“I Wonder….”, poem from “Pitcher of Moon”.

"Early Autumn Dusk", oil, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2003

“Early Autumn Dusk”, oil, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2003

The devestation of 50 tornadoes out in the Midwest, and the incredible destruction of Moore, Ok, makes poetry almost…well, there are events more important that should take our attention right now. Apparently, news is saying these storms will continue to devestate the same general area, moving eastward. My thoughts and prayers are with the people facing the destruction of their property and of lost of life. I am numb right now. The scope of this disaster is incomprehensible to me.

Lady Nyo

I Wonder…..

I wonder about myself,
The mourning, the sorrow,
A low flame inside
Flaring with memory
Burrowing deep,
Always a shadow of flame
Intruding upon my day
Throwing me back
Into a murky past
Where I am rattled by its force
Its grip–
An unwelcome visitation.

I cover the sadness
With a silk blouse,
A mask for a face,
An unsteady smile.
Order for the outside
Hiding chaos within.

My father’s death had me
Travel from hatred to love
Finally understanding this old man
Who could not say “I love you”,
But did.

When he was close to death
I washed his body
Bathed this feeble old man,
Emptied of power, rage
Returned to innocence
Now forgivably human.

When my mother is dead, finally dead
Will I travel this same path
From hatred to love?
Will I rewrite history
Me to forget anger,
Her with an ember of love,
To end the remorse
To make more of a ‘mother’
To bury her with love?

I started out from love
But it grew to hate.
Life can do these things,
And when I aged
It started to reverse
Half way back.

But it never really makes the full circle
For the wounds are deep
And memories hurt like hell.
Perhaps only time will tell
In this fugue of life.
Perhaps it will come to be
A dull blanket of forgetfulness
Thrown over the past
That segues to forgiveness –
….in time.


There is a marvelous blog at http://n-continuum.blogspot.com that I have been reading for a few years. The woman who writes there is incredible in her understanding of narcissism, maternal and general narcissism. I recommend this website highly. CZBZ has an extraordinary grasp of these psychological issues that plague so many families.

“Pitcher of Moon” will be published soon at Lulu.com. I want to thank Bill Penrose for his work and digilance in formatting and bringing this manuscript to publishing, Nick Nicholson for his reading and advice and Bren Goode for her advice and friendship. These three people are the best friends a writer could have. I am deeply grateful for all of them.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2013

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29 Responses to ““I Wonder….”, poem from “Pitcher of Moon”.”

  1. annotating60 Says:

    Lady No, your poem was so beautiful (though I would drop the ‘hell’ part–not out of prudishness but it diminishes the luxuary and exquisiteness of the poem) I too have a mother who will no doubt die soon, unfortunately I cannot have it in my heart to let het become ‘more of a mother to bury” than she was in real life. But it has made a profound impact on me thoughts and helping me clear some of them. Thank you.>KB


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Dear KB,
    Thank you for reading and your comment. My heart goes out to you and those who have lived with this ultimate sorrow: of having a mother who isn’t because of some mental issue. Maternal pathological narcissism is something that does ‘hurt like hell’ because it never ends. The abuse (mostly emotional, but for some people…physical, too) of these ‘mothers’ lasts into generations. It impacts the daughters or sons heavily and undercuts confidence, security and at times…their very lifes.

    I don’t know what steps you have taken to help yourself heal from these terrible things, and nobody who hasn’t experienced this issue can really know, but I do hope you at least read some of the website of CZ’s that I posted at the end of the poem. You can always contact me also, my email is in the blog roll. My heart goes out to people who are ‘motherless children’, even though these path. narcissists that seemingly are ‘mothers’ are not and society expects us to ‘fall in line.’ Mother’s Day is especially grating. and that you know that you are worth so much more than what we have swallowed. When a path. narcissist gets about 50 years and doesn’t ‘tenderize’, they are set in their ways. They see no reason to change because the world is at fault in their eyes…not them.



  3. annotating60 Says:

    Thank you for your words. I have learned to live without the guilt of not loving. It took a long time but I know I must be adamant about it it. >KB


  4. ladynyo Says:

    I do understand, KB. But I also understand that not loving is the product of such deep wounds. My concern is not for your mother, or mine, but what we live with. Being adamant about not loving someone is a defense, and perhaps that is the only thing left to us. However, it takes a lot of energy to do this, to remember, and it hardens the heart.

    But we are made of better stuff. Your beautiful poetry shows this…and that is the ultimate victory for us. That we can, after their constant attempts at maiming and crippling, that we go on and produce a form of beauty. From deep pain comes…at times…greater things. Your poetry shows that. I hope mine does, too. That is all we need to if not erase the damage, to rise above it.



  5. annotating60 Says:

    Jane, We can only rise. Thank you. >KB


  6. ladynyo Says:

    Yep, KB….by our own bootstraps…it’s a process, but we are doing it. I love your poetry. It Sings!!!



  7. Laura Hegfield Says:

    a sadness here, not healing completely… maybe we really do, just not the way we expected? A thought.


  8. brian miller Says:

    it is hard in the face of such tragedy not to let it consume us…my heart has been heavy all day….i have my own response set for tomorrow….a powerful piece by you…i feel like i have read it before or something like it….i remember the washing of your fathers body…the journey from hate to love…his struggle to say i love it…its very effecting to me….


  9. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Laura…maybe we never heal. It depends on how deep the wounds. Thank you, sweetie, for reading and your comment.



  10. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Brian. Yes, I wrote this a year ago. Made some changes, but not many.

    Ah, Brian….my heart is heavy and I am just numb. I feel as you do. I want to read what you have written…I need something of this. I think we heal only with time, and with the wisdom of others. Perhaps this is the way of life?

    This poem ripped me up. It brought me to a place where I realized that I had so many deep wounds What to do? Do the opposite of what you see and are exposed to.

    It’s been hard, because narcissism isn’t understood that well. Therapy doesn’t touch it, because the wires are so twisted.

    Sadness, indeed.

    Thank you, Brian.



  11. Tony Maude Says:

    Felt the sadness and bewilderment in this piece, Jane. Seems like a lot if us are in these dark places, for a whole variety of reasons.


  12. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Tony….yes, these dark places. I think it has to do with our aging, but certainly our parents aging, facing their mental illnesses, senility or just plan pathologies that have never been treated.

    I have to say that when I wrote this…I felt the relief of ‘speaking truth to power’. We hide from these issues…with a parent who is touched in the head and heart for years, with no way of changing these things. But! I was also emboldened by reading William Stafford, one marvelous American poet that I think has been passed over by so many poets of our generation. He also suffered some similiar issues with his mother, and reading him, I realized it was not ‘wrong’ to write about these things.

    We can use our experiences, and our aging for our poetry…our sadness in dealing with family members, friends, etc. For those who don’t know Stafford, I recommend him highly.

    Thank you, Tony, for reading nand your thoughtful comment. I’ll be over to your blog tomorrow. My eyes are suffering right now.



  13. Tony Maude Says:

    Nothing new to read at my place, Jane. Sorry 😦


  14. Heaven (@asweetlust) Says:

    How your words resonate with me ~ As I grow older, I see my mother’s face in my own, and my father’s temperament ~ There is much to be said of dying or close to dying, it makes you humble, frail, more God-fearing than you ever were ~ My Dad who was never religious became a conservative Catholic and murmuring prayers during his long illness ~ He is still alive, but much have changed over the years ~ And so do I ~



  15. ladynyo Says:

    Yep, Heaven, we do change along with them. Some of our parents tenderize…some are so entrenched in their ways that they don’t grow old with grace. They are still fighting battles that never were.

    Perhaps those who find some sort of spiritual leavening are those that face aging and death with grace. Those, like my mother, who don’t…well, they rattle along and can never be comforted.

    Thank you, Grace, I’ll be over tomorrow.



  16. ladynyo Says:

    Ah, Tony…that’s ok….I’m recycling things from the past. But I’ll come over and read more of your work.

    Thank you, Tony.



  17. ayala Says:

    the wounds are deep
    And memories hurt like hell.
    Perhaps only time will tell
    In this fugue of life…so sad and powerful. I am sorry Jane and my heart aches with yours.


  18. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Ayala. I’ve learned to live with it. The ‘fault’ isn’t mine, it’s in a woman who has never learned to love…narcissism takes a terrible toll on those around her.

    However, this example gives me notice that my son could be a victim of me, had I taken this route. So, even though she has never been a mother, she stands as an example for those of us who want to do better.

    Never having a ‘normal’ mother, I don’t know what it is to have one, but my father was a father in the end.

    Thank you, Ayala…I’ll be over tomorrow.



  19. wcg1670 Says:

    “It started to reverse
    Half way back.

    But it never really makes the full circle
    For the wounds are deep”

    our irrelevance is shadowed at times, yes…but your words above…how do we let go of ourselves in the midst of recognition…when you hurt, I hurt, we hurt…I only hope the same is said for the healing…I know I have closed many a wound in the hands of Love and concern



  20. ladynyo Says:

    Interesting words, and perhaps you will see that closing a wound in the hands of love and concern sometimes is a one way street. Many times there is no other way.

    Would I change this situation that has lasted since I was a child? Of course, but then again, there are powerful life lessons to learn. But! the trick is this: not to reproduce the situation, to love and show concern in random and unrestricted ways. This is what I have taken away from the situation. Unfortunately, for my mother, their is no change, or any desire to change. this is what the extreme end of narcissism is.

    I have a son, only one child and he was at risk of me turning out like my mother. The difference is when we apply a consciousness to what we do, this isn’t narcissism. This is the concern, that we be better and more loving people. We filter what we know through better means.

    Over all, not a bad lesson, neh? But sometimes a very lonely one.

    Thank you for reading. There are those who don’t want me to\ write about this. However, I came across something that spoke directly to me: “What is worst than a pathological narcissist are though who make excuses for the behavior”. And….Silence only deepens the hurt.

    I’m all for healing. Life is kindness. Or we should make it so when it isn’t.

    Lady Nyo


  21. wcg1670 Says:

    indeed, silence is the soul of apathy…my post was written 3 days ago and well…it lingers, so I release

    Thank you J…thank you


  22. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you~! It’s always a stuggle knowing how to approach things…at least it is for me. And yes, silence is the soul of apathy. I couldn’t have said it better. Being a woman and of a particular culture/age, I am expected to remain mum on these things. It’s been a struggle to speak and finding your voice ……well, there is a balance! But of course these things are a part of all cultures.

    Thank you again, and tomorrow when my eyes are a bit better, I will visit and read your blog. I am most grateful for the responses to something I hope not too many others have in their life.

    Jane (who is Hana Mori in another one)


  23. czbz Says:

    “only death of the parent will bring the relief from the constant abuse.”

    This is hard for people to hear. This is hard for people to feel. It is no wonder people resist your writings about narcissistic mothers. It’s a grief that can never be resolved. Just as you’ve written above, many people have come to the uncomfortable realization that a narcissistic mother’s passing will bring relief. Even with her last breath, she is set upon hurting her child…making sure the child knows she failed to love her mother sufficiently.

    What is this insistence to punish a child, even on the mother’s death bed? It’s hard to imagine. People who haven’t experienced or witnessed the twistedness, can’t fathom such a relationship could possibly exist. But I am witness to what people suffer, some never feeling strong enough to end the relationship until she passed away and the only thing they felt was ‘relief’. One woman told me she felt liberated. That is the pain of a parent’s ongoing rejection.

    I think people who ACCEPT their mother’s inability to love them and REFUSE to allow her to abuse them by limiting or ending the relationship, do much better than those who live in denial and hope she’ll change. That may be because ‘the deniers’ have never GIVEN UP on ‘earning’ her love; and even after she dies, they re-write her memory as a final act of love (a form of self-hatred, don’t you think? They blame themselves rather than admitting the fault was her inability to love them).

    Being strong enough to grieve the relationship while she is alive, allows you to ‘check in’ now and then, making sure your memories are/were accurate. And sure enough, even after the passage of time, she insults, criticizes, blames and abuses the ‘scapegoated’ adult-child. It’s unbelievable to outsiders who expect a mother to be overcome with joy and gratitude when he child contacts her again—especially at her age! But no. Contact is another chance to punish her child and she does so without hesitation.

    I am so sorry, Jane. What is a marvel though is the love you were able to offer your son. We can stop the legacy of the narcissistic mother through conscious awareness, acceptance of her narcissism, and our willingness to suffer our legitimate pain.



  24. ladynyo Says:

    Dear CZ….it’s so good to hear from you. New computer and the guys didn’t reserve my address book. Wanted to write to you, and couldn’t…but! I did navigate the pitbulls guarding your blog… and posted something short. The usual plaint. LOL!

    It is shocking and very difficult to write that only with the death of the narcissistic parent will the adult child find, finally… relief. Ultimately, you are the only one who can save yourself. And, to complicate matters….and I think I coped this from your site….”What is worse than the narcissist are those who make excuses for the narcissist’s behavior.” That was what I was facing. A complete and opportunistic wall. But family members are ‘trained’ by the chief narcissist to do so. They are robbed too, of a ‘normal’ relationship with a mother, because the mother ain’t.

    CZ, it is hard to do, because we all live in that abject place where a form or a soupcon of hope exists and it doesn’t pack any reality. You have said this so well before: if the narcisistic parent has not ‘tenderized’ by 50, they are set on living out their years as a complete narcissist. M. Scott Peck talked of that ‘state’ in his seminal work: “People of the Lie”.

    I believe this insistance to punish the adult child on their (or close to it) death bed is because they MUST be proven right.(A pathological narcissist is NEVER wrong…even when they are. LOL!) Their actions MUST be seen as ‘valid’ by them. Or else, they just are so gone in their narcissism that they have no qualms what they do? Perhaps, because to a narcissist, people are just expendable. They must serve the purpose of the narcissist and the narcissistic supply line. Otherwise, their lives have no value (to the narcissist).

    It took many decades, CZ, to come to a place where I had to walk, no, run away. The abuse never abated, even in grief, sickness, etc. It just got…debilitating, and what happens as I have heard from so many others, that the will to live just goes…southward.

    I did check back in from time to time…but that was rare because phonecalls were just…well, nothing had changed. Before I would remember the pain, but now? Her cruelty will die with her, and that is the good news. It came out of the blue to me. We carry a burden in our hearts. But it takes a form of courage to dump it.

    For those daughters (and sons, too…I have talked just in the last few days to a man my age who suffered the same ‘mother’) who have had such cruelty in their lives…starting with their mothers, it’s a long road back to confidence, self-worth, etc. All those things that a normal mother would aspire to instill in their daughters, children. The tapes, the messages of destruction, well, they have to be overrode with messages of positivism, health and value. Therapy helps…and pushing your creativity regardless of the pain…and the denial from these ‘mothers’…well, you have to embrace yourself, and that is damn hard! But not impossible.

    There is a deep hole in every daughter who isn’t- good- enough’s heart. It’s called a ‘motherless child.’ And it is something that one keeps looking for: strangers, relatives, you try to steal your friend’s mothers, etc. LOL! It is something that you will always look for.

    As for my own child, well he got the worst of it. I had no other parenting model I knew. I was too stupid to break that mold for many years. I was repeating to what I had learned. I’ve had to unlearn so much and frankly, my son suffered. Now? Well, you can’t get back those years, but things can change. You are not your mother. That you went for therapy says so. LOL! Or so my therapist has told me for years. I’m hoping it’s so!

    I didn’t understand what you meant about suffering our legitimate pain. I had to think on that. Yes, it’s acceptance that it’s pain and also it’s legitimate. Damnit! LOL!

    Forgiveness. That’s a biggie. I don’t think these mothers deserve forgiveness, though it might vary. I think we deserve to forgive ourselves trying over and over to ‘change’ them. All the gifts, energy, hope we put in and nothing changes. It never works…and that is because with a pathological narcissist, the wiring is so twisted in life that the messages of love, devotion, compassion, empathy…don’t get through.

    They have no capacity to understand these things. They are truly empty nut shells.

    Perhaps we should pity them, but they are so destructive through out their lives…and who they attempt to destroy are their children first, and then many others around them. Leave them to God.

    One last thing. Our creativity is the engine to pull us out of this life-muck. And I think this is what these ‘mothers’ hate the most. In the face of their constant demeaning behavior, we continue to dig deep and find the beauty and power of creativity. It’s there in each of us. We just have to believe that we are worth the success of our hard work!

    Today my wonderful, loving elderly therapist that I see because she is a ‘tune up’ and the face and behavior of that ‘good mother’ said that I had really come into my own. And that my son would be the better for it. I am still trying to NOT be like what I knew…as far as ‘mothering’, and I think of all the cruelties I did. But the difference is I have guilt, and remorse….and a true pathological narcissist could not understand any of this.

    Isn’t it remarkable, CZ, that all the women we know, all these motherless daughters, are so compassionate and loving? I think these lessons go deep and we are all the better for what we experienced. That’s if we survive, and we both know those poor souls that didn’t.

    With my love, dear (very wise) friend,



  25. czbz Says:

    Legitimate pain. That term distinguishes the “projected” pain and suffering many children of narcissists endure. Narcissists are projection machines, so whatever is uncomfortable for them or they can’t own in themselves, is projected onto their children (or other people). We are forced to suffer for being IMPERFECT people and that tragedy is that we believe it’s our pain to work through (or bear).

    Examples of “legitimate” pain would be the loss of loving parents or even good-enough parents. Legitimate pain would be dealing with a failure or set-back of some kind which is human and normal and we all have to work though our mistakes.

    “It took many decades, CZ, to come to a place where I had to walk, no, run away. ”

    I am so sorry things turned out this way for you. If your mother had been normal, you would never think about No Contact. I can tell you that as a mother myself because my daughter and I had a rough time for awhile. Mothers and daughters might struggle getting along but they’re each invested in making the relationship work. There isn’t ‘ongoing’ abuse by the mother; nor the ongoing need to punish the child for making the N-mother feel anything less than fabulous.

    People make the decision to go No Contact and they get a lot of criticism but outsiders (“civilians”) do not understand the intimate dynamics that have gone on for decades.

    I love what you wrote here: “Leave them to God.” That is fair. That is best. I really like that idea.



  26. ladynyo Says:

    Dear CZ: Ah! now I understand what you mean. This difference of legitimate pain. Thank you! I think this a very important issue.

    You are very correct when you say that narcisissts are projection machines! They also rewrite history! I think that is one of the most confusing and ‘crazy-making’ techniques (if that is a correct word…I am not sure in this case…because it raises the issue of consciousness…are narcissists conscious of what they are doing? Or do they exist in an internal universe that is so differnet from ‘normal’?? Is it a question of ‘will’ or is it just part of the abberation of narcissism? The usual ‘rules’ don’t apply??)

    As for this projection, they will insist on words and scenes that you know you have never had in your mouth or mind. That is what is crazy-making! LOL! IF you argue, what is the foundation of the argument? You are arguing with a ‘myth’ that is in the mind of the narcissist. They can’t be wrong, either…and there is no grace in their argument. Never. Their is no compromise, either.

    Ah! How I would love to embrace the concept of “good enough’ parent. LOL!

    But that is an illusion, and we live and endure in that illusion for many years until we cut and run. However, you say some very interesting things about No Contact. It is very, very hard to do, and this is because our society does not make room for this or understand the necessisty of it in these extreme cases. As you say, people do not understand the internal dynamics that lead to the necessity of NC.

    Oh! So much energy is spent on making the N-mother feel constantly fabulous! But it is like a black hole…it is NEVER enough because each time the goal posts are moved by this mother. No matter how much you stroke the N-mother with praise, gifts, ignoring their cruelty to you and so many others throughout their lives, it is never enough. Perhaps the death of the daughter would ‘satisfy’ these N-mothers, but even that event would go to ‘justify’ the n-mother’s behavior. It’s no win.

    Silence is aquainted with shame and blame, and haven’t we had enough of that? Never again….

    As you and your daughter struggled to come together, because as you say, there is an issue of investment here, so do I and my son struggle to come to a place of love and acceptance. It’s not easy because we are products of the environment of our childhoods. An N-parent does not have that same investment because to them, people are ultimately expendable. There is a form of self-hatred I believe in rejecting the child. But N-parents are not that self-aware. They fear this deeply, though they can talk a line about psychology, especially the Ns who are from a medical background. They better not look deeply because to reflect upon their behavior would make a cat blush.

    I am so fortunate to have a husband who knew from the start what was behind me as the mother…LOL Right before we married, my husband came into my mother’s house will an armful of wildflowers he had brought back from Canada for me, his soon to be bride. My mother immediately assumed this overwhelming bouquet of flowers were for her and grabbed them with glee. He looked over her (she’s very short…) head and just smiled at me. There was no question who the flowers were for, but they were intercepted by her immediately…as she supposed was her right. LOL! We still laugh about that incident.

    Although this can be seen as ‘funny’, the history of pain is not. Your blog, dear CZ, is so important for those women who are so painfully confused, and those who over the years have come to an understanding about what happened in their childhoods and what continues to happen with an n-mother. I pray that you continue to write and give such great support and counsel through your words. And…hopefully, one day, as I have pushed you (and so have others….) you take the time to write that book. Seriously? You will be saving lives, and empowering people with health.



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