“River of Death” from “Song of the Nightingale”

Song Book cover

images (8)

“Song of the Nightingale” is a story in 12 episodes about a marriage in 17th century Japan.  Lord Nyo and Lady Nyo, he a samurai and she from the powerful clan Fujiwara, have been married since she was fifteen.  Now she is thirty and Lord Nyo sixty. Magic, a tricky Tengu and a baby plucked from the surface of the moon figure in the story.

The poetry of Saigyo is noted:  where it isn’t, it is mine.

Episode 11 is a scene from a battlefield, as Lord Nyo is a general in the provincial army of Lord Mori, an aging and despot daimyo in north west Japan, near Moon Mountain.

“Song of the Nightingale”  will be published around July, 2015, a work of 4 years.

Lady Nyo…but not the one in the story.




There’s no gap or break in the ranks of those marching under the hill:

an endless line of dying men, coming on and on and on….


When the news of Lady Nyo

Birthing a son

Reached Lord Nyo

He was far from home,

To the east,

Over mountains

In dangerous, alien territory.

A general in the service

Of his lord,

The gore of battle,

The issue of ‘dying with honor’

Began at first light,

The air soon filled with sounds of battle-

Dying horses, dying men

Drawing their last gasps of life,

Churned into the mud of immeasurable violence.

The river of death is swollen with bodies fallen into it;

in the end  the bridge of horses cannot help.


Death, not new life

Was before his eyes at dawn,

And death, not life

Pillowed his head at night.

A battle rages around me,

But inside this old warrior

A battle rages inside my heart.

It is heavy with sorrow,

So tired beyond my old bones.

 What good have we done

In watering the soil

With blood and offal

of sons?


He stunk with the blood of battle

As his bow and swords cut a swath

Through men in service to another

And when the battle horns went silent,

With tattered banners like defeated clouds

Hanging 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 that he didn’t believe in

Were merciful.

His thoughts turned from fierce, ugly warriors

Towards home and a baby.

Still, he could not leave.

He was caught by status,

The prestige of his clan.

He could not desert the

Fate set out from birth. –

Ah! This was fate of a man in servitude

To his Lord Daimyo.

This was the fate

Of a man chained to Honor.

Still, in the darkest hours of the night

The soft and perfumed shape of his wife

Floated down to him from the fleeting clouds,

Came to him through the smoke of battlefield fires,

And he turned on his pallet

To embrace this haunting comfort.

Off in the distance

There I see my loved one’s home

On the horizon.

How I long to be there soon

Get along black steed of mine!

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015



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4 Responses to ““River of Death” from “Song of the Nightingale””

  1. TR Says:

    This is beautiful. The cover looks wonderful! I love the contrast of life and death in this. It weaves in between reminding me of the two are related. “Death, not new life Was before his eyes at dawn, And death, not life Pillowed his head at night.” And I took away irony in his fate and with the birth of his son.


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, TR. You saw into the theme of this book more than I did. LOL! Your comment was inspiring to me. One never knows really if you are making sense with your writing.

    But! I have a lot of hope that people will read this book and see the characters for what they are: real enough from the 17th century to express our same desires.

    Love, Jane


  3. Caliban's Sister Says:

    Uh oh. Someone’s gonna think it’s about her…. 🙂
    “the soft and perfumed shape of his wife”–beautiful. Mos def not about her…. 🙂 love CS


  4. ladynyo Says:


    Oh, I needed this this morning, CS. LOL!
    Well, ….no…def not ‘her’. TOTs….Toxic Old Toads
    do not make it past this computer (or imagination) into this book. LOL!

    They ‘twist’ the life of (here, a poem) into some personal experience where it doesn’t at all apply.

    Well, as my husband said: “This is the fruit of breaking NC”. Sadly he’s right. You don’t stick your hand out to a rabid dog. It won’t happen again, I tell you. LOL! I’m shutting down the personal insult factory.

    Thanks, Sweetie, for understanding this absolutely insane situation. On a better note, “Song of the Nightingale” will be out in a couple of weeks. It’s four years in the writing, and Nick’s photos are beautiful. And best of all, the cover painting is the one I recovered years ago from her spare bedroom where she hung it on a closet door, it fell and broke the glazing and I found it under a bed.

    Love, Jane.


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