Haibun, “River of Death”

Man'yoshu image II

Image from “Love Songs from the Man’yoshu”


This will be my haibun for dversepoets pub.  I’ve had enough horror this weekend and wanted to dial back on that.  So, I am posting this new haibun  I fashioned out of an episode of “Song of the Nightingale”, published by Createspace, 2015.  It’s a bit ghostly.


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

in the end  the bridge of horses cannot help.


(it was a medieval military tactic to stand horses together to make a bridge for soldiers to cross the river.)


“River of Death”


When the news of my birthing a son reached my husband, 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, and the issue of ‘dying with honor’ began at first light. The air soon filled with the sounds of battle- dying horses and men, drawing their last gasps of life, churned into the mud of immeasurable violence. Death, not new life was before his eyes at dawn. And death, not life, pillowed his head at night. 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 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 the fate of a man chained to Honor.

Still, in the darkest hours of the night, he said the soft, perfumed shape of me floated down from the fleeting clouds, and I came to him through the smoke of battlefield fires, and he turned on his pallet to embrace this haunting comfort.

Shaped like a crossbow

Moon floods the battle below

Too late for the dead.

Dark is the hour

when hope is vanquished

the nightingale sings



Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016






Please don’t read my work from the site: JP at Olive Grove.  Jingle Nozelar Yan owns the site and is a common thief and liar.    She said  she doesn’t have to ask permission to revise or post your work.  She said she depends upon this. She preys on real poets because she isn’t one.  She refuses to follow the US Copyright laws of the US.  This behavior is insulting to the entire poetry community.  Jingle Bells Yan is no poet If you love poetry, avoid her like the plague she is.

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22 Responses to “Haibun, “River of Death””

  1. Sherry Marr Says:

    You have written war as it must feel to those in battle, and described it very well. I love the idea of that haunting visit, to comfort him in the midnight hours.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Sherry. Thank you for reading this. I have no idea what the prompt would be but I hope it’s in line. If it isn’t, so what. I am grateful for you and a few others reading this haibun. I never wrote them before a month or so ago…and frankly? They are becoming my favorite form. Happy Halloween! Hugs


  3. ladynyo Says:

    Actually, this character, Lord Nyo…is ‘an ugly old warrior’ as he describes himself….but he is brought down by the birth of his only child. At 60 plus. I think we will hear more of him in the future. LOL!


  4. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) Says:

    Of course I do love your haiku the most in this haibun… but also the story of the terrible price of honor (especially tied to war of course).. the thought of have to take part and be part of such gruesome business as war,


  5. Brian Says:

    I read this earlier but waited to comment. The bridge that is honor links the past and present, the husband and wife and the army and its General. I enjoyed the smoky aspect of the words.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Brian. And I like your analysis of this haibun! Yes, honor is the bridge


  7. ladynyo Says:

    Thanks, Bjorn. Have been studying particular battles in Japan around the 15th century. Horrible stuff. And it was the very Japanese aesthetic of ‘giri’ that made it necessary to fight for your superior. Everything in life related to that…all relationships. Seems things haven’t changed much concerning the brutality of war.


  8. thotpurge Says:

    Great historical touch that is supported by strong haiku.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Grace Says:

    Indeed the price of honor and being chained to it can be overpowering. Good that death has been merciful time time around. I like the hope of the birthing of child, a stark contrast to the scenes of bloody war.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. purplepeninportland Says:

    This is wonderful. Everyone seeks to cross bridges in their lives. Honor is a steel bridge.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you! I really didn’t make the connection of this prompt bridges but you and Brian saved my bacon. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Grace. The level of chains in this 16th century Japan was a matter of life and death. You dare not go against this standard because you could take your whole family to the grave with you.


  13. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Thotpurge. I’m not great with haiku. It requires this almost abstract approach in the third line and it’s like standing on your head and spitting into the wind. The history isn’t to too many readers interest, but the life of the samurai was a difficult life for all around them. And the issue of giri also applied to the entire family. Chained in Honor, indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Sanaa Rizvi Says:

    This is beautiful, Jane.. especially the image of “I came to him through the smoke of battlefield fires, and he turned on his pallet to embrace this haunting comfort.”

    Liked by 1 person

  15. kim881 Says:

    Good morning, Jane! I’ve finally got around to reading posts from last night. Your description of the battle is stunning. I like the way you bridged the battle with a birth and a near-death experience and, after the gory details of battle, you finished on a gentle, romantic note.
    I really like that moon shaped like a crossbow!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Kim!~ I did this before reading the prompt. So, I am very grateful for others seeing a bridge in it all. I gleaned the idea from my book of 2015, “Song of the Nightingale” where the battle rages in the hearts and on the battlefield. The haiku was a bit easier after I wrote this haibun, but haikus are always tricky. Thank you for reading and your lovely comment.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Sanaa. the whole book is one of mythology and magic…with a lot of human angst thrown in. LOL! It’s really a tale about two married people who have been victims of their own ignorance. Especially the man. This episode (this is all in poetry form) lent itself to the haibun. I have never really written haibun until about 6 weeks ago, and I tend to mess it up, but it’s an exciting form of literature. Thank you for reading this piece.


  18. georgeplace2013 Says:

    I love this from the wife’s view point. This is so believable


  19. kim881 Says:

    You’re more than welcome, Jane!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! Thank you, Georgeplace!. The “Song of the Nightingale” of which this haibun was fashioned, is a story of great emotional turmoil between a husband who is almost double the wives age, and his ‘refusal’ to bend to his longing and love for his wife. He is ‘chained in Honor’ to his daimyo, but he just wants….in the end….to be a father and better husband. How she gets him to do this in rather interesting. LOL! Thank you for reading this haibun and your lovely comment.


  21. Rosemary Nissen-Wade Says:

    Hauntingly beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Rosemary.


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