‘Lord Nyo Meets His Son’, from “The Nightingale’s Song”, Part 12

fullmoon mystery moon

Two years ago this November  Marge Chester died.  The night before she did, she called  to discuss this last episode of  what was to become “The Nightingale’s Song”.  She said these words of Lord Nyo, ‘this grieving ugly warrior’, had made her cry. She  followed the series of poems and had ‘become close’ to Lord Nyo and his transformation, his struggle to change in thinking and behavior.  Marge was a friend for over 24 years, the mate of my cousin Bobby who also died.  I couldn’t have had a better and kinder friend.  She was the strongest woman I have known. This end espisode is dedicated to Marge.

Lady Nyo

Perhaps a strong man

Should not offer love without

Having love returned

But this grieving ugly warrior

Still finds his love is growing


Lord Nyo stunk with the blood of battle

As his bow and swords cut a swath

Through men in service to another,

When the battle horns went silent,

With tattered banners like defeated clouds

Limp over the field,

Acrid smoke stained everything

And the piteous cries of the dying

Echoed in his ears.

He wondered if his life would end here.

But the gods he didn’t believe in

Were mercifulHe lived,

And his thoughts turned from fierce, ugly warriors

Towards home and a baby.

It took   a month

For Lord Nyo to lead his remaining men,

Battle-weary and maimed

Some in  body, all in spirit

Some not destined for further life,

But to die in the arms of women

In the shade of Gassan mountain.

No shame in this,

They had fought like devils

And only their daimyos

Could claim ‘victory’.

Lord Nyo pushed himself,

His aging war horse,

His men,

Only stopping to bathe

Once in a cold mountain stream,

To wash the dust of battle

From his eyes,

The soot of many fires from his face.

He still looked like a ghoul,

would frighten any baby.

Finally he came through the wicket gate

Of his house,

Saw the assembly of servants, women

And Lady Nyo on the veranda,

All bowing to the ground

In honor of their lord,

Though Lady Nyo held his new son

Like a Madonna before her,

And Lord Nyo, ugly, old warrior that he was,

Felt the sting of a woman’s tears fill his eyes.

He bowed to his wife,

A deep, respectful bow,

And went to view his son

In the arms of his lady.

His son was blowing bubbles,

Cooing like a turtle dove

But when he saw his father,

His leather armor and helmet still on his head,

His eyes widened in fright

Then shut tight

As he howled like a dog

Greeting the full Moon!

The women all shuddered!

What a greeting to a new father,

And what would their lord do?

Lord Nyo narrowed his eyes,

Threw back his head

And gave a great howl of his own.

Tsuki stopping in mid-yowl,

Staring at this leather-clad stranger

Who would dare howl louder than he!

It was not seemly

For a great warrior,

Just back from a long battle

To show such interest in a child,

But Lord Nyo put all that aside.

A tender nature came forth

And no one would laugh or smirk,

For he was a new father,

Though an aged one,

And would by rights,

Enjoy his only son.

He fashioned leather balls

To roll under bamboo blinds

To entice Tsuki

Like a kitten to chase,

even poked a small hole in the shoji

Of his lady’s rooms so he could watch

Unknown (he thought)

Of the servants and even his wife,

But all knew and whispered

Behind their sleeves

And noted his curious love.

No one thought the lesser of him for doing this.

Lord Nyo made

By his own hand

A tiny catalpa-wood bow,

With tinier arrows,

Fitted with feathers from a hummingbird

And arrow heads of small bone,

Something to shoot at birds,

Or perhaps cats,

But Tsuki only gnawed on the gleaming wood,

His teeth coming in,

And all he could reach

Was his personal chew-toy.

One day soon after his return,

Lord Nyo peered through the shoji,

Watched the old nurse bathe his son

When Tsuki climbed from his bath

And started to cross the tatami mat.

Lord Nyo saw the tail,

And almost tearing the shoji off its tracks,

Stormed into the room.

“Wife, Wife!

What little devil have your spawned!

What malevolent kami have you lain with!”

Lady Nyo, writing a poem in her journal

Rose quickly from her low table

And rushed into the room.

“My Lord!

I am told this little tail

Will disappear in time.

It marks our son for now

As a gift of the gods.

This little vestigial tail

Portends great deeds to be done

By our Tsuki.”

The old nurse shrunk back,

Well familiar with the temper

Of her lord,

Praying at this moment

For the kindness of a stray kami

To turn her into a bar of soap.

Tsuki, for his part

Saw his father

And with a great squeal of joy

Crawled as fast as his fat little legs could carry him,

His tail a propeller going round and round

Not at all helping the situation.

Lord Nyo staggered back against the shoji

Ripping even more of the delicate rice paper

And the frame asunder.

Lady Nyo rushed to pick Tsuki up,

Wrapping him and his offending tail

In the long sleeve of her kimono,

Holding him to her breast


But Tsuki wanted his father

And cried, “Baba, Baba!”

With a piteous tone,

Not knowing the proper name for Father,

As the nurse rolled her eyes

Cowering behind her lady,

Wondering if this ugly, old warrior

Had lost his wits in battle.

We know Tsuki was a gift of the gods,

Or at least Tsukiyomi,

The god of the Moon.

When Tsuki was in his basket

And the moon was full,

Lady Nyo and her old nurse

Placed small lanterns around his cradle,

To lessen the glow of her son,

As he slept in the moonlight.

It was unearthly how much Tsuki gleamed at night

But how pale tofu-colored he appeared during the day.

One night of the full Moon,

Lord Nyo lay besides his wife

And was awakened by Tsuki gurgling

From his basket.

His son talking to the

Moonbeams which danced into the room

From the high window above his cradle.

The small-wicked lanterns had burned out

And the moon and the moon child

Brightened the room.

Lord Nyo watched his son weave strands of moonbeam

With his feet, cooing and laughing,

Clear crystal ribbons of light floating

Around him

Out the window

And up to the moon.

He saw the benevolent face of Tsukiyomi above,

Looking with obvious love at his son.

Lord Nyo felt the weariness of years fall away;

Felt tender love for this Moon-child,

And yes, both of them blessed by the changeable gods,

A gift for an ugly, old warrior

A gift of life in the midst of such death,

A gift for the remaining years of his life.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2012, 2013

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6 Responses to “‘Lord Nyo Meets His Son’, from “The Nightingale’s Song”, Part 12”

  1. Sherry Blue Sky Says:

    What a wonderful and engrossing story, so well told. This is a truly remarkable work. I especially love the moon child playing with the moonbeams. Lovely. You had a very remarkable friend in your cousin’s wife. Such friendships are the true gold of this life.


  2. Caliban's Sister Says:

    Oh my. What a glimmering, dramatic and deep conclusion. I can see the pale blue/white light of Tsuki’s feet tracing the moonbeams, I can feel the cool translucency of the glow in that bedroom as Lord Nyo realizes that life, as far along as it is, still has gifts for him. Beautiful, what a tribute to your friend’s memory. love CS


  3. ladynyo Says:

    Hello, Cs. Thank you so much for reading and your lovely and insightful comment.

    Marge was truly a one in the lifetime friend. Funny, we never met. My father’s family in NJ knew her well, and she was a marvelous cook. But we talked on the phone frequently, and emailed almost daily. She was one of the supporters and encouragers of this blog. It wouldn’t have gotten off the ground left to me. Marge died of complications of diabetes…her heart gave out and within 10 minutes, she was gone. At home with Roger, her husband after my cousin. She was only a year older and it was something of a wake up call to me…

    Marge had been adopted into a Jewish family, and I think that is where a lot of her expansive love and wisdom came from. I learned so much from her gentle advice. She was the sister I never had.

    I am at that point in my life, CS, where friends are a lot of the reason for getting out of bed. Their lives, their concerns and their interests. Writing this whole series was wonderful because Marge and some others, mostly poets on different websites, were pushing me on in this. Losing Marge was devestating on many different levels. I think it also takes time to reveal this.

    So when I can dedicate a poem, or piece to a friend, it sometimes makes the poem better to me. At least there is a connection that we so often don’t get in life today.

    And you pointed out something true: Life, like what was given to Lord Nyo, still had many gifts for us, regardless the aging.

    Thank you, dear heart, for reading and understanding.



  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Sherry. First, thank you for reading and for leaving a comment. That is so appreciated.

    Marge was a wonderful woman, and I am still finding levels where I miss her. Each summer she would send me a particular recipe that she was using…one year it was pickled watermelon rinds…LOL~!..another year some Jewish pastry. What a treat, and how much I miss her beautiful summer cards with a new recipe in it. I have at least 20 recipes from Marge in my own (mostly unused) recipe box. LOL!

    Again, thank you for reading this piece and your lovely comment. I am thinking a bit of breaking this very long (over 1000 words) segment into two, but I don’t know. right now, I’m a bit tired of even thinking.



  5. Caliban's Sister Says:

    Dear Jane, that’s remarkable that you never met her yet over all those years, twenty four of them! you became and remained friends. There ARE unique people in this world, who are the real thing, and she was one of them. That she spoke with you about this work the night before she died, incredible to know that. If you want an opinion from the peanut gallery, I would not break this segment into two. I love the way it moves from the final battlefield to the evening light of a baby lighting up a home room with moonlight. I think it’s magical and rich and breaking it up might alter the impact. My two cents! love CS


  6. ladynyo Says:

    Dear CS, I think I agree…about leaving the 12 part alone. It’s hard to get a perspective sometimes on things you have written, especially an attempt at poetry, but I think you are right. I’ll leave it all alone. In part, because I am exhausted!

    You are right again. Marge was one of those special women: someone that was always there, and when they aren’t?? your mourning is doubled…tripled. She was a rock, but she was also one of the sanest people I ever knew. I so miss her. You would have loved her, CS. As she would you.



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