and hopefully there will be more on this saga later this spring.

    Lady Nyo


  26. ladynyo Says:

    And I agree with you, Bajanpoet….humor is an important factor in poetry…most poetry. And congratulations on that wonderful award you received for “Luscious”! That is a wonderful award to receive.

    Fantasy can make the blood run better, life seem so much fuller and it can and usually is, a mental vacation.

    Thank you, again,

    Lady Nyo


  27. Joanne Elliott/aka soulsprite Says:

    Such lovely flow as always. This has the feel of a great myth.


  28. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Joanne.

    I wish I could continue it with a ‘lovely flow” but right now, I am empty!

    Thank you for reading and your encouraging comment.



  29. ayala Says:

    Jane, this is beautiful!


  30. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Ayala.



  31. Nick Says:

    Hi Jane, what a beautiful poem! Such vivid descriptions, unique imagery, and a touching story. This is one of the best poems in the series and I look forward to seeing the next one. I loved the captivating fable-like quality of it, very much like an ancient myth of an ancient people. And of course, as you would know, I loved the smile-inducing detail of the seahorses 🙂


  32. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Nick~!!

    LOL!…As you probably know, I included those seahorses for you! Something we share, neh? LOL!

    I did a bunch of rewrite on this one, and even though MM says that HE doesn’t rewrite his poems….he’s a jackass! LOL! We BOTH know that we have to put our work through a personal refining fire.

    I am so glad you liked this one….it was fun, but a struggle. The next one is almost 1/2 way through, and damn, Nick….it’s long. I HATE lengthy poetry (LOL!) but I have fallen to it because I don’t know how to tell this story without more words….

    This next part isn’t a fable, it’s more based in the discovery of Lord Nyo of his baby son….and we shall see how this works…I hope it won’t be a letdown because it is very much based on terra firma.

    LOL! Thank you, dearest of friends…for reading and your lovely, lovey comment. It encourages me so much to continue this series.



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