‘Lady Nyo’s Torment’….from “The Nightingale’s Song”

“The Nightingale’s Song”, to be published Winter, 2013

I have been slowed down this summer by some physical issues, and the series of poems that make up “The Nightingale’s Song” have suffered.  I am hopeful this fall I will be able to get back to this story, for in reading it, I find them to be as compelling  as when I wrote them at the end of last year. 

I was just at the point of starting to learn, or to teach myself sumi-e painting and wanted to lard the book with original paintings….in black and white, with perhaps a flash of red somewhere.  That fell apart when I broke my wrist…my dominant wrist.  Soon I hope I won’t have that excuse.

Much of the inspiration for “The Nightingale’s Song” came from my reading of the great Japanese “Manyoshu”, a document of over 4500 poems.   I have written a lot on this blog about this historical document, so I won’t go back over this territory.  Those interested in the Manyoshu can do their own research or find my blog entries on it.

This piece is not the first piece of “The Nightingale’s Story”.  I have some rewriting of several of them. This story is of a middle aged couple in 17th century Japan.

Lady Nyo (but not the one in the story….)

 “I stay here waiting for him

In the autumn wind, my sash untied,

Wondering, is he coming now,

Is he coming now?

And the moon is low in the sky.

The only company I have tonight,

Now near dawn, is the paling Milky Way,

And Oh, my husband!

There are not stars enough in the heavens

To equal my sorrowful tears.”


Hana Nyo threw the quilted robe from over her head.

It was just a dream, just a dream. 

Then why does my heart pound so?

Two nights before

Lady Nyo and her nurse

Spent the hours til dawn

Watching the flame rise and fall

Through the shoji of Lord Nyo’s room,

 Watched the candle

Consume the poems he was writing–

But to whom?

“Ah, he has another woman!”

Her nurse was loyal but leaned

On the privilege of time.

Lady Nyo’s heart took flight.

Fear and shame dueled

In her blood, pushing reason

From her head.

Did he know?

Did he know?

Did he know about the poems?

Did he know of the vanished lover?

For two days it rained,

Waterfalling   off the eaves,

Broke the stems of the chrysanthemums,

Scattered the flower heads,

Blew great gusts of wet wind into her room,

Blanketing an already sorrowful mind

With a seasonal fury.

Lord Nyo had ridden out

The dawn after

The Night of Burning Poems,

Dressed for hunting,

His falcon on his glove,

Not a word of farewell,

Not a baleful glance in her direction.

She watched him mount his horse,

And gallop away.

She watched from the slits between bamboo blinds,

Like a thief or a beggar,

She didn’t know what she was,

 felt the sharp sting of shame,

a particular loss of something she probably

Never had.

Lady Nyo spent the day journal writing,

Her misery reflected in an unpainted face,

Tangled hair,

Shunning food as a sacrifice:

The pain of her torment

Was not lessened.

Once I did believe

That no love could still linger

Within my heart

Yet, a love springs from somewhere

And forces itself on me.”



“My eyes have seen you

But I’ve yet to hold you close

You’re like a laurel

That is growing on the moon

And I don’t know what to do.”


Yes, and I don’t know what to do.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted 2012

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8 Responses to “‘Lady Nyo’s Torment’….from “The Nightingale’s Song””

  1. brian miller Says:

    nice…love this…there is so much going on in it…each character their own view on what is going on and their own goings on…a struggle with everyone in their own story but not seeing the whole…that is life though isnt it…smiles…i love how you blend poetry in poetry as well….i hope the fall breathes new life in you….smiles.


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Bless you, Brian. You are right about life…so much and so much we don’t see.

    This series of poems ripped me up: I didn’t see the potential in it until later and now? Well, i have some new parts to it…..trying to ‘wrap it up’. But we don’t ever really wrap up life until the end. I have written other series of poems, trying to get as much ‘story’ out of them as possible, but I have to say that this one has moved me the most.

    Regardless of time or culture, the issues of life and love remain the same.

    I think that the Manyoshu enriches this effort. I could have written it without it, but it takes me into new territory. What amazes me is that nothing really changes or goes ‘out of style’ in the human heart.

    As for the fall, I am hoping for new life, too.

    Thank you, dear heart, for reading and your insightful comment.



  3. hedgewitch Says:

    Such a sense of loss and waste, and yet also of something infinitely precious that can never really be firmly grasped anyway–perhaps it’s meant to exist only to be lost and thus reveal its importance. Anyway–a beautiful and moving piece, Jane. I hope your healing process continues and you are pain free and able to do what you want soon.


  4. Steve E Says:

    Nor do I know what to do…except this I know. I DO love those Japanese writings, and when you write in that ‘style’ I cannot tell a difference.

    And somehow you communicate each Peep’s thoughts, emotions, struggles, so that I could ‘see’ in one reading.

    You are special, Jane!


  5. ladynyo Says:

    thank you steve…..for some reason they have become emotionally gratifying to me.

    thank you for reading and your comment.




  6. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Hedgewitch, for your always insightful analysis on these poems…and everything else.

    Your words mean a lot to me.

    As for pain free….I think that will take a while, but there is always hope for recovery.




  7. Spiros Zafiris Says:

    ..indeed..the story of countless couples..but Lady Nyo your
    special touch of capturing each breath, of capturing each
    reader’s interest, never fails to more than intrigue..spiros


  8. ladynyo Says:

    Spiros! What a lovely comment.

    I learn more about my writing through the eyes of readers than I could ever learn myself. That is the great gift from readers of this blog.

    Thank you.

    Lady Nyo


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