“Maiko”, a poem

A Courtesan's fleeting life of beauty.

A Courtesan’s fleeting life of beauty.



Dirty faced little girls

imitate geishas

late at night

when chores are done.

They practice

seductive glances,

graceful movements,

pouring tea for phantom clients.

Stealing a moment,

they gaze into mirrors

making geisha- faces

preening, casting

down their eyes,

trying to catch

mirrored reflections.



Now tender maikos,

painted lead-white faces,

sit silently,

knees padded by

layers of stiff underdress

stifling yawns

as Big Sister Geisha

pour sake


ever so slightly

a marble- smooth wrist

barely blushing with life-

Mysterious seduction!



silent chorus

behind performers,

observing the trade

studying the manners

peering out with furtive


watching men

roll around tatami-

foolish, drunk-

such silly children!



Slender ‘dancing-girls’

tender split- peach hairdos

driving men to lust

a ripe and blushing fruit

sitting above the red neckline of


a sample of fruit

to be plucked

for the right price

to okiya.




Solemn maiko,

follow the way of

full-blown geisha,


sold for a pittance,

desired and sought

for beauty, grace, talents,

trapped within silken layers-

beautiful butterflies,

nights elusive moths,

dragging through life

clipped wings

of splendid colors.


Okiya is the house where geisha and maiko live. Oka-san is the proprietress who owns and runs the okiya. A maiko is a very young girl, who sometimes enters the okiya at the age of six. She is considered a maid, and is only trained as maiko (apprentice geisha) if she shows some talent to be a geisha. These young girls do all the chores and cleaning of the okiya. They have very long hours as they are expected to stay awake to assist the returning geisha in the early hours of the morning from the teahouses where they have been performing.

Many children were sold by poor parents to the okiya. This was very common in Japan for the survival of girl children. IF a geisha has a baby, and it is a boy, she must leave the okiya or give up the child. If she has a girl, that child is absorbed into the okiya as a maid.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009, 2014, published in “A Seasoning of Lust”, Lulu.com 200

5 Responses to ““Maiko”, a poem”

  1. profrksingh Says:

    I enjoyed reading this poem– simple, clean and beautiful. We need such cross-cultural reflections.


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hi RK! Thank you so much for reading this poem. Yes, we need more cross cultural reflections. As poets, writers, one of the greatest thrills in our creative lives is putting ourselves into a different culture and trying to find sympathy and understanding.
    It demands a lot of research, but more than that, it demands, when it works….a connection to humanity that we are not familiar with. It demands that we make those links.

    Thank you, again.



  3. profrksingh Says:

    I agree with you, Jane


  4. TR Says:

    So very true, Jane. A beautiful poem with insight into a culture that is not known to me. xx


  5. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, TR. It is rather sad the state of maikos today, but they are reviving the geisha culture and it wouldn’t be without them. Thank you for reading and your comment.



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