“The Darkness Was Deep”


(European Eagle Owl, watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, in a private collection)


William Stafford wrote poetry every day, including the day he died in 1993.  When people asked him if he thought a particular poem of the day was weak, he would say “Then I will lower my standards.”  I think this is good advice for any poet. Don’t doubt, reject but keep the flow going.  We learn day by day.

Lady Nyo


The Darkness was deep

My father was too

And I craved any lamp

To get myself gone.


He wasn’t much with language,

But if I watched quietly

I could see a world

Shaping under his hands

As he carved, planed, sanded

Nothing much into something.


This was the beginning of poetry

Though I never knew it for half a century.

The quiet observation of things outside myself

That tumbled into stanzas

With peacock feathers and bird of paradise colors.


I wondered what world he was fermenting

With hands colored  by  wood stains,

Toughened with labor

Cracked with the mechanics of cold and old age.


He with his turnings, me with my words

Silently observing what each other was made of

What would come out of that darkness

And be led into the light.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017 (poem for the day)

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24 Responses to ““The Darkness Was Deep””

  1. Jade M. Wong Says:

    I really love the paragraph about William Stafford in the beginning of your poem. It’s such a good reminder to all poets everywhere, I feel like we’re the hardest judges of ourselves.

    Your poem is also a beautiful tribute to that feeling when you discover poetry 🙂


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Jade. William Stafford is a poet very much worth studying and generally reading. I have three volumes I read but not enough. Now? I am keeping them close for each day. And yes, we are the hardest judges of ourselves. The poem was more of a thought about my father who died in Nov 1989…a silent and very talented man, a carpenter/sheet metal worker and a French Horn player. I honor his life within mine. The best of parents, the only real parent I had. Thank you for reading and your insightful comment!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jade M. Wong Says:

    Wow…thank you for sharing your past and story with me, Lady Nyo. I think your father would be so proud of you and your writing 🙂


  4. Dr. Crystal Howe Says:

    So true, I’m not a wood carver myself, but like so many things, I appreciate the skill, the time, patience and everything that goes into it…as well as the final hand-made, hand-loved item. I really enjoyed this piece.<3


  5. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Jade. It was many years later that I became a writer, and particularly a poet, and he never lived for that. I was a painter closer to when he died and he did see a few of those. It is my greatest sorrow in life that we didn’t have more time together and to share and talk. Thank you so much for writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ladynyo Says:

    Wow, Dr. Howe. I am so amazed. I just cobbled this poem at my computer right before I posted it. It really is a very simple poem, but speaks to the differences in a father and daughter who really didn’t know each other well for many reasons. However, I do know now, but only now, that my father embodied the concept of Unconditional Love. Something the rest of my birth family avoid like the plague. LOL!~ Sometimes our poems, writing strike deep because they haven’t gone through much ‘refining fire’. LOL! Thank you so much for writing.


  7. Maureen Sudlow Says:

    it is important to have creativity in any form


  8. lovemorestudio Says:

    Still, quiet, and touching. Nice write! ~peace, Jason


  9. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Jason. Peace to you.


  10. ladynyo Says:

    Agreed, Maureen. Many do not realize that this river of creativity is deep inside and can not be ignored forever. It springs forth in the most impossible times.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Maureen Sudlow Says:

    yes, it left mine a little late…


  12. paul scribbles Says:

    “The quiet observation of things outside myself

    That tumbled into stanzas”

    This ❤


  13. ladynyo Says:

    Thanks, Paul. The recent influence of Stafford sets a particular mood. The simple approach is better in these things, I think. I was reading him this am, on the back porch where I could hear the morning birds, and his words…”finding out what the world is coming to be’… just hit me hard. There is such tenderness in his work. And such honesty. He’s kind but he also tells it like it is. Especially about folk. His.


  14. ladynyo Says:

    Ah, shucks, Maureen….as long as it was there. I didn’t start into any poetry until I was 60. A late starter indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Abhra Says:

    Such a beautiful and heart warming write – that connects two souls. Truly loved your words.


  16. ladynyo Says:

    thank you so much, Abhra. I wish I had been a more attentive daughter to my father, and he died in 1989, but there were so many other issues at that time. I can only write poems to a man who, without declaiming…practiced Unconditional Love….every day of his life. I wish I had more time with him.


  17. Bodhirose Says:

    This made me contemplate that I believe my father would have loved to have read my writings. He was an avid reader and loved words. He died about five years before I took up writing in 2010. I loved the gentle acceptance of each other that I sensed in your warm and sweet poem, Jane. xo


  18. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Gayle. It is our personal tragedies that our fathers didn’t get a chance to see what we were thinking about, fermenting in this particular part of our lives. I would have loved for him (as you would) to know this part of their daughters. Actually, my father was a good writer of letters…funny and off kilter, and I had only three from him, and stupidly gave one to my mother who didn’t appreciate it at all….but I treasure the two I have left. They are sweet, touching and hysterical. Gives me a glimpse into a man I really didn’t know well. Thank you, Gayle. xox


  19. Bodhirose Says:

    I can truly say that I didn’t know my father very well either, at least not his innermost self of feelings and emotions that he could share openly. No, I mostly knew his pain-filled side and how he self-medicated himself to try and dull his demons. Too bad about that for everyone involved. What a treasure those letters are for you like those books were to me…they are long gone now but not my memory of how happy they made me. xo


  20. ladynyo Says:

    Well., I didn’t either, Gayle. Only with his death, years later, did I come to appreciate him and his kindness. I teetered between his drunk kindness and my mother’s sober malice. It was hard as a child to exist between to such different poles. he had demons, too but I think his wife was the worse. And yes, we pick and choose memories to at least have something to hold on to. People who have normal childhoods are rather a strange breed to me. But we do what we can to survive. Books are a great thing to have, especially in childhood. They go a long way to seeing the world beyond our experience. xox


  21. kanzensakura Says:

    Such a peaceful abd profound poem Jane. I know my mother would love my poems. I never shared my poetry with any if my family. .. For whatever reason. I find strangers to be more honest as ny parents think anything I do is amazing.


  22. ladynyo Says:

    that is so wonderful, Toni. To have parents that are so embracing and not critical. Well, you are also an excellent poet so I could see this. I didn’t share my poems with my father because he died way before I ever wrote any. However, I made the critical mistake of sharing them with my mother, who thought all of them were about ‘her’ and didn’t like most of them. I also find strangers more embracing and honest than my family. That is a tragedy for those of us who write. Thank you, Toni. My thoughts are will you this morning. Love.


  23. kanzensakura Says:

    Thank you Jane. It is sad to grow up as you did. It is abuse, plain and simple. She should be put in prison.


  24. ladynyo Says:

    Thankyou, Toni. Yes, it was abuse, plain and simple. But I think she has been in a prison of her own making her entire life. Delusions. I used to hate her, because she was unable to love me. Now? I just pity her. But I think of what ‘legacy’ I will leave behind. I want that to be one of love for others and I want them to know it. Now. I have experienced too much raw hatred from people who should have known better.
    I am just glad that my relationship with my son is so much better and different. He deserves the best, as the start of his own life was very rocky.


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