Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

“You’re All I Have”….poem of my husband.

July 26, 2020

via “You’re All I Have”….poem of my husband.

“You’re All I Have”….poem of my husband.

July 26, 2020


“You’re all I have”

Heard in the dark

Heart almost stopping

In an inattentive breast.


I dare not look at him

Too bald a sentiment

And too true to bear

A light, comforting answer.


What would occasion

Such a piteous sentiment?


When one has lived

Within another’s hours, days, years,

The fabric of this making

Can be forgotten.


The warp and weave, the very thread

That appears as if out of air

(and it does…)

becomes substantial,

it covers and clothes more than the body

and the life blood of sentiment,


Becomes the river within, unending,

Even transcending the pulse of life.


“You’re all I have,”

A whispered refrain

That echoes in the heart

And burrows deep.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010-2020

In this age of uncertainly, hold tight to those who truly love.  They can disappear like a mist over a river.

“The Children of Aleppo”

July 20, 2020

via “The Children of Aleppo”

“The Children of Aleppo”

July 20, 2020


0403Whe-R01-016The Children of Aleppo


There is no childhood in Aleppo.

There are little martyrs-in-the-making

Where 5 year olds and 8 year olds

Wish for a ‘family death’

Where they can die together

With their parents,

Where they live in peace in Heaven

Never tasting the fruits of peace on Earth.


There is no childhood in Aleppo.

The children haunt the abandoned houses

Of friends who have fled the city.

There they find abandoned teddy bears

While looking for guns for the rebels, their fathers.


A dead canary in his cage

Abandoned by its owners

In the face of daily death.

The sight of this bird

Evokes a child’s sorrow.

The gunfire outside continues

(They are used to the noise)

And huddle in the pockmarked

Halls until safe to scatter.



The children of Aleppo

Have no teachers, doctors.

These have fled the cities, schools

But they still pine for ice cream,

For music in the streets,

For curtains not torn by violence,

For books and toys

And gardens and flowers,

For friends that have not died

Innocent blood splattering

The dirty cobble stones

At their feet.


The children of Aleppo

Are free and children again

Only in their dreams,

And perhaps, if you believe so,

After death.


How do you put back the brains

Of a child in the cup of the shattered skull?

How do you soothe the howls of the mothers,

The groans of the grieving fathers?

How do you comfort the siblings?


The children of Aleppo

Have no future as children.

They are the sacrifice of parents

And factions,

And politicians

All with the blood of

20,000 children on their hands.


The beautiful children of Aleppo

Like children everywhere

Still want to chase each other

In the gardens, on playgrounds,

Want to dance in the streets,

Want to pluck flowers for their mothers

And they still pine for ice cream.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2019





“High Road”

July 14, 2020

via “High Road”

“High Road”

July 14, 2020



Asking directions to the high road,

I got shrugs and blank stares

yet knew there were two roads-

both led into infinity

both coursed through

all manner of life with pitfalls, trenches

where bones were broken

skulls rattled loose from moorings

like ships in high winds, dangerous waters.


What was the difference

and why should it matter?

The effort costs

energy regardless the choosing.


An old man sat at the crossroads,

a bum, grizzled gray hair

sprouting porcupine’s quills,

rheumy, pale eyes staring at the world–

little interest in what passed by.


I asked him the way to the High Road

and with a toothless grin

he stared at my feet, my hands,

lifted his eyes to my face.

I thought him mad and cursed myself

(asking questions of a fool!)

And was moving away when I heard his voice:


“Did I know of the eagle and crow,

how they soared upon thermals

higher and higher

became dark, formless specks upon a limitless sky,

lost to human eye, invisible even to gods?”


I thought him crazed and started away-

he cackled and spat on the ground.

Something made me turn, startled,

And saw the wisdom of Solomon in his

now- shining eyes.



“The crow harries the eagle, the eagle flies higher.

Vengeful, annoying crow flies round eagle’s wing

turning this way and that, yet the eagle flaps upward

soars upon thinning air until the crow

breathless and spent, drops to the common ground-

falls to his death.”


“The High Road, the path of the eagle.

The low road, the path of the crow,

mingling with dullards

daring nothing, with eyes cast downward

only saving a bit of energy

learning nothing of worth.”


Silently he sat, an old man

eyes glazed with age and fatigue.

With a nod to his wisdom and a toss of a coin

I gathered my strength and pushed onward,

Upwards, the lift of eagles, now under my limbs.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017








“Kobayashi Issa, 1763-1827, A Haiku Poet with an Enormous Heart”

July 6, 2020


Savannah Birds


“Song of the Nightingale”.  Watercolor by the author. In 2015 I published a book by the same name on

I have had “The Essential haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa” for a few years and have only really gotten to Basho. But recently reading Issa, (Issa means Cup-of-Tea), the world of haiku opened up in ways I didn’t expect. I have spent my Easter weekend delighting in Issa’s poetry, and it has begun to restore my battered humanity.

What is remarkable about Issa’s poetry is the compassion for the lowest of creatures (insects, etc.), the deep interest in the commonalities of life, compassion for humanity, and the celebration of the joyful celebration of the ordinary.

Haiku can be a perplexing poetry form. Recently I have read a lot of bad haiku. I’ve written about this before. (I’ve also written bad haiku myself) It seems people throw together observations and call it haiku. It generally isn’t. There are ‘rules’ and structures for this poetry form, and it seems that many people who attempt haiku have no regard for even reading or researching some of these fundamentals. If they started with a reading and research of renga, they would get some background of haiku, or hokku, which is what haiku was first called.

Renga, or linked verse, is marvelous to read. One poet starts with a three line poem, another picks it up, and so on. They can go on for a hundred linked poems or more. Usually accompanied by sake.

What was remarkable of renga, and later of haiku…is the shifts and dissolves that remind one of early surrealist films. And there are some modernist poets, like Ezra Pound’s XXX Cantos, or even better, Wallace Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” that comes near to the renga spirit, this shifting and resolve.

But the Buddhist tradition embraced this shifting and resolve. Renga, and then haiku, have a way of embracing this life, this transitory nature of all things.

I came across a part of a 14th century treatise on poetry: “Contemplate deeply the vicissitudes of the life of man and body, always keep in your heart the image of mujo (ephemerality) and when you go to the mountains or the sea, feel the pathos (aware) of the karma of sentient beings and non-sentient things. Give feeling to those things without a heart (mushintai no mono) and through your own heart express their beauty (yugen) in a delicate form.”(from “Basho and the Way of Poetry in the Japanese Religious Tradition”)

Again, haiku isn’t as simple as it seems. But it’s direct, forceful and of a keenness that satisfies.

People complain of the ‘oddness’ of haiku. Perhaps it is this ‘shifts and resolve’ embedded in the form. To me, Issa has less of this than Basho or Buson. There is a directness and compassion of Issa that deeply involves the heart and eyes.

My words will not convince anyone. But perhaps examples of Issa will.

Lady Nyo

Haiku of Issa: from The Essential Haiku, edited by Robert Hass


New Year’s Day—

Everything is in blossom!

I feel about average.

The snow is melting

And the village is flooded

With children.

Don’t worry, spiders,

I keep house


Goes out,

Comes back—

The loves of a cat.

Children imitating cormorants

Are even more wonderful

Than cormorants.

O flea! Whatever you do,

Don’t jump.

That way is the river.

In this world

We walk on the roof of hell,

Gazing at flowers.

Don’t kill that fly!

Look—it’s wringing its hands

Wringing its feet.

I’m going out,

Flies, so relax,

Make love.

(approaching his village)

Don’t know about the people,

But all the scarecrows

Are crooked.

A huge frog and I,

Staring at each other,

Neither of us moves.

All the time I pray to Buddha

I keep on

Killing mosquitoes.

What good luck!

Bitten by

This year’s mosquitoes too.

The bedbug

Scatter as I clean,

Parents and children.

And my personal favorite…

Zealous flea,

You’re about to be a Buddha

By my hand.

A few of my own, struggling with the form.

Dogwoods are blooming.

The crucifixion appears

White moths in the night.

Tibetan earthworms

Bring a halt to all labor.

Here? Fat koi eat well.

Radishes are Up!

From such tiny seeds they grow

My stomach rumbles.

The morning glories

Twisting up the iron fence

paint random colors.

Sorrow floats like air

Strong winds blow throughout the night

Plague of death descends.

Pale lavender sky

Balances the moon and sun

The scale shifts to night.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2013-2015

“Devil’s Revenge” Chapter 2

July 2, 2020

via “Devil’s Revenge” Chapter 2

“Devil’s Revenge” Chapter 2

July 2, 2020



“What the hell?”


Opening my eyes, I struggled to focus.  Embers had popped from the fireplace

sounding like the Fourth of July!  One rolled to where I was sitting and stopped at my bare foot.  Blinking, I snatched my foot back and took a deep breath.  If materializing this way was supposed to unsettle me, it was working.  My hands shook, my heart raced; I felt nauseous.    At someone’s command I appeared in this room.


The wind raced around the corners of the house, and sleet scratched at the window panes. I was glad for the good fire before me.  I was chilly now dressed in a linen morning gown, nothing more than a wrapper over a chemise. I had a mob cap on my head, falling over my eyes, but at least I was without stays. I could breathe again.


Placed on the tea table were two sheets of stiff paper and a lead pencil.   I stared into the flames leaping about the logs, lost in thought, the sway of the fire hypnotic, the sound of the sleet beating a tattoo on the windows.


Was he a demon?  Well, he wasn’t the Devil, or at least he didn’t seem to be.  I had no idea what he was, and my knowledge of anything supernatural was poor to non-existent. But he shouldn’t exist, not if I was sane and the universe, too. What was he?  My imagination couldn’t stretch that far to account for all these magical things, like the tankards appearing with a snap of his fingers, or that he had materialized out of the pages of an unfinished book.  But perhaps these things were small beer compared to what was possible?  In any case, I was caught between two worlds, my comfortable if mundane life with a husband and this apparent ‘rip in the fabric of the universe.’



Since I had been thrown back into this book, perhaps I could write a couple of lines.  I might as well use the time given, and writing would calm my nerves.  The chapter’s weather on my page imitated the weather outside my window, both gray and threatening days.  I would write in a snowstorm, the two characters not able to travel, stuck in the countryside.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw a small movement and glancing up, there sat the demon, Garrett Cortelyou.   I jumped and squeaked out a scream, covering my mouth with my hands.




“Goedemorgen to you, and I am still the Devil, I see.”  He sat across the room, unshaven this morning.  His appearing like that and his confounded ability to read thoughts rattled me.


“I am thinking of growing a beard, just to bedevil you.” He grinned, sitting back in his seat, stretched his legs and propped one boot upon the other.


“Why would I care if you had a beard? I said sourly.


“It would give a turn to seducing you, something new and untried.”  He grinned even broader and winked at me.  “Ah, think how good it will feel with my beard brushing the soft skin in the middle of your back.   I can think of other places to bury it just as fine.”


“Ah, stop it, Demon child. What business brings you here this morning except to taunt me.”


“You should form that as a question, not a statement. Again, with the bad English.”


“It is not a question of whether you will taunt me, but a fact.  I already felt your sting.”


Stretching his arm out, he lay it palm up on the table, his hand out for mine.  A gentle gesture.  I had no reason to trust him.


“Yes, a gentle gesture, and one that I would like to follow up with more ‘stinging’ of your secret parts, my sweeting.”  His eyes were languid and narrowed, and left no question where his mind was this morning.


I reddened at his silly words, in spite of my determination to ignore.


“Oh, I don’t think you are at all displeased, sweetheart.  I think you are attempting to play a game where your feet do not touch bottom.”


“Tell me, then. How does this work?  Does anybody in my life notice I’m gone?  I don’t remember anything when I’m home. It seems the time with you is all a dream.  What happens here?  How do you do these things?”   I looked around the room, wondering if I came down the chimney.


Garrett smiled. “Time is different in each dimension.  A month here is an hour there.”


“Then my husband doesn’t know I’m gone?”


He snorted, a strange sort of laugh.  “I think you could be gone a week, your time darling, and that husband of yours wouldn’t notice.”


I didn’t want to humor him, and suppressed my own laughter.  He was probably right.  My husband was addicted to television and we led almost separate lives in our marriage.  Little held us together, except our dogs and cats, and a comfortable routine. But it was a long, comfortable marriage.


“How do you bring me here?”


“Why should I tell you?”


“For Christ’s sake!  You kidnap me from my bed and bring me to yours.  There are laws against such behavior.”


He started to laugh.  “If I told you, it would ruin all the fun.”


“For you?  I have a marriage to hold together and you are interfering in my life.”


His smile disappeared. “You are quite the little hypocrite.  You put a set of horns on his head fast enough and now you complain?  I seem to remember you enjoying the screwing you got.  Perhaps I should give some lessons to your husband.”


“You are a bastard!  He’s a fine and sweet man!”


I rose from my seat in my anger. He did not seem impressed.   He barely changed his posture, only crossed his arms over his chest.  If he thought I would hit him, he didn’t seem to care.


“Yet here you are with me. And curious as to what comes next.  That depends on controlling your temper.  You act like a spoilt child.”


Suddenly I felt drained.  This show of anger was not getting me anywhere.  He was stubborn, with his own set of rules.  And he was right. I had set the horns upon my own husband’s head and enjoyed the screwing that set them there.  Slowly I sat down in my chair, my energy gone.  I didn’t have a moral leg to stand on.


“Woman.”   I heard his voice through my tears.  “I promise you your dear husband will not notice you gone.  He will think you outside feeding your chickens or getting his ale from that cold cabinet.”


I started to laugh through my tears.   He could be a fly on the wall or a ghost haunting my house!


“Sixteen years gives me the authority to do so,” he said, reading my thoughts.


Again he stretched out his hand to me across the table.  It was a tender gesture, but I was having none of it.  He sat back and looked at me solemnly.


“Take the mobcap off, please.  It reminds me of Aunt Catherine in bed, and that’s a cock- crushing sight if I ever saw one.”


I took the cap off.  It was slipping over my eyes.  Aunt Catherine was a character in the book in her eighties, almost bald and toothless.


“What have you done to your hair?”  He looked intently at my now caramel streaked locks.


“Oh, summer is rough, being out in the garden, and the southern sun, you know….” My words trailed off.  What in hell was I doing here? Talking to a doppelganger like he was a friend.  “I put in caramel streaks.”


“Why would you put candy in your hair?”  Garrett’s eyes narrowed in puzzlement. “Does it taste sweet?”


“Oh Lord, deliver me from such fools!  No, Garrett, it is just a color that women put– Oh, never mind.”


“Hey day! What’s this?”  He spied my foot with the cherry red nail polish peeking from my under my gown.  He reached down and grabbed my foot, almost yanking me off my seat.


“Demon!  Remember I’m attached to that foot!”  He had it in his lap, where he stared at my toes.


“It’s like cherries in milk, your foot!”  Looking up at me, he laughed. “From your hair to your feet, I could eat you up.”   He looked like he was just capable of doing so. I snatched my foot back from his lap.


“You are here for a reason, now state it and leave.”  I felt foolish sitting in my bathrobe talking to something not real.


“Ah, my pretty author, do I need a reason to visit you in my house?  Remember that you are here at my calling.   Let’s start with a name.  What am I to call you?”


Oh God…I had not thought of this!  After all these years, one would think he would know by now.  I had three Christian names and tried not to think of them. I couldn’t fool the damn devil.


“Well, Sarah is taken now.  And a bit morbid for me to call you that.  Remember?  Sarah is killed by your friend Obadiah.   I’ll call you Bess from your middle name.  I like the sound of that.  Nice and docile.”   He threw back his head and laughed.


I well remember what I write, you stupid devil.  Why was he here this morning? Or more to the point, what in hell was I doing here in this bedroom?


“I came to apologize,” he said, offhandedly.   “I was a bit rough, not that you didn’t deserve it.   I could have been a lot rougher, but then, you wouldn’t have been so nice to me.”  The loathsome devil grinned.


“Ah, still with the names….and you were nice to me.  Even if you resisted at first.”


“Garrett that was rape.  You know that.”  I wondered if he could feel remorse.  I didn’t know how much was human, how much devil.


“Your own fault, Bess. You refused to kiss me. Had you been sweeter to me you’d have no problem at all. Next time allow me your mouth, it will go better for you.”  He paused. “I don’t know how you could call that rape, sweetheart.  You fell in my arms fast enough.”


My mouth was open with shock. What an arrogant man…demon!  But he was right.  I had tried hard not to respond to his ardor, but my body was not of the same resolve.  Blushing, I tried not to remember his lovemaking.


My stomach was rumbling, and snapping his fingers, a tray of tea appeared on the table between us.


“Would you like a cup?”  I was trying to focus on something else, yet my hands shook.


“Yes, make it sweet, my love.”  He turned his chair to face me.  Looking over his cup, he caught my eyes.  He was such a silly demon and appeared right at home in this bedroom.


“Before, it was ‘demon lover’.  I liked that best.  Could you please say it again?”


I smiled, touched at his vanity.  ‘Yes, demon lover, and all attendant titles that go with it.”  Oh God! What am I saying?  Where is my sense? Where is my sanity?


“Ah, that’s better. Tell me, Bess, what happens at the end of the book?”


“You mean you don’t know?”  I was surprised, I thought he would.  I hadn’t written it down, but knew the outcome for a number of years.  I thought he was a mind reader.


“No, I don’t know.  I have tried to read your confounded writing, but until you typeset it into a book, I can’t.  Tell me- do I survive Obadiah?  Do I get the girl?  What is my fate?”


“Do I look like a gypsy woman?  Why should I tell you anything.  I think that is the only power I have.”   I sat back and looked at him smugly.  Two could play at his nasty game.


“Oh, my darling woman, you have more power over me and John Thomas down here than you know.   And speaking of cocks, who are these other men in your life?   Does your husband know of the horns you are planning to put on his head?”    He looked at me, his dark eyes flashing.  I wondered suddenly if he ever had a soul.


“How would you know anything like that?”   I rose from my seat, again, angry and stupid. Before I could formulate an answer, he rose from his chair and yanked me to him, hurting my wrist.


“You are full of fun, with no idea of consequences,” he said almost hissing with anger, pulling me close to him.   “I would call you a cocktease, but you know what you are. You think your glib tongue will hold you from harm?  It will lay you down for it.  You are such a little fool.”


“You are hurting my wrist.  Stop it!”  My words were sharp and he dropped my arm.  I stood there rubbing where his fingers now marked my skin.


He was angry about something.  I could see that.  Shocked by the violence of his words and hurting my wrist, I was growing afraid and tried to placate him with sweet words.


“Garrett….I created you from the desire of my loins.   No mortal can compete with you.  You are a subject of jealously among men, my demon friend”.


“Ah, not demon lover?” He was not so easily put off, but I could see he was trying to control his temper.


“Garrett, as a character, created by me, you are perfection.  There is nothing lacking in you.  I have seen to that.  No human can hold a candle to you.”


I wondered why I would say such a thing!  Fear had to be the larger part of my thinking.  He had the strength and violence of manhood, compounded by magic.  I needed to be more cautious.  He had the power of a demon, after all.


“Your words are not so original, but will do for now.”


He made a mocking bow, ending the argument.    Placing his hands on his hips, he looked at me with a bemused expression on his face.


“I want some changes here.  I am being starved by you. And your thoughtless writing.”


“What do you mean, sweet Demon?”


“Ah, nice and docile, Bess!  I like that.  Do it more.” He laughed but it wasn’t a cheerful sound.


“For a week I have fed on bread, cheese, and ale.  Jennie doesn’t cook for me, nor does Daniel.  I am hungry and that doesn’t make my temper better.  I want some real food written into this damn novel.  I want some Zuur Tong, Head Cheese, some Gehakt, a nice Hutspot a couple of times a week. I want you to bake me some kretenbroad.”


“All right, Garrett…translate those words.”   Zuur Tong turned out to be Spiced Tongue, Gehakt was sausage, Hutspot was a one-dish meal of beef, mashed potatoes, onions and carrots and Kretenbroad was currant bread.


I couldn’t resist.  “Why don’t you snap your fingers?”


He grimaced.  “I can’t seem to manage more than a tankard of ale, some spirits and a tray of tea.  I can levitate a chamber pot, but you don’t want to see that trick.”


I laughed and told him that I would write in Daniel, the caretaker, and bring in his niece, Anna, to cook. These were characters from the original book I had put aside for some other life.  Somehow magic was needed here for this to happen, but that was the demon’s part.


“Good. Settled. Now come here, lambkin.  He led me to the window that looked down to the river.  Placing me in front of him, he put his arm around my shoulder, holding me.


“I don’t like sitting in that library all day, I want you to write me out there hunting. I want to bag more ducks. There are geese on the river bank for the taking, can you see them from here?”  He stretched a long arm towards the general direction of the river, but I saw nothing in the gray, morning light


“Maybe a deer or two.  I need some time with my guns, and I want to get a pack of dogs. Agreed?  And about your Dutch.”


He was full of demands today.  I had to smile. “What about my Dutch?”


“It is rotten.  You write what you don’t know. Again. You should ask me.  Like the word ‘fokken’….It doesn’t mean to ‘plow’…it means to copulate.  Simple, isn’t it? Now, let us get fokken.”  He tried to steer me towards the bed, but I twisted out of his reach.


“Stop, Garrett.  You have the seduction manners of a goat.”  He stopped in surprise in the middle of the room.


“I am unworthy of your cherry, plucked though it’s been.  Forgive my manners, my lady.”  He gave a low and elegant bow, and coming up, picked me up over his shoulder.  He threw me hard on the bed and jumped on top of me.


“I can’t breathe, you monster!  Get off me, give me some air!”


“I might, if you willingly give me your mouth this time.”


“And what do you intend to stuff in it?  I know you, Garrett. I may have been oblique about your ‘lesson plan’ in the novel, but I think I know something of your appetites.”


He rolled off of me, laughing.  Turning back, he propped himself on an elbow, stroking the hair from my face.


“You and I, we understand each other, no?  Perhaps I don’t have to read every thought of yours.  But it is fun, and it gives me an advantage.”


“It’s an unfair advantage, Garrett–and you know it.  I have little independence when you do so.”


“Ah, but that is some of the delights of being a woman.  You submit to me, in all things, and I will fill your–mouth with sweet things.  I will stroke your limbs and warm your belly, and you will grow to open to me with pleasure.”


“Now who sounds like a second-rate novel?”


“And what kind of novel are you writing? Do you even know?”


“I don’t, just something decent.  Men are critical- and my girlfriends are even more so.”


“What do the men think?”  He asked, distracting himself, twisting a lock of my hair.


“I thought that you would know this?  Don’t you read my emails?”


“No, I don’t.  Not yet.  Isn’t there a password involved?”


“Why would a demon need a password?  Aren’t you all seeing?”


“I’m trying, my sweet woman, to seduce you.  I don’t give a damn about your letters. I want to know the competition.   I want to know about these men who want to stick their tongues down your throat and part your pretty thighs.    Why are you talking to them about the novel?  Why mention us?


“I didn’t know that there was ‘us,’ Garrett.  You forget you are all fantasy.  All in my mind, and all in the book.”  I snapped my fingers; he was still there.


“I think I am all between your legs right now.”  He stroked me through my gown.


“You want to kiss me, why don’t you start with my mouth?”


“You can delay all you want, you sweet witch.  I have eternity here.”


“Then this is Hell?  Purgatory?  Something like Dante’s Inferno?


Putting his head next to my neck, he breathed gently on my skin.   The warmth of his breath was arousing.


“Would you stop trying to figure it out and just let it be?  Look, I will lie quietly with you, and we can coo together.  I promise you will rise as virginal as you are now.  Just go cook me something in the kitchen.  I am fading fast.”


I promised to feed him but he didn’t keep his.  The afternoon was a quiet one, as he slept on my breast.  I had a chance to observe this demon lover closely, and he was as beautiful in life as anything I could put on the page.  He would be happy with that, but of course, he already knows what I think.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2007-2020

“Devil’s Revenge”, Chapter 1, or part of it.

June 30, 2020

Garrett in Devil's Revenge

In 2006 I started a novel.  It was set in the 1820’s and had a lot of sex in it.  it’s something I finished but never published. Now?  I want to rewrite this novel and see how it floats.  What you write in 2006 isn’t what you would necessarily write in 2020.  So, in the heat of summer, I am applying myself to something old, (my second novel) and seeing if it can becomes something new and improved….

Lady Nyo



I am going to relate a strange tale.  Not really a tale, because to me, a writer, a tale smacks of fiction.  This, in any case, was not fiction.  I felt the full effects of its turnings.  It happened and it’s not over yet.  I just have to tread water because each time I open my eyes, after a fitful night’s sleep, I am again locked in a world not of my making.

Well, part of my making, but even my lurid imagination pales with what I have experienced.

Sixteen years ago I wrote a long novel, set in the 1820’s.  The characters had names from the Dutch families I knew while growing up.  Everything was fiction, except the landscape, all of them were just figments of my imagination, the creations of a writer.  Never did I expect them, or some of them, to leap out of the pages of that unfinished book and change the course of my life.


I feel I have dropped down a rabbit hole, or into some strange alien universe. Perhaps I am mad.  In any case, events are spiraling out of control, beyond my control, and now?


I have none.  I have given up my will to fate, destiny and I don’t even know what that means anymore.


Bear with me, reader.  Understand what I write, what you read, is my life now.


Bess McShane



Chapter 1


One morning I sat upright in bed, gasping in terror.  The light was dim, making it hard to see. There was a fireplace with a low burning fire.  An ember must have exploded. There could be no other answer to the sudden noise. Asleep, it sounded like gunshot.


My eyes adjusted and I looked around.  An ember exploded? Where the hell was I?  My heart pounded and a sickness rose up my throat. Suddenly I knew where I was.  Many years ago I wrote a novel, still unfinished, and now I was in the bedroom I carefully constructed. But perhaps I was just dreaming?


I felt a sharp constriction around my ribcage and tried to take a deep breath. I was wearing some kind of corset, laced tightly over a slip.  No wonder I couldn’t breathe. At least this made some physical sense.  A cap had fallen over my eyes and I snatched it off. It was a mobcap.


I tried to take more deep breaths to get my bearings but no amount of air would calm me.


What had happened from the time I went to sleep in my own bed, next to my snoring husband?  How did I make the transition to this bed?


The constriction around my chest did not dull me to the sudden pressure of my bladder. There was a closet in the corner and I knew inside that closet there was a chamber pot encased in a stool.  I had written that detail into the book and now was very glad for it.


Slipping out of the high bed, I padded across the wood floor.  It was a strange thing to pee in a chamber pot. Everything was so quiet,  even the birds outside asleep, but the noise of urine hitting china was too loud for the morning.  It made me self-conscious, even though I thought I was still dreaming.  I had to be.


I came from the closet and sat down before the fireplace.  The fire suddenly flared and I jumped in surprise. This was weird, almost as if an invisible hand fed the fire. At least it would warm up the cold room. A cup of tea sat on the table, still hot.  It was dark and steam rose in the air.  I was almost afraid to touch it, but my mouth was dry from fear.  There, a sip, and it was tea.



A dresser was across the room from the bed, with a small mirror on the wall above.  The image appeared to be me, my hair the usual color, my skin the same shade. Yes, me, but I pinched myself, just to see if I was still dreaming. If pain were any indication of my present state, I was awake.


Clothes were spread across the back of a chair, and I eyed them curiously. I took the dress from the chair and held it at arms length.  It was a pale yellow, and appeared to be wool.   Straight sleeves fell to the wrists, the bodice cut low.  I wondered how modest one could be in such fashion with the tops of breasts so prominent, pushed flat by the stays.  Under the gown was a pair of bloomers.    Crotchless, they opened from the front to back.  I giggled, a bit hysterically.  Like Alice, I had dropped down a rabbit hole.


Nothing seemed real.


Even with the flare up of the fire, the room was not warm. I needed to get dressed.  I needed to get my bearings.  I stepped into the gown and pulled it up to my shoulders.  It hooked in the front of the bodice. I pulled on stockings and garters.  They were a lovely silk, soft and delicate, and came to the tops of my thighs.  The garters could be tied anywhere, so I tied them above the knees, rolling down the tops of the stockings, hoping they would stay.  I held up the split bloomers and tried to determine the front from the back.  They could be useful when you wanted to pee.  The shoes were another surprise.  Made neither a left nor a right, with a thin sole and low wooden heel, they tied to my ankle with ribbons.  There was a blue shawl, of fine wool, at the bottom of the pile.


Now at least dressed, warmer, I could explore my surroundings.  The room was not large, but had a dark beamed ceiling above. There were no paintings or prints on the walls, but above the fireplace, was a shotgun.  It was an old breech loader.


Two long windows looked out upon a dull morning. The wind blew a little sleet against the windows and I shivered. The glazing had fallen away and cold air seeped in.  It was still rather dark outside, and except for the blurred outline of trees, I couldn’t see much of the landscape.


Pulling the shawl tighter around my shoulders, I was still cold, or perhaps it was shock. I was not used to awakening in a strange bed, even one of my own imagination.


I still doubted I was lucid, and thought this some weird dream-state. Given a bit more time, I would awake.  But if this were a dream, it was a curious one.  I was not given easily to hysterics, but short of hurling myself through the window, there was little I could to do.  I would just have to follow this ‘dream’ until I woke.



Trying a door in the middle of a wall, it opened into another bedroom, and inside was a large poster bed, a wardrobe, and another shotgun in the corner by the bed. This must be a man’s room. I had no clue why, accept for that mean looking shotgun, but there was nothing that appeared feminine in the room at all.  I turned back to my bedroom and tried the other door.  Outside was a wide hall, leading to the top of a staircase.


I stood at the top of the steps, listening for voices or some sound. The house seemed deserted.  I could hear nothing of a normal household.  Carefully,  trying not to slip in these strange shoes I descended the staircase and walked through a wide first floor hall. There were a couple of rooms but there were no people and no lit fireplaces.  The whole house was bitterly cold. It seems this house held no life at all.


My footsteps sounded loud on the wooden floors of the hall, though I tried not to make a clatter.  There was a closed door to the left and when I opened it, there was a man sitting behind a desk.


Something about him seemed vaguely familiar.  Then I knew who he was.  It was a shock to realize I was looking at a character I had created for a novel sixteen years ago. I had named him Garrett Cortelyou.    He looked up, sat back, and stared at me, quite rudely. Christ!  This looked like trouble.


“Come in,” he said.  “It is trouble.” I was astonished, and how did he seem to appear in the flesh?  He was just paper and ink the last I thought of him. Can this creature read my thoughts?


“Of course I can.  I can do more than that,” he said, scowling.



I fashioned Garrett Cortelyou from a number of sources, and, seeing him before me, I couldn’t help but be pleased. It is one thing to imagine, it is another to see the results.  He was a large man, broad of shoulder, dark hair, rather long for the 1820’s, but I created him to be his own man.  He proved to be a stubborn character, and not an easy birth.  Clean shaven, he had dark eyes and regular features except for his nose.  It had been broken and not set correctly.   He looked pissed off.


“Why are you so angry with me?”


“A year ago you closed your book and abandoned all of us.  You told me to ‘cool my heels’.  Am I not allowed my anger?”


“It was a metaphor, ‘cool your heels’.”


“I know what it was.”


I was surprised. I had enough of writing and needed time off.  This actually happened fifteen years ago, but who was I  to correct him? Why argue with something unreal?  I put his intended, the character Jennie, in the library.  I gave her a cup of tea and a good fire, and she had all the books in the world, or at least, in this library to read.


“You abandoned us all.”


“Life got in the way, Garrett, I needed time to work things out.”


What am I saying? Why am I explaining my life to this creature? Am I insane?


“Come here, let me see you closely.”


I entered the room and stood across from his desk.  He looked me over, his eyes running the length of me.    “You look unimpressive.  I thought you would be older.”


“Why, did you expect me to be covered with wrinkles?”


One glance at his face and I should have held my tongue.


“You are quick with the words, madam.  Let’s see how quick on your feet.”


Like a cat he came around the desk and grabbed me. He was strong enough to lift me like a stick of wood and throw me into another chair.  I was shocked at the suddenness of his movement, but amazed he was real.


“You should be.  You play with people too much.”


I looked at him standing before me, his hands on his hips, and fear crept up my spine.


“You forget I created you.” My voice squeaked..


“And you forget, madam, anything is possible.  I can command you as easily as you have me.  You now are my puppet. Quite a turn around, don’t you think?”


“You wouldn’t have seen the light of day had I not thought of you!”  What am I saying? I am talking to a ghost!


“Ah, you were bored and this scribbling occupied your time.  Your night dreams went into all of us.  Your poor husband should not have given you a pen.”


“I wrote on a computer, something you would not know about.”


“I don’t care what you wrote with. Right now, and until I release you, you’re under my thumb.”


“What do you want with me?”  I was scared. My spit would not wet my mouth.



Garrett smiled, but it didn’t mount to his eyes.  They remained cold.  “I can smell your fear, little lady.  Come give me a kiss and a tumble.”


“You are a jackass. You act like an animal. Let me go.”


I tried to rise from my chair, but the anger on his face stopped me.


“Will you stop playing the virgin? It doesn’t fit you at all.”


I was beginning to panic.  I had created this character,  this man  before me, and I knew something of his sexual appetites.


He laughed, apparently reading my thoughts. He must be a demon come to life, or I must be still asleep.


You created me?  I’m from the slime, I’m a mixture of souls throughout time, with all the cocksure ways of manhood.  You created something you can’t control, and now you’re afraid?  You should have thought further down the road, woman.  You should be afraid.  You think you know my appetites? You don’t know much, because you don’t know me.  Not that way.   You haven’t the imagination to know what I can do. You are too ignorant of life.  Here.”


He pulled me up to him, and grabbed one of my hands and placed it on the front of his breeches.  He was hard enough.


“There.  Is your curiosity satisfied?  You knew some of me, but never enough.  You have a poor imagination for a writer. We circled each other like cats all those years, but I played the gentleman.  A boring and unnecessary role actually.”


My face was heated from his words.  There was no denying I was curious.  I had wondered a bit what he would be like in the heat of passion.  Just daydreams, sitting at my desk.  Faced with reality, fear was now trumping that consideration.




He pinned my arms behind my back with one hand.  With the other he traced my cheek and neck with a finger, his eyes narrowed into slits.    He brought my face to his mouth and kissed me, at first softly – oh the deceiver!- then roughly, forcing my lips with his tongue. He cupped my breast and squeezed my nipple, rolling it between two fingers.   He kissed me hard, bending my head back, crushing my mouth with his.


“There. How do you like being kissed by something you think you have made? Have I met your expectations?”



I caught my breath.  “I gave you Jennie, you monster!”


This was a rather stupid thing to say, but I didn’t have much of my wits after that kiss.


“And I thank you for her. She is a sweet little pastry, but I aim to have more.  You look like you could feed me for a week.”


“Oh, let me go, you’re not real!”


He pushed me away and rubbed the front of his breeches.  “Is this not real enough for you?  Then we’ll go where I’ll show you what’s real.”


Grabbing me by the wrist, he pulled me out the room and up the staircase. I tripped on my shoes and he roughly jerked me up the stairs.  I was frightened, knowing that this couldn’t be a dream.  It was more of a nightmare.


He strode down the hall and opened a door, flinging me into the room where I had awakened probably only an hour before.   With his back to the door, he locked it, pocketing the key.  I ran to other bedroom, intending to lock myself in, but he was quick. He threw me on the bed.  Now, I was frightened.  I was panting.


“’I was panting.’”  See, I can read you like a book.”  Throwing back his head, he laughed, howling like an animal, like a demon.  My stomach flipped, and I cringed back on the pillows.



He dragged a chair from a wall and sat facing me, one long leg propped up on the mattress.   If I tried to leap from the bed, I would jump right into his arms.  He looked at me with half closed eyes, his head cocked to one side.


“Don’t you find it confusing to read Richardson’s  “Pamela”, in the middle of writing seduction scenes?  Rather you should read Fielding’s “Shamela”….better story, or rather, same story,  not so tedious.”


What? How did he know this? How did he know what I read?


What was I dealing with?  Was this a ghost or a demon?  The icy sweat I felt down my back wasn’t something I was imagining.  I had to get control of this nightmare.


“I can snap my fingers and you will be gone,” I said desperately.  I closed my eyes and snapped them.


He remained before me grinning, his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth, a lunatic.  “Try again.”


I snapped my fingers. Nothing.   The demon lover was still there.


“Ah…you called me ‘lover.’  Perhaps you won’t resist me so hard now.”


“I called you ‘demon lover’.  You’re not hearing that first word.”


“You created me.  It’s all in your calling.”


“That’s right…and I can uncreate you.”


“You already tried.  This conversation is going nowhere. I need a drink. Seduction is hard work.”


He snapped his fingers, and a tankard appeared on the table behind him.  “Oh, my apologies.  One for you?”


“A small one, please.”  I shivered.  What had I just done?


“A small one it is.”  A snap.   Another tankard appeared.


He got up and retrieved the two tankards and reached across the bed, and handed me my drink.  I thought of throwing it in his face, and running from the room.


“How far do you think you would get?”  I had forgotten his mind reading trick.


“Not far- just testing.”


He laughed and drank deeply.  He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.


“We’ve been circling each other for years.  Don’t you think it’s time we put an end to this charade? A little carnal knowledge would not be amiss.  Besides, I already know you want me, have known it for years.”  He picked up his tankard, his eyes glittering across the rim.


“You are a cocksure devil, you are!”  I would laugh at his presumption, but he was correct.  I had created him from my own secret lust, and spared nothing in the doing.

Perhaps a different approach would give me answers and a hand over him.


“Explain to me, Demon, how you have access to me?  You are nothing but some scribbles on paper, yet you appear flesh and blood enough now.”


I was more than curious, I was tumbling with fear and trying to regain my feet. I needed something to wake me up.  I needed some logic here, some answers.  I still believed I was mired in a nightmare.



He put down his tankard and smiled.  “Sometimes there’s a rip in the fabric of time and all hell breaks loose.   Dimensions warp and ley lines bulge.  The usual workings of a universe gone bad.”


“So I’m here in another dimension?”  From the 21st century to the 19th, quite a rip in the fabric, I think.


He grinned into his ale.  “For as long as it suits me, and as long as you please me.”


“What is it you want?”  I looked at him, fearing part of the answer.


“First, I want to know what’s under those petticoats.  That will be good for starters.  We can work outward then.”


He had an interesting concept of seduction.  Rather direct, not subtle at all, but intriguing.

By the looks of him, he would be worth the effort.  I thought of his kiss, and I grew uncomfortable. My face grew flushed, and his grin told me he knew what was happening between my legs.  I wanted him, my sex knew before my head, but I wouldn’t give him the words he wanted to hear. Perhaps I was playing with fire, but a ‘tumble’ would be sort of welcome. Sex hadn’t been on the agenda for a long time. He was too much temptation in the flesh to deny.


Besides, it all was a dream and a wet one at that.  I held to that hope as my only window of sanity.

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