Geisha picture 2016

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,

night’s elusive moths,

dragging through life

clipped wings

of splendid colors.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014-2016

=(this poem first published by the author in “White Cranes of Heaven”, 2011, by Lulu.com)


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.



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