“River Of Babylon”

Watercolor, 2006, Jane Kohut-Bartels, "Dawn"

My father’s birthday today.  He died 22 years ago, and I miss him so much.

Lady Nyo

River of Babylon

Do you remember

That visit a few scant

Months before you were gone,

When I saw the pain

Saw the end coming

But would not believe?

I wrapped you in a hospital sheet,

Hiding your face like a thief

And we wheeled down the hall,

Avoiding the eyes of nurses,

Down the elevator, down to the street.

We were laughing, elated

Making our great escape

Right under their noses!

In the mellow spring sunshine,

The scent of daffodils

Blossomed beside us,

Up and down Witherspoon,

Enjoying the tender season,

Our escape made richer

By the danger of it all.

But you had different plans,

Intentions that blossomed as you

Lay there, waiting for

The right moment,

The right weather,

The right dupe.

I was driving your Audi,

That paint-faded car with

Butter-soft seats,

And somehow you knew where it was

And though your left hand was a claw

 Held tight to your thin chest,

You casually, so casually gestured

With your right to ‘go there, turn down

This street.’

I remember now, how you threw

Your white shrouded arm in the direction,

And I pushed behind you,

Not knowing your intention until

 It was too late.

You grabbed the door handle

And I begged you to let go,

But you were fierce,

Your determination to go,

And not just for a ride.

I broke your hold,

And I broke your heart,

Just a little to me-

A mortal blow to you.

How I wish I had lifted you

into that car,

How I wish we had run away.

We could have hid on the river bank

We could have been right under their noses,

Doctors and nurses and all the authority

They took from your now-fragile life.

I could have climbed the bank to the house,

Stolen your French horn

You could have played your Mahler,

Softly, softly Father,

We don’t want them to find us-

And we could have fished for sunfish,

Listen to carp jump in the water,

We could have slept in the hollow

Of a fallen log,

Ate blackberries until our mouths, hands

Were stained purple.

We could have thumbed our noses

At the rules,

Even for a little time.

But I was afraid,

Too much the coward,

Afraid of the anger, the fury

And now I wished I had done all this,

And more,

And damn all of them! All of Them!

We could have headed West,

Unknown alien territory,

Or we could have floated down the Millstone

The river you loved so much,

Taught me to love.

We could have floated out

To the Rivers of Babylon

And let them carry us away.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011, 2012

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23 Responses to ““River Of Babylon””

  1. claudia Says:

    i did this once with my husband…stole him out of the hospital, out of intensive care and…luckily all went well…but i had quivering knees when i brought him back…what if…so i understand your fears very well…a sensitive and tender write with many details to love and that stole my breath on the way jane..


  2. brian miller Says:

    gosh, so much emotion swirling as you went along at things that could have been, or been done, you were yanking pretty hard on my own soul at those moments…really nice story telling….you got me…smiles.


  3. Elizabeth Young Says:

    This piece says a great deal about the relationship with your father. To have attempted this getaway together says a great deal about both of you. Beautifully and respectfully written, I believe he would be very proud to have read it and embraced his daughter.


  4. Yousei Hime Says:

    I miss mine too. Ten years this year.


  5. ladynyo Says:

    When the parent is a loving parent….or tries…they can never be replaced. My father was a quiet, gentle man, that I didn’t appreciate until he was in his last years.

    Sorry about yours, Yousei Hime. I sympathize.

    Lady Nyo


  6. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Elizabeth. He was an extraordinary man with many issues, but his character shone through it all. He tried to protect me from other elements in my life, but he was overthrown by so much family drama.

    He was very kind to his first child and only daughter. We shared a lot of fun and love in life. I just wish I could have saved him. I couldn’t even get near him at times because of others.

    He knew I would do anything to help him…as he did for me. One time, when I was only 21, I was arrested in a demonstration. He traveled in an old VW bug from New Jersey to Atlanta, picked me up and brought me back home. A 22 hour trip one way and I never topped talking. This was at the end of the Vietnam War, and I realized then how much WWII had made him a pacifist.

    He would be proud of my love and this poem, but others wouldn’t. Just facing the truth finally.



  7. ladynyo Says:

    It’s all true, Brian. I was planning our great escape…from all of his illness…but of course he would have died.

    Life is like that.



  8. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Claudia. Then you understand from personal experience…what you need to muster…to get them out and to take them back and face the music.

    Thank you, dear heart for reading this and your lovely, lovely comment and revealing your own courage and love for your husband.

    With love,


  9. marousia Says:

    A beautiful requiem – I miss my father too – he died in 1988


  10. sunmoonstar Says:

    Damn, Jane, this poem got me choked up.

    Heart-breakingly beautiful, tinged with regret, but awash with love.

    Damn, I’m still choked up…


  11. Spiros Zafiris Says:

    ..quite the heartbreaking poem, Lady Nyo
    ..a great tribute too..reminds me of
    several episodes with my uncle George
    (on my mother’s side) and my mother, too,
    who passed 3 years ago, next month
    ..be well, you and yours..>>spiros


  12. Gay Reiser Cannon Says:

    I felt every word of this Jane. I know how the mind deconstructs the minutia at the end. If you can think it, perhaps that last fling can be a reality that arcs across the firmament – an agreement on what happened even if a camera never recorded it. For a few minutes before my husband died, Somewhere In Time came on the hospital TV. We had spent a romantic week at the Grand Hotel a year before. He said, “oh look, it’s us at the Grand Hotel”..we had that moment to run away again to Mac Island in our beautiful suite overlooking the Straits of the Great Lakes. I believe your dad somewhere loves this piece.


  13. ManicDdaily Says:

    Just a beautiful beautiful piece, Jane, and a beautiful painting. My father’s birthday is today April 25th and he died earlier this year. I am much older, I think, than you were when your father died, and have been through deaths, and am an attorney so an argumentative type and I was lucky enough to have argued my father ff the tubes off the sedation and home with us, where his life was undoubtedly shortened by a few weeks perhaps (maybe), but where we could sing and dance and all sit on the bed beside him. It was nonetheless terrible when he died and I felt for sure that, while it was a wonderful death, I had, perhaps, not done the right thing. I think it was right, but these decisions are so difficult, they involve a certain giving up, and they take a lot of experience fighting with people. I am lucky to have honed my fighting skills, but it was so sad nonetheless. I don’t mean to make you feel bad–only that it is just impossibly difficult to deal with this–and especially when young and especially 22 years ago. Now, I think that once they are clear that they are not liable, they get a bit better, but honestly, you have to fight against them so hard, and have a cell phone ready to go around them, and–ultimately–it is very difficult unless you think maybe maybe, if you just get the person home and free, you can also save them. Of course, I couldn’t.

    At any rate, thanks so much for lovely poem. K.


  14. ManicDdaily Says:

    PS – I noted Gay’s comment re your Dad somewhere loving this piece–I’m sure your Dad somewhere loves you. k.


  15. ladynyo Says:

    I am so sorry for your own loss of your father earlier this year. You know, you know.

    It was the fear of my mother, doctors, etc….and though this is what happened….up to the car….I WISH we had gone on the lam. Of course, it would have shortened his life, but then again….he died too damn early, at 74.

    I think our hearts are in the right place, K. I know it. But the obstacles are so huge and the self doubt is so much.

    Thank you so much for what you wrote. It helps, it helps.



  16. ladynyo Says:

    Gay, your comment brought me to tears…thinking of what you went through, and the enormous love for your husband. I feel it in every poem you write.



  17. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Spiros, for the comment and please accept my sympathies on the death of your mother.

    Love abides and endures…as do the memories.



  18. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Nick!

    I knew it would impact you deeply. You are such a good and sensitive friend and writer….for all these years! You understand more than I do at times.



  19. ladynyo Says:

    I am so sorry Marousia. You know the grief and you know how we live in memories and clutch at them.

    Thank you, Marousia, for reading and your comment.



  20. ladynyo Says:

    K…I am reduced to tears today by the kindness of strangers.

    Thank you.



  21. hedgewitch Says:

    I remember reading this before and being touched by it, Jane. I never had a father to lose, and was lost to my family long before death separated us, but those pains are nothing compared to having something of great personal meaning and value, loving it and losing it. I’m glad you have the memories, such as those in the poem, to look back on.


  22. ladynyo Says:

    Hedge, yes, I posted it last year i think.

    My father was full of conflict, but he was a good man. Can’t say much about the rest of my family because narcissism was a poison that perverted the rest. It’s a tragedy, but at least I had him. It was hard to get around him, because my mother was very jealous of other women, even her only daughter…but that is part of the poison of narcissism.

    I don’t think I realized until he died…or was close to death, how special and different he was to me…how different he was from the rest of my family.

    There are a string of poems I wrote a bout him…and also after a more recent influence of William Stafford, that I will post when I get the energy.

    Thank you, Joy…for reading this poem and your comment. I understand this ‘lost to your family’ before death. It’s been my situation also, but I know now why. that is a cold comfort.



  23. “Dead Zone” « ManicDDaily Says:

    […] was also inspired by the very different and much more uplifting poem of Lady Nyo’s about the anniversary of the birth of her father’s birthday. Share this:TwitterMoreFacebookStumbleUponDiggRedditPrintEmail Explore posts in the same […]


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