‘Lord Nyo’s Lament’, from “The Nightingale’s Song”

Samurai in Battle on Horse

I’m going to post two pieces of “The Nightingale’s Song” per week so it doesn’t drag out so long.

Lady Nyo

Lord Nyo’s Lament, from “The Nightingale’s Song”


Oh my wife!

My feet take me over mountains

In the service to our lord

But my heart stays tucked in the bosom

Of your robe.


The song of the arrow

As it arced into the sea

Was as tuneless

As a badly strung samisen.

Gun- metal clouds

Stretched across a dull horizon

The sun still asleep

As he should be

His quiver empty

His heart, too.

When had the callousness of life and death

Become as comfortable as breath to him?

He had become too much the warrior

And too little the man.

His distance from his wife,

From most of life

Was as if some unseen object

Kept them ten paces apart.

Perhaps it was the cloud-barrier

Of earthly lusts which obscured

The Sun of Buddha?

Perhaps he should pray.

 What God would listen?

Then it came to him

That joker of a Buddha, Fudo

With his rope to pull him from Hell

And his sword to cut through foolishness-

Fudo would listen.

Fudo knew the quaking hearts

The illusions embraced

To stomach the battlefield

The fog of drink,

To face life

In the service of Death.

Fudo would save him from

The yellow waters of Hell.

He remembered those years

When she could bring him to his knees

With the promise of dark mystery

Between silken thighs,

And the glimpse of her white wrist-

A river of passion

Just beneath the surface.

How he had steeled his heart

Believing himself unmanned

For the love she induced!

Three cranes flew low to the shore,

Legs streaming like black ribbons behind.

Three cranes, three prayers, three chances

To find his way back

Bound up in Fudo’s ropes,

Prodded in the ass by Fudo’s sword.

He would write a poem

On a bone-white fan

To leave on her cushion.

She would know his love

She would know his sorrow.

The sea took his arrows

Beyond the breakers,

The glint of sleek feathers

Catching thin rays of light.

An unexpected peace came over him

As they journeyed far from his hands.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011, 2013

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12 Responses to “‘Lord Nyo’s Lament’, from “The Nightingale’s Song””

  1. Caliban's Sister Says:

    Breathtaking. just breathtaking. The rhythm of this is enchanting and hypnotic.
    “When had the callousness of life and death

    Become as comfortable as breath to him?

    He had become too much the warrior

    And too little the man.”

    You are becoming a Master of this form, Jane. xox CS


  2. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! You are too kind, CS. I’m not sure what this form is, beyond freeverse. It isn’t tanka, choka, or anything else, but it works.

    What I loved about these poems was that Lord Nyo, an ‘ugly old warrior’…(his words), brutal as war makes soldiers then…and perhaps now?, but the spark of humanity isn’t totally put out. It is rekindled when he realizes just what war and his ‘giri’ to his own daimyo has done to his nature. Though Lady Nyo is very much a part of this series….Lord Nyo in a way is more interesting…or at least I find him so later on.

    Thank you so much, CS…for reading this series (so far) and for your very encouraging and kind comments.




  3. Caliban's Sister Says:

    Well then, it’s Jane-Nyo’s form. Because it has a form that can be felt. The best poetry affects all the autonomic nervous system, it pulls you into its rhythms. Yours does this.


  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi CS…first, thank you! I have been waging a war in poetry for a few years now..mostly silently, and also with myself.

    I agree. And this is something that most readers and many poets don’t understand. It’s this universal umbilical cord that you spoke of before…that connects our experience, our emotions…our very humanity.

    Recently I was at a poetry reading. What mildly disturbed me was the poems that people read…their own compositions…were wide of the mark of this. You had to strain to make the commonalities of connection. One very applauded poet, a very nice woman, read a couple of poems about some experience she had, and it was very…well, narcissistic! I got rather uneasy because it was really a closed circuit. Most people don’t see this when they hear poets…but some do.

    Passionate gestures in poetry must turn outward…embrace the world or those listening. So many times we write our individual experiences, and it really is just navel gazing. It means little in the bigger picture, and for me, I think we have to go for that bigger picture. Make the connections.

    Rhythm is very important in poetry..there is a couple of definitions of rhythm here, but I think I know what you are talking about. Also, the intensity and ‘human-ness’ of the story we are telling in our poetry: it has to capture the interest of the reader and not let them go until the end…and then…it has to raise questions and a hope for ‘more story’.

    I guess for me…it’s going deeply into a culture, studying it, and finding those things that connect us to ‘now’. And I hope these poems do that for readers. Though the characters are from 17th century Japan, the human issues haven’t changed much…sure our laws and society has, and the behavior of these characters are alien to us now…but still, still…we can understand them. I hope so.

    Thank you, CS for reading and your encouraging comments…helps me think ahead here.



  5. Caliban's Sister Says:

    I think when I say “rhythm” I don’t mean the usual stanza/meter/ business, as you know. It has something to do with breath, exhalation, and arrival–slinky-like–over and down to the next stair. Hard to explain. But the best poets make us experience a feeling of auditory arrival every few lines, maybe of sense and sensual inevitability. Again, very hard to put into words. There are many famous poets who don’t achieve this–who are more conceptual/cerebral. They don’t ‘speak’ to me the same way, because the dominant experience for me is thinking rather than embodied cognition, experienced somatically. That’s what I mean by rhythm. It involves not only sound but cadence, weightedness of syllable, image, breath, and caesura. I know you ‘get’ this. You do it in many of your poems, I’ve noticed it a lot in “A Seasoning of Lust”. Doors open every few lines. xo CS


  6. Caliban's Sister Says:

    ps SO GREAT to see your icon appear on my list of ‘friends’ at CS! thank you Jane, love CS


  7. ladynyo Says:

    shoot, CS….I meant to do it before, but life got in the way! I am in love with your blog!!! and you!



  8. ladynyo Says:

    Wow, CS…you have spoken to something that I haven’t been able to get my head around yet. Some poets do this naturally, it’s in their thought and compositions…and others have to learn it…or they don’t.

    I have to study what you wrote so I can undertand it better. I’m an instinctual poet…not much thought before the composing, more sensations and visual things set off my poetry. Something in the air that sinks into the page. LOL!

    I am disturbed by poets that I ‘don’t get’. LOL! Wallace Stevens for one. I feel dumb when I read him…but I’m not there…or wherever he is.

    More to my taste and understanding is William Stafford…I think one of the greatest American poets….and unrecognized by so many readers and poets included. He reaches out and touches those places we all have. Frost, too, for me, but not all Frost.

    And…I haven’t a long stretch in poetry…only 6 years or so. I’m still discovering poets, these famous ones.. But I think relying on the visual for me…as a painter…flows easily into what you are talking about…this rhythmic issue. I love your slinky example….you nailed it!




  9. Caliban's Sister Says:

    Hi Jane, hope you’re having a good weekend, weather’s glorious here, finally….I’m going to look for Stafford’s work. I love poetry that surprises me, that let’s something rotate into place that’s never quite gotten in there before, like trying to thread a screw and finally finally getting it caught. I think people either have a talent for that or they don’t. There must be natural talent. YOu can’t ‘learn’ how to BE a poet. You can only learn about poetry, become a better poet, but poetry is a relationship between language, mind and world that is unique to individuals, even if they influence each other all the time. No two poems are identical (if they are there’s some ‘splainin needed!). With the slinky, I used that because there’s some tension/torsion during the upward arc, before it topples down with acceleration. So as it arcs up it gets tight, then the arc reverses. For me, that’s what effective rhythm does. You achieve that. So the Slinky analogy was even more specific than you’d thought! sending love this little over a week without Sophie, and hoping Thumper has gotten back on his feet.


  10. ladynyo Says:

    Hi CS!!! Your explanation of rhythm, etc…is one of the best I have ever heard. I may be a poet, but it sure doesn’t mean that I know anything about the inners of poetry! LOL! Your words gave me such a rush of ah-ha!

    I think I need to think more about this, what you have written. Poetry is …something that can be deepened…our understanding, and the forms, etc., but I think, like music, either you get it…or you don’t. You can learn to play an instrument but there is that inner something that divides those who really play an instrument from those of us who really can’t. And I am one of those people who can’t! LOL!

    William Stafford….Oh! I am so happy that you are on the prowl for his books. He made all the difference for me, when I realized that I was confused and dismayed because I DIDN’T understand some poets that people praise so highly. Some of them just leave me confused and worse: cold. Stafford’s poetry was like a scapel cutting through pretentious layers of words, going straight to my own experience and heart. If ‘felt’ his words because they were not strangers to my own condition.

    Thumper has really rebounded. He’s doing fine, with a dose of antibotics each day and he’s become something of a pesk. LOL! And….Friday, in the rain, an neighbor came down to my gate to tell me there was a cat trying to get on his porch…and he wanted ME to come and remove him. He didn’t like cats…the big jackass. So I went expecting a cat which was a 3 month old kitten, expecting a feral cat and it was a kitten obviously socialized and dumped on our street. He came right up to me…and what was astonishing!!! He was exactly a copy of Sophie!!! Right down to the totally black head, the markings, except he is a male….and sooooo sweet. A huge purrer. I keep wondering…Sophie dies, and here is an exact copy of her…showing up on our street…The Universe is Marvelous and FULL of compassion. Sasha and Thumper share a bed on the cat tree in the cat room….LOL! They have taken to each other fast.

    I hope your weekend is a good one, CS….your words, your comments always are so full of impact and intelligence and they set my head bouncing around. Thank you, sweetie!!

    Hugs xoxo Jane


  11. Caliban's Sister Says:

    Wow. A stray wanders in just at the right moment, looking just like Sophie. Hard not to connect a few dots, even if you’re agnostic like I am. The Gods of those-who-love-animals were kind to you. this is wonderful, and great about Thumper’s pull out the malaise. Three would’ve been way too many to grieve within a few months. xo CS


  12. ladynyo Says:

    Yep….Lord Jizo, from Shinto would be him….

    Sasha is a pesk! This is no feral kittie. He’s so needy for attention and love, that he’s in your face at every chance. A real kisser. But he’s mine now, and watching him grow and learn life is going to be a blessing.

    Funny, he is he only kittie (like Sophie) that loves and demands milk. Someone somewhere was feeding him milk …and he’s only 4 months?? IF.

    I am so glad tht I can share this good news with you, CS. Someone who could understand and revel in it!



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