‘The Stillness of Death’ from “The Nightingale’s Song”….

japanese ghosts

A few poet/writer friends have asked me to post more of this series. I’m still workikng on it, preparing for the collaboration in the fall with Nick Nicholson who is doing the graphics. So, I learn from other people, especially poets, who read and am glad to oblige. Posted especially for Alee.

Lady Nyo


“My heart, like my clothing
Is saturated with your fragrance.
Your vows of fidelity
Were made to our pillow and not to me.”
—-12th century

Kneeling before her tea
Lady Nyo did not move.
She barely breathed-
Tomorrow depended
Upon her action today.

Lord Nyo was drunk again.
When in his cups
The household scattered.
Beneath the kitchen
Was the crawl space
Where three servants
Where hiding.
A fourth wore an iron pot.

Lord Nyo was known
For three things:
And drink.

Tonight he strung
His seven foot bow,
Donned his quiver
High on his back.
He looked at the pale face
Of his aging wife,
His eyes blurry, unfocused.
He remembered the first time
pillowing her.

She was fifteen.
Her body powdered petals,
Bones like butter,
Black hair like trailing bo silk.
The blush of shy passion
Had coursed through veins
Like a tinted stream.

Still beautiful
Now too fragile for his taste.
Better a plump whore,
Than this delicate, saddened beauty.

He drew back the bow
In quick succession
Let five arrows pierce
The shoji.
Each grazed the shell ear
Of his wife.

Life hung on her stillness.
She willed herself dead.
Death after all these years
Would have been welcome.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted , 2013

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12 Responses to “‘The Stillness of Death’ from “The Nightingale’s Song”….”

  1. M. J. Joachim Says:

    This is just so tragic…so intense, and so real…wow!


  2. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! Oh, I’m not laughing at you, dearheart. It’s a very intense and emotional series of 14 poems…and I forgot that they are. You live with them for a while in a folder and you forget their nature!

    Oh, thank you so much for that expression of enthusiasm for this poem….I will post more because there is some humor, a lot, really, in the later ones. Mostly, though, it’s a comedy of miscommunications…not helped at all by outsiders…LOL! Confusion between a husband and wife…and frankly, what happens in the 17th century Japan doesn’t stay there. It moves easily into the 21st century because men and women really haven’t changed that much. But there is growth in both Lady Nyo and Lord Nyo…especially him.

    I had a life long friend, Marge Chester, who died almost at the end of this series…and the night before she died unexpectedly, she wrote to me how much Lord Nyo (ugly old warrior) made her cry. I will always remember that.

    Thank you so much M.J…for reading this and your lovely comment. I hope you like what follows.

    Lady Nyo


  3. Yousei Hime Says:

    I remember feeling just that way (last stanza). Using that quote to frame your own story set the tone perfectly. Intense yet pleasurable, just as a marriage can be.


  4. ladynyo Says:

    Oh, Rabbit….I think many of us have been there at one time…and it is so sad. My heart goes out to you, and all of us caught in a moment of such ‘stillness’. And despair.

    that quote came from the Man’yoshu~! which you now have. I find great solace and inspiration reading it for all that it packs in. If there ever was a cross section of human feelings, it’s there.

    Thank you, sweet Rabbit, for reading and your comment.



  5. Yousei Hime Says:

    Moving into my apartment next week. I’m looking forward to reading (Man’yoshu on the list) and writing in a new space all my own. 😀


  6. ladynyo Says:

    I am so Glad for you! This is a big step and a necessary one. I am thinking of V. Woolf’s “A Room of Her Own”….but of course different.

    I remember when that was my situation. The freedom, the newness of everything was absolutely exhilarating. And though I wasn’t a writer back then, I felt like I could breathe for the first time in my adult life.

    Kudos to you, Rabbit!!! Grab that Man’yoshu and see the inspiration!!



  7. jornales Says:

    Wow!! It’s so vivid! I can follow through and I’m terribly taken. Awaiting for what’s next!


  8. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Jornales! Next week I’ll get back to “The Nightingale’s Song” pieces.

    Thanks so much for reading and your continued enthusiasm for the work!

    Lady Nyo


  9. Yousei Hime Says:

    Moving into my apartment this week. Have already set out in my bedroom the Man’yoshu. Inspiration awaits Saturday night (everything should be in by then). 😀


  10. ladynyo Says:

    Wonderful!! Glad of the move….you will be happy! And with the Man’yoshu…you will even be happier!


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