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“Morning”

July 21, 2021

“Morning”

July 21, 2021

MORNING

A wedge of sullen moon

Pales aboveAs life awakes beneath.

Birdsong threads throughTrees, a staccato cacophony

Anointing the airLike colored ribbonsWeaving back and forth

The timbre ever changing.

Green spring trees, tender, tende

rAn early nursery of life

Can anything be wrong with the world?

The hammock swings gently of its own accord

Perhaps a haunt Sleeping an extra hour beforeVaporizing with the morning mist.

Faint gunshots last night

Where some wouldImpose their vile humanity

And we are startled for a moment

Until reclaimed by sleep.

Morning hoot of a sleepy owl

Echoes the cry of a distant train

While seed pods from the maple

Flutter to the ground,

Airborne whirligigs


.We have survived the dark, again,

Its blackened mysteries

,Uneasy, things that could stop up

Our breath.

We are cradled in Nature’s promise

Of life again beginning with each day.

The moon above yawns, fades, disappears

.Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

Chapter 13, Lord Yoki descends….from “The Kimono”

July 20, 2021

ome good and funny summer reading from “The Kimono”below a statue of a Tengu. Probably the KING of Tengus…..certainly not Lord Yoki at this stage. The fan is interesting…..a tengu waves it and produces tornados, wind storms, chaos, havoc and also knocks other tengus off the sides of mountains…..(this is all true and noted in ancient texts)3 Years AgoSee Your MemoriesActive

Jane Kohut-Bartels

JactulSlply dmno1e9n,asos ors201sedau8  · Shared with Public

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my favorite character in “The Kimono” is Lord Yoki, a riot of a monk. He’s a Tengu, a mythological creature from China originally but adopted very early by the Japanese. Tengus were military trainers of the Yamabushi (mountain warriors) and over time their p.r. changed. But they were known to trip up and befuddle arrogant Buddhist priests. I believe they exist. At least I have seen one in my neighborhood.Chapter 13, “The Kimono”….introducing the Tengu, Lord Yoki.IT WAS EARLY MORNING, the Hour of the Dragon, and Lords Tetsu and Ekei were drinking the first of many cups of cha. The brazier struggled to boil the water, so Lord Tetsu poked more charcoal beneath the fire. Filled with cold water, the brass kettle sweated as it slowly heated. The sky dawned with peach-colored clouds over the lake and raucous honking by resident geese. The air was cool, though late spring. There was little noise outside the castle except for the distant sound of waterfowl and the night soil men making their rounds. The buckets clanged against the old stones as the men dropped their poles to shovel in the manure left by beasts and oxen the day before. “Lord Tokugawa will expect a report by the new moon,” said Lord Ekei, his voice almost a whisper.“I know.” Lord Tetsu sipped his cha, scowling into his cup.“Our lord is expecting troops and provisions.” Lord Ekei blinked his eyes, trying to wake up. It was still early and the room cold.“He asks much to put down a peasant rebellion. It will just rise up again when the rains wash the blood from next spring’s soil.” Lord Tetsu grunted into his cup, maintaining his scowl. “The problem,” said Lord Ekei, pushing his point, “isn’t what the peasants do, it’s what the daimyos don’t do.”“And what is that, my friend?”“They don’t protect the peasants! The corruption from the tax collectors breeds these rebellions. Too many kokus of rice are taken from the fields and not enough are left to live upon. Under heaven, there is nothing else to do but riot. Starving bellies are invitations to rebellion.”Lord Tetsu nodded. “That is a big part of the problem. This is another one: living in Edo for six months every two years. The cost of this impoverishes every region.” Lord Tetsu filled both cups with more hot water, added a small amount of powdered tea to the cups and stirred them with a bamboo whisk. “Yes, yes, that is an important consideration,” said Lord Ekei, “but until Heaven moves its bowels, nothing can be done about that.”“A good strategy on the Emperor’s part would help, or rather, the Shōgun. The Emperor has no power anymore. He and his court are like painted gourds, although the effort to mobilize each daimyo in obedience to the court’s demands does keep us from each other’s throats.”“I think we shou–” Suddenly, a large bird appeared at the window, startling both lords. It was as big as a vulture and had a long red nose and dark iridescent feathers. It was a Tengu! The creature shook its feathers violently, creating a dust cloud that obscured it for a few moments. Out of the dust, a skinny priest appeared, dressed in a filthy kimono. Both lords bowed respectfully from their cushions.“Man, those air currents! They would tear a bird’s feathers from his body. Got a cup of sake around? Travel dehydrates me.” This Tengu was a priest from the Yamabushi clan. He hopped down from the window, scratching the side of his face where a scrawny gray beard covered it. “Lice,” he announced with a grin.Lord Tetsu made a cup of tea and handed it to the scratching man. He took it with a sour, disdainful glance at both lords and drank it without ceremony, smacking his lips loudly and wiping his hand across his thin lips.“Lord Yoki, we are honored you have come to advise us,” said Lord Ekei with another bow. “Well, beats hanging around Haight-Ashbury. Had to appear as a pigeon to fit in and all there was to do during the day was beg for breadcrumbs. Did look up plenty of skirts, though.” He laughed, a coarse, wheezing sound.Lord Ekei suppressed a smile and Lord Tetsu managed not to grimace. Lord Yoki’s antics were well-known. He delighted in time travel, a particular magic trick of his own. The stories he brought back sowed disbelief and created doubt as to his sanity. The two lords had heard such things from the priest before and were no longer shocked.Lord Yoki lowered himself to a cushion and rubbed his hands over the brazier. “Got any sake? Spring’s a bad time for travel.”Lord Tetsu clapped his hands twice. A servant soon appeared with three cups and a bottle of warm sake and placed them on the low table. Lord Tetsu poured the sake and offered the first cup to Lord Yoki. He drank it fast and promptly held out his cup for a refill. It would be a long morning with Lord Yoki and it best be spent drunk.“My lord, our Lord Tokugawa in Kyoto has called upon the daimyos of the western borders to send troops and supplies to put down a rebellion of peasants in Mikawa providence,” said Lord Tetsu quietly.“Well, being a vassal is tough. It’s the nature of the beast. Too many kittens and not enough teats, as they say.” Lord Yoki burped. “You want my advice? You got bigger problems closer to home. I heard from some other Tengu that Lord Kiyama is looking at your southern border with a covetous eye. That’s a dicey mountain range there and if he controls those trade passes, he can hem you in. Adding a province to his territory would be a feather in his cap.” The priest concluded with another belch.“If this is true, my Lord Tetsu,” said Lord Ekei, “then you will have to organize two campaigns at once. That would be very costly, neh?”Lord Tetsu’s eyes narrowed and he grunted. “I am sure Lord Yoki’s information is impeccable,” he said, bowing to the disheveled priest.“You bet your nuts it is,” said the priest sharply.“Is this information you have read in history books, Lord Yoki?” asked Lord Ekei.“Can’t read, never learned,” said the priest in a raspy voice. “Some things don’t make the history books. Sometimes pillow talk is more…reliable.”The lords considered the priest’s words. It was not beyond the pale. Men talked to women and men talked in their sleep. Either way, information was obtainable.The news of Lord Kiyama’s interest in his territory disturbed Lord Tetsu. It would be a bad position to be boxed in at that mountain range. “Perhaps there is a need to change plans,” suggested Lord Ekei.Lord Tetsu looked at the men sipping their sake. “Do I dare go against the desires of Heaven to thwart the schemes of Lord Kiyama?”The Yamabushi priest scratched his scrawny beard absentmindedly and coughed. “You might be looking at a new corner of Hell if you ignore him.”“If he hems you in, Hakuto, you would not be able to serve the needs of Lord Tokugawa,” said Lord Ekei.“Let me suggest, my lord,” said the priest with a little bow, “that you think about a spy or two in the household of Lord Kiyama. This could glean you some important and timely information.” “Yes, Hakuto, this is excellent advice,” said Lord Ekei. “If Lord Kiyama intends to seize your southern territory, we need to know his plans and the strength of his forces. Lord Tokugawa would also call upon Lord Kiyama for support as he would have some of the same considerations that we have.”“Good. I agree. A couple of well-placed servants should help.”“I would further suggest, my lord,” said Lord Ekei, “that you place a spy among his guard. A samurai who can be trusted with such a task. Perhaps an unknown captain from your own guard.”Lord Tetsu nodded to both men. “Again, I agree. Now we must consider the problem of which daimyos to call upon for support. Surely we have allies, Lord Ekei?”“Hakuto, without a doubt our Lord Kiyama will also be looking with the same eyes. Perhaps a quiet visit to one or two daimyos would make things better for us.”“If I may be so bold,” said the priest, scratching at his skin inside his kimono. “I agree that a visit be made soon. One never knows the plans of another man, especially at a distance.”Lord Tetsu picked up his cup, glanced at his advisor, Lord Ekei, and fell into deep thought. This priest has much sense for an old crow. Perhaps he should be the spy in Kiyama’s household? Could I dare presume upon the favors of such a man? Well, we are all Yamabushi so there should be something of favor there. Perhaps this has possibilities. Perhaps Yoki will be able to answer to this.

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Lord Nyo’s Poem from the Song of the Nightingale, Part 8

July 19, 2021

Lord Nyo’s Poem from the Song of the Nightingale, Part 8

July 19, 2021

For Gayle who understands love.

Who force my way even through the rocks,

In love I rue in misery.

—Man’yoshu

The rain ceased,

A cold light appeared

Dappling the ground beneath the gingko-

Like an indigo yukata.

Lord Nyo tiredly

Watched the morning grow,

His old bones stiff

As the autumn chill crawled up his spine-

Slow-moving, gait-crippling snakes.

Geese flew through peach clouds,

Their cries falling like chiding rain.

Paired for life these geese–

Like a man and woman should be.

His falcon,

Sitting in a bamboo cage,

Head tucked under a wing,

Feathers plumped against the

Raw morning breeze

Would want to hunt.

Lord Nyo preferred his warm bed.

Un-hooding the falcon,

Placing the bird on glove,

He launched her in air,

Watched her circle the firmament,

Soar in wide circles.

How beautiful!  How free!

Glossy feathers, sharp eyed,

Giving a shrill hunting cry

As she scanned earth.

She would come to his call,

This loyal bird–

She would not fly away.

Why did his wife not fly away?

As beautiful as this falcon,

As desirable by beauty,

Wit and breeding as any–

Yet she remained with him,

If not on his glove.

Once I did believe

Myself to be a warrior

Though I have found

Love has caused me to grow thin

Since my love was not returned.

The problem was not his wife.

The problem was this:

He could not bend,

Tightly laced in the armor,

In service to his own lord.

Ah, if she were here

We could listen together

To the sound of passing geese

Crying in the rising sun.

All day Lord Nyo cast his falcon

Into the air.

She brought down birds,

While he flushed out rabbits,

The voice of his bow sang

Until his saddle bags

Were full, heavy.

Still,

His mind did not turn

From poems flowing

From the river of his heart.

Although a warrior

I am lying and weeping here

While I make for you

A comb of willow branch-

Let it adorn your hair.

And….

My longing for her

Is a thousand waves that roll

From the sea each day

Why is it so difficult

To clasp that jewel to my wrist?

If from her mouth

There hung a hundred-year-old tongue

And she would babble

I still would not cease to care

But indeed my love would grow.

All day Lord Nyo

And falcon hunted,

Until darkness fell

And still he loathed

Returning home.

He struggled so hard.

What was of stone?

What was of flesh?

He remembered an old

Verse from the Man’yoshu:

Instead of suffering

This longing for my loved one

I would rather choose

To become a stone or tree

Without feelings or sad thoughts

Bah!

He was neither stone nor tree

He was a man

In sore need of the comfort

Of hearth and home,

And especially a loving wife!

Near dawn,

When birds awoke-

Began their morning chatter,

Lord Nyo turned towards home

Came through the wicket gate

Standing open, expecting him.

A bright cup of moon

Was low in the eastern sky,

Grinning like a demented god,

Through the morning fog.

Banji wa yume.

All things are merely dreams.

His wife on the veranda,

Quilted robe thrown over her head,

And only a small- wicked lantern

Did light her.

Lord Nyo slid off his horse

And bowed deeply to Lady Nyo,

A gesture without words

A gesture not needing them.

Lord Nyo mounted the steps

Pulled his wife to him and

Arm in arm,

They entered the house

To pillow in each other’s arms

While the uguisu–

The ‘poem-singing’ bird

Welcomed them from her

Branch in the plum tree.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011-2016

“Original Blessing”

July 14, 2021

“Original Blessing”

July 14, 2021

Original Blessing”

I am dizzy with love,

Standing in the rain,

This cosmic blessing

Pouring on my head,

Mingling with tears of gratitude

Til one stream

can not be deciphered

From the other.

I am an Original Blessing,

As are you,

And we are not born in sin,

But brought into the light of life

In great joy and anticipation.

Our first bellows are not of pain

But surprise at the roominess of the Cosmos,

As we kick our feet, flail our arms

And finally open our eyes at the glorious colors

Of Nature.

Original sin would have us

Born rotten,

A theological monkey on our back–

But I know no God of the Cosmos

Who would scar these tiny blessings

With such  a heavy burden.

Original Blessing is a deliverance,

A deliverance of hope, trust and pride

A heritage where we can discern and save

Ourselves,

Walk in harmony with the Earth,

Stride with God across the span of life–

For this Earth is our cradle,

And all in it our kin.

For a truly wise person

Kneels at the feet of all creatures

And is not afraid to endure

The mockery of others

And when the day sidles up to night

I will settle into the nest of the Earth,

Draw the dark blanket of the Cosmos

Across me,

Pillow my head upon stars

And know that the blessings I have been

Graced with today and always

Have come from the womb of God.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2021

Ode to a Cooper’s Hawk

July 14, 2021

ODE TO A COOPERS HAWK

Come to me.

Come to me,

Winged celestial beauty.

Come to me with your notched

Mermaid tail,

Your silken roll of feathers.

Fly down into my hollowed-out soul,

Fill me with your sun-warmed glory

Nestle in my arms

And bring the curve of the horizon

Embraced in your outstretched wings.

I need no white bearded prophet,

No mumbled prayer, no gospel song

No hard church bench, no fast or

Festival to feel close to the Divine.

The glory of the universe,

Is embodied in your flight

As you tumble through heavens,

Ride the invisible thermals

Screech with joy at freedom

Fill your lungs with thin air

And play bumper car with an Eagle.

I, earthbound,

No hollowed bones to launch me,

Just tired soul weighed down,

No soft plumage feeling the course

Of wind through glossy feathers,

No hunting call to herald my presence.

Still,

My soul takes flight

The breeze lifts my spirit,

My eyes follow you,

And we will find that glory-

Transcend a sullen earth

Transcend a mean humanity

And soar together into the blue eye of God.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016

Tsuki, sequel to “The Kimono”

July 9, 2021

Tsuki, sequel to “The Kimono”

July 9, 2021

Sequel to Kimono…

Dusk had fallen.  Lord Yoki and Tsuki, ducked out the back entrance from the temple to the pond.  There a stand of trees shaded the pond and covered their presence.  Lord Yoki knew he would be in trouble if found, but the frogs were calling.  Plus, the taste of frog legs were in his mouth all day.

Young Tsuki, the son of Lord Tetsu, was seven years old.  Lord Yoki was much older and wiser, but he was bored with the recitation of sutras that held him captive every day.  Lord Yoki couldn’t read, plus he was a Tengu, and birds don’t favor literature.  Nor do they recite sutras.

Lord Yoki was the tutor to the young Tsuki.  Appointed by Lord Tetsu, the former daimyo who had abdicated his position to another long time friend and ally, Lord Ekei.  Now he was in exile on a western coast of upper Japan, low on the side of a mountain.

Lord Yoki’s kimono was wet from the pond. He fell in, overreaching with his gigging spear.  Tsuki followed him, excitedly thrashing the calm waters with his. Pond scum coated their clothes and Lord Yoki, once back on the bank, looked at his charge.  There would be Hell to pay if Lord Tetsu caught them.

“Come, young master. I’ll take the basket and have it delivered to the kitchen.  You go clean up and change your kimono.  Your mother will have my head if she sees you in such a state.”

Tsuki entered their house and looking for his father, saw him on the balcony.  Bowing lowly, he addressed his stern father.

“Father, I am home.”

Lord Tetsu turned and looked for a long moment at his son.

“I see. And I also see that you have been in the pond again.  What was it this time?  Carp or frogs?”

Tsuki blushed and bowed even lower.  “Father, I can’t help it.  The frogs this time were calling to me.”

“Oh Ho!  Were they looking to hear the sutras or did you read them to the frogs?”

Tsuki looked confused.  “Father, you know that these kappa relatives don’t like to hear sutras.  They only want to hear each other croak.”

Lord Tetsu started to smile broadly.  His son was full of answers this evening, but his punishment would be mild.

“If that be the case, then you, Tsuki, recite a poem on what you and the frogs were doing out there.”

“It wasn’t only me, Father.  Lord Yoki was with me.”

“So I have two to blame for this?   Lord Yoki is his own man, so he is to be excused….but you, my son are still under my thumb.”

Tsuki looked crestfallen and dropped his eyes to the floor.  He had betrayed his friend Lord Yoki.  He already knew that his tutor would never do this to him. He had covered his antics many times.

“Father, can I have some time to compose this frog poem?”

Lord Tetsu glared at his son.  “You can have dinner after you compose your poem.”

Tsuki knew he couldn’t compose in such a short time.  He was not too keen on poetry, even short ones.  They made him cross his eyes and stick out his tongue in the attempt..  Plus, he was hungry.  He bowed to his father and went to his room.  Ah, his father was a renown poet, as was his m other, Lady Mari.  He, however, strained his brains to come up with even a short one.

“Bull frogs, Bull frogs”.  Nothing came to mind.  Perhaps he could seek out his tutor, as Lord Yoki was quick of mind.

Tsuki slipped down a hall where his tutor had rooms.  When he was allowed entrance to Lord Yoki’s rooms, they always smelled strange.  This time was no different.

He bowed low at the shoji and spied his tutor laying spread eagle on his bed.  Even his bed was different and strange.  It was like the futon was a pile of sticks and twigs with a quilt thrown over it all.

Lord Yoki sat up and nodded to the boy.  He had not changed his gown and it still was stained with pond scum.

“What is it now, young master?”

“Honorable Tutor.  My father perceived that I was gigging frogs again in the north pond.”

“And is that so unusual, son?  You spend as much time in that pond as you do in the temple at your lessons.”

“Yes, that is true, my Lord.  But frogs sing a different song than those boring sutras.  Plus you can eat them where you can’t eat a sutra.”

“So! What is it this time? What is the punishment your Lord Father demands?”

“My lord, he demands a poem about bullfrogs.  I can’t think of an opening line”.

“I bet you can’t think of a middle and closing line, neither”

Tsuki put on a sad, mournful face.  “Honorable Tutor.  Will you help me?  My father has forbidden me to eat my dinner until I present a poem about frogs.”

“Well, we can’t have you starving, Tsuki. Let me think, son.”  Lord Yoki  looked up at the ceiling and then down at the floor.

“I will.  IF you think of the final line.  Then we can attest that you at least had your hand in this.”

Bullfrogs bellow a different pitch

Autumn’s fast approaching.

And though they soak in a rocky pond……

“Your turn, Tsuki.  Close out the poem.’

“They escape the sun?”

“Well, it has promise.  What are the frogs trying to escape?  Think harder.”

“Summer heat they can’t escape?”

‘Not a bad ending, son.  You are not a seasoned poet, but that should get you dinner.”

When Tsuki presented himself for dinner, his father, mother and sister were  sitting at the long, low dining table.

“Good. We await your poem as I am sure you await your dinner.”

His sister, almost four years old, was sitting there, her head barely clearing the table.  She was sticking her tongue out at him.  Lady Mari pinched her arm.

Tsuki recited his frog poem and his father looked at him with one eye closed.

“It has the scent of Lord Yoki about it, but perhaps you had a hand in composing it?”

Tsuki nodded, and blushed.

“Well, sit down.  You have earned your dinner.”

Tsuki sat down, across from his sister and tried to look in the pot as a maid made her rounds of the table. He was hoping there was something besides miso broth in it.

His sister crossed her eyes and tried to stare at him. He glared at her and tried to look fierce. Lord Tetsu rapped the table with his spoon and his mother pinched his sister again.

Miu was the name of Lord and Lady Tetsu’s daughter.  She was tiny, her round head with her skimpy hair, pulled up in a ponytail, hardly cleared the table. She glanced at her father, using her spoon to eat the broth.  She got much of it down her long bib.

She was the apple of her father’s eye, and knew it.  Even at her tender age she knew she had her father wrapped around her tiny finger.  She smiled at her father, her lips glossy with broth. He stopped eating just to watch her, such tenderness apparent on his face. He glanced at his wife, and smiled.  From a fierce warlord, the sight of his two children had turned him into a man who acted like a tender nursemaid, not able to deny them anything. Many years before, he had a younger wife with two young toddlers, a boy and a girl. He was on land, all three were off the coast,  returning from a visit to relatives, when a rogue wave dashed the ship onto rocks.  They all drowned.  After the funerals, he climbed into the mountains and trained with the yamabushi, the ‘warriors who sleep on the mountain’.  He was gone for three years.

He glanced at his wife, Lady Mari. She smiled at him and then turned to wipe the broth from her daughter’s face. She had been surprised at the sentiment her husband had shown with his children. When she was introduced to his court, she heard a shocking incident.  He had risen from his seat and cut a man in half with his katana.  The whole court witnessed this slaughter. Now an ex-daimyo, his children were the center of his life. He had tried for more, but Lady Mari was growing older and no more children were born.  She wondered if her husband would take a second wife for children. So far, there had been no discussion of doing this, but it was pretty common in noble families.

 End of Chapter 1


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