Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

“A Winter Poem Outside My Window”

March 20, 2018



(Watercolor, Untitled, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2008)


The soil has lost its excellence.
The worms have gone deep into
The sullen earth and hide
I imagine curled up,
Embracing worm castings
And each other,
Desiccated former selves
Pale little ghosts
Awaiting the fertility of spring
The watering of a constant rain.

I squandered the bloom months,
Thinking paper and pen
Would bring its own blossoming
Scarcely noticing the vitality outside
My window,
Allowing cabbage moths and beetles
To dominate what I believed to be
My nod to farming,
To self-sufficiency,
My tithe to the earth.

Ah, the soil is hardened
By the sins of the season.
Sharp winds make
Their own furrows
The cold buries down,
Deep down
Torments any life
That would show its feckless head.
Especially those hopeful worms
Now bundled in worm-sleep.

The words, verse,
I chose to cultivate
Over cabbage, collards
Failed to bloom.
Better I had plied the hoe
And bucket to that
Than a fevered pen
To paper.

It is now winter
And the fallow earth
Plays a waiting game
Knows I have failed
In paper and soil
And mocks me with a barrenness
I feel inside and out.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2016

(This poem first published in “Pitcher of Moon”, 2014)



“Haiku: The Seasons”

March 17, 2018


 For all who are feeling the first stirrings of Spring.  Especially Frank T and Frank H.

Lady Nyo

Cherry red toenails
Peek out from warm blanket.
Snow cools ardor.

Willows whip about
A kimono flares open
Eyes savor plump thighs.

White makeup drips
The hard heat and mosquitos
Make maiko languid.

Girls chase falling leaves
Plump thighs give delight to eyes
Mothers do not smile.

Soft rains caress earth
Hand slides up a soft thigh.
Cherry blossoms


Sultry air disturbs
sleep of husband and wife.
They pant without lust.

Hoarfrost appears-
All the silken kimonos
Will not warm flesh.


A swirl of blossoms
Caught in the water’s current
Begins the season.

Dogwoods blooming
Crucifixion appears
White moths in the night.

(Dogwoods are a Southern tree here in the South. White blooms
having the form of the Christian Cross, with nail heads. They bloom in the spring right before Easter. They are a symbol of Christianity in Nature.)

Under the dark moon
I awaited your return
Only shadows came.


Fallen leaves crackle.
Sparrows add the treble notes.
Season’s musical.

The cold moon shines down
Upon hollow dried grasses.
Earth prepares to sleep.


The frost at morning
Makes the birds plump their feathers
Squirrels add chatter.




Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2018

“Winter Into Spring”

March 16, 2018



(Watercolor, “Salisbury Downs”  Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2005)

(A detour from “Tin Hinan” because today feels like the poem)



Mysterious, unfathomable, muted season,
where life and reason are suspended
upon a cold metal wire.
The wind a razor of clipper glass
sailing through glassine air
slicing the pallid sun’s rays–
an attempt to warm a frigid earth
to a remembered fertility.

Solemn seasonal palette,
white, gray, black,
cut with a flash of blood-red–
Kamikaze cardinal!
like the demon wind bearing its name,
dares the thin and paling air
to brighten for a flashing moment–
A witness to recurring life.

Season of bountiful snow,
brings a thirst to the land
where hoar-frost leaches
moisture with a crystallized withering-
hands to crack, bark to shatter,
and all dries and curls about
in a perverse furnace of freeze.

One day, a pale day
a southern breeze
breaks through the bonds of Winter
brushes up, slides up
upon the ice
and a crack like a thump is felt in the gut
a slow drip-drip of water
signals the end of this harsh season,
as icicles emit a hesitant stream,
and then the ice dam down in the brook
cracks with a louder sound
and the rush to Spring
is heralded with these natural sounds.

A blind movement
felt deep in the soil-
a careful stirring,
barely a rumble in the gut of Earth
as birth beneath replaces death above
pushing through the Great Womb
to a pallid sun above.

The tyranny of Winter is broken.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2018


“Tin Hinan” Chapter 5.

March 15, 2018

Berber man

(Moroccan Berber man)

Our journey over that last mountain tried body and soul. We were among about thirty men, led by the large man, called Immel Uzmir. They were mountain Berbers, perhaps that accounted for the difference in language. Their voices had a flat, windy sound, not the pleasant, musical tone of our desert tribes. That their lives were so violent maybe made for the difference in speech. Perhaps they whispered to each other behind trees before raids and this formed their speech differently. But of course that couldn’t be it. They would raid from the desert, not from the mountains. They only stole away to the mountains, back to their homes, loaded with the loot of bandits.

Takama and I got used to their brusque ways– they were men after all. Without the soothing nature of women around, what could one expect? Men left to their own devices reverted to savages, more like wild beasts than men. These men were a rough bunch, and if it weren’t for the respect they held for Immel Uzmir, Takama and I would have been plunder.

They must have come from a successful raid somewhere in the desert, for their mules and pack horses were loaded with bags of spices and bales of cloth woven and dyed with various and seemingly rare dyes.

“Look at the colors, Aicha”, her voice expressing wonder.

We could see some of these cloths were woven with gold thread.

“They must have robbed a very rich merchant,” I whispered.

Our women of the tribe did various forms of embroidery, but nothing like the sumptuousness of this cloth.

Caravans crossing from the east were loaded with spices, gold and gold dust, cloths, and precious salt, which they traded further south of the desert for slaves. Since there were no slaves amongst them, we supposed they had raided some rich merchant’s caravan before it had crossed into the southern reaches of the desert. Slave trade was very common, and women and their children were sold off to different tribes and taken far from their lives.

We were the only women amongst these raiders.

Takama and I were treated well enough, given warm blankets and food from their fires. We knew our safety was still in question, for we were only women amongst men.
Each night we wrapped ourselves in the blankets and settled against Niefa, for Immel Uzmir allowed me to keep her. A guard was set near us. We never were sure if it was because Immel Uzmir thought we might try to escape, or if a man would force himself upon us. We slept safely enough, though the weather was colder and the air thinner the higher we climbed.

One night, after the evening meal of snared rabbits, Immel Uzmir came and sat near, a gourd of camel’s milk in his hand.

“You eat little food, Tin Hinan. Is our cooking that bad to your mouth?” He was smiling and held out the milk to me.

I bowed my head in thanks. Camel’s milk was like mother’s milk to me, and I had not had the taste of it since I had left my tribe now so long ago. Drinking deeply, I could have cried for it reminded me of all I had thrown away.

In truth, my liver was nervous, and I was uneasy. It is not peaceful to be among men without the presence of women. Many times I caught the eyes of a man looking at me with that particular hunger. I adopted a veil to keep the cold from my face, but also to keep obscured from curious glances.

“Your food fills the belly, but could use some salt. All in all, women cook better than men. But I imagine you will be home soon and the women of your tribe will rejoice with a feast.”

Immel Uzmir laughed softly and shook his head. “You are of the age, Tin Hinan, to be married. Why are you not so?”

I can be stubborn and when I am, I retreat into silence. It would take a donkey pulling hard to open my mouth and pry out my voice. These many weeks with only the company of Takama, and it had taken its toll on my nature. I was, if the truth were known, lonely and miserable. Perhaps this trek up the mountain had taken more than my strength. I was tired and sore in legs. The mountains were beautiful, but this relentless climb upwards challenged more than my stamina. I was a desert woman, out of my element. I felt as alien as a star dropping to earth and could not get back to the heavens.

I was silent. What should I tell him? His name, Immel Uzmir, meant ‘powerful, constant one’ and he certainly had the respect of these men. To be able to control a score and a half again of Berber men meant he was well respected. The Goddesses had been silent to my demands and I had little else for comfort. I must be grateful.

Sighing, casting my eyes on the ground, I spoke in a low voice. Low, not because I was worried that others would hear my tale, but because I was almost overcome with sorrow. My heart and liver ached and our people say that it is better to let out demons than to trap them inward where they multiply day after day, frolicking in the flesh.


“I was to be married. There is not much to tell. My intended broke the contract and the wedding gifts were returned to my parent’s tent. We heard then he had married and left his tribe.”

I kept my eyes on the ground, feeling shame before this stranger. His own voice was low and I struggled not to let foolish woman’s tears fall down my cheeks.

“Ah, Tin Hinan. You blame yourself for a man’s inconstancy? He knew what he risked in doing so. He would not be able to do what he wanted if he was not backed by his parent’s agreement. You are comely and brave for a woman. There is no need to feel shame. Did your tribe prepare to war with his?”

I looked up at him, my voice bitter.

“Our tribe is small. If we did, over this broken promise, many of my kin would be killed. Hasim’s tribe was much stronger.”

In speaking his name, I could not hold back the tears. They fell down my cheeks, though I tried to pull my veil across my face to hide. Immel Uzmir reached out from where he was sitting and raised my face with his hand. He looked closely, his eyes searching. I pulled my head back with a grimace.

“So, you cut off your hair and took your slave and went into the desert? Did you think of the risks? Foolish girl, you could have easily died out there, or be taken prisoner by Arabs.”

“Hah! Instead I lived to be taken by Berbers, my own tribemen! What difference has it meant? I am still a prisoner, probably a slave now like Takama.”

My voice hardened and my eyes flashed through my tears.

Immel Uzmir had his own temper.

“Are you bound like a slave? Do we starve you? Are you made to bear burdens like the pack beasts? Ungrateful girl, if we left you in the mountains, you would be bones by now. There are black bears and wolves up here. You and your slave would not have survived more than a few nights.”

My eyes grew wide. Bears and wolves are not a problem in the desert. Poisonous snakes and scorpions were.

“What do you plan to do with us when you get home? Are we to be slaves to your tribe?”

He shifted his weight and looked around at a noise from the men. “I don’t know what your fate will be, the Gods are silent on that score.”

He scowled at me, trying to scare me, and he was succeeding.

“It’s not my decision. When we get to our tribe I will turn you over to our elders and they will decide what to do with you. We are Berbers, not demons. We do not harm women. They usually find a place at our fire, and sometimes a husband. Your luck could change.” He tossed me a smile and a wink and rose to his feet.

Standing over me, with my head craned back looking at him, he was an impressive man. He was named correctly, and his appearance seemed to bear it out. I was still prisoner, but it could have been worse.


Our travel across the mountain became a constant journey, for we were trying to avoid the start of the snow season. Already the nights were freezing, and frost made the ground stiff and brittle at dawn. We slept only a few hours and rose before the sun and still we climbed upward. We reached the top, walked across a plateau and started to descend, the snow already falling. Immel Uzmir pushed the men and beasts as much as he could. To be stranded in a blizzard, even an early one, could mean death. We did not stop to cook or make fires, and ate what could be eaten raw, mostly dried dates with camel’s milk. It was during the rise of the moon when we came in sight of a valley, and on the other side of that was the settlement where Immel Urzim and his men lived. It was half way up another mountain, but one he said was a small mountain.

I was glad to leave the mountain, and so was Niefa. She had a hard time with her feet on the slopes, for camels get sore pads with the rocks and stones. She was born in the desert and the soft sands were hot but did not cut her pads like the mountain terrain. On the descent, she talked and bellowed, and I realized even at this distance, she could smell other camels far in the valley below us. She was young, and coming into heat. A camel in estrus has her mind on only one thing. She was becoming a handful, and her gait suffered from the descent. Immel Uzmir saw that she was giving me trouble, and tied her behind another bigger camel to make her slow down. He placed me behind him on his large horse, and I was forced to hold on to him as we hit rock slides and uneven terrain.

We are a clean people, and ablutions are important to our culture, but the smell of a man so close was new to me. Given the fact he had not bathed in the mountains, the smell of male sweat and robes that had not seen a good washing was a bit ripe to my nose. Perhaps I smelled the same to him, but men seem to tolerate these things better than women.

We came out of the forest that stretched up the mountain and into a large valley. His settlement was across the wide valley and clinging to that other ‘small’ mountain range. We would make camp in the valley to give the pack animals, horses and camels a good feeding on the grasses. That evening, before the sun dipped completely under the horizon, I looked over to the next mountain where he pointed out his tribe’s distant ksar. I had never seen one before and was curious. My tribe was always from the desert. We lived in large tents, woven from the hair of camels and goats. The trees, oaks, twisted olives and walnut groves obscured the actual buildings, but the purple cast of the mountains before us, far in the distance, and long shadows thrown upon the valley was beautiful to eyes that had only seen sand and hot sun all their life. The stars were the same though, rotating across the sky from one side of the upended bowl of the universe to the other. The heavens could always be counted upon to be constant.

That night, Takama and I walked down from the men to a stream where we tried to bathe ourselves, but of course we did not strip off our clothing. The water was cold, and at least we were refreshed, exchanging our robes for the last of clean clothes. I was nervous what the next day would bring, for we would cross the wide valley and appear in the mountain village hopefully before sundown. I had no idea of our reception, but we both knew our lives now were no longer our own. We were at the mercy of a mountain tribe, and though we spoke the same tongue, we were strangers in a very strange land.


Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007-2018







“Nut”, Egyptian Goddess

March 13, 2018
My beautiful picture

“Viriditas”, wc, janekohut-bartels, 2000

(Hardly an illustration of Nut, but will have to do for now.)

I post this poem for there is evidence the earliest Berbers were followers of Ammon and Isis, Egyptian deities.  



I am the Temple,
the Universe at night.

I am Goddess Nut.

I spread my body over
dark, silky skies
and the Sun is born from my
yawning mouth at dawn.

Fading moon
Creeps up my bowels at break of day
as does brother Sun
when his glory dimmed
and I cradle both
within me their majestic
glory now dulled down
like sleepy children
until release throws them
High in the sky.

I am the keeper.

All Celestial bodies
I, the nourisher
of life and death that passes.

I, Nut, sleep at day,
my stars and I well hidden
by the birth of Sun
but courted by Geb, Earth God
who sucks the night dew
from my two breasts with sweet lips
reaching with stiff member
makes the Earth fertile with love,
and the universe fruitful.

I am the River.

Water where distant
planets and stars sail
on their skyward journey,
the celestial travail.

My Houri marks time,
passage of cosmic travel
discarding veils
until naked at dawn,
retire to the horizon.
They sleep once again under
My belly and gathered near.

I am the passage.
I am the Keeper of Souls.
I am mystery.

My presence lends fear to man
I touch eyes with sleep.
I round out the universe
dark fulsome Night.

I am Nut.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2015

(Goddess Nut was published in Pitcher of Moon, 2014, (Createspace)


“Tin Hinan”, Chapter 4….

March 11, 2018


We walked out of the oasis and back into the ergs, the endless sand dunes, and within days the mountains loomed before us. We were approaching the highlands. As we came closer, the thick forests seemed to go on forever. Before we were still the foothills with their endless hammadas, stony deserts where our beasts stumbled at times. We saw scrub bushes and tough grasses and little else. Now, at entrance to the highlands, we could see cypress and wild olives along with doum palm, oleander, date palms and thyme. As we entered the forests, it was such a shock to our eyes and noses! The scents of the woodland filled our nostrils, and our beasts grazed their fill as we made camp in the evening. Owls hooted from high branches and hunted by night, the screams of their prey startling us as we huddled around a small, banked fire.

Both of us were uneasy in this alien territory. In the desert, we could see all around, and although exposed to the elements, we saw what approached. In the highland forest the thick canopy of trees obscured any ‘visitors’. We moved in dappled sunlight, gloomy after the white light and heat of the desert. But springs and small streams, fresh water in abundance, were gifts to our senses. We could bathe ourselves and replenish our water skins. Takama found an herb when crushed would produce an acrid smelling lather and we could finally wash our hair. Of course, mine was shorn short, but it was a blessing to be clean. We washed our robes and laid them upon limbs to dry while we sat in our gauzy white undergowns, munching our dwindling date supply.

My camel Niefa tucked her legs under her body and got comfortable. The forest floor was hard walking, better were her padded feet on the desert sands. The climb each day was hard on Niefa, but easier on Takama’s donkey.

“Aicha!” Takama called out from the bank of the stream.

“Throw me your knife. The donkey has picked up a stone in her hoof.”

I threw my short knife to Takama and sitting with my back against Niefa, watched as she cleaned the stone from the hoof. Niefa chewed her cud, pushing her head into my shoulder. She did this when she wanted me to scratch behind her ears. She was grumbling and making silly grunts and groans, and if she could reach, she would search my pockets for dried fruits, her favorite treat.

“Niefa!” I yelled, hitting her on the nose, “stop eating my ear!” Her big fleshly lips were nibbling on me and soon she would be tearing my clothes. She did this when she felt she was being ignored.


That evening we retrieved our dried clothes and dressed for the cold night. I always wore my turban for the nighttime insects could be kept from my face by the veil. Leaning on Niefa as she groaned softly and was closing her large brown eyes, I was lulled by Takama’s soft singing of a tribal song. I folded my robes around me, and was drifting off to sleep. The fire was low and we were tired, for we had climbed for hours that day and the going was steep. We settled on a plateau on a ridge, by the narrow stream, looking down through the trees to a small valley far below. Darkness was falling early. We were getting used to that for the season was changing. Fireflies were twinkling like earthbound stars as they settled amongst the foliage.

Suddenly Takama stopped singing, her eyes wide with fear. She pointed over my shoulder, too scared for speech. I turned in the direction of her hand, jumped up and grabbed my sword, Takama running behind. There was a man, with his own sword in hand, staring at us. Almost immediately, other dark robed men appeared from behind trees, calling softly to each other. We could hear the sound of laughter shared amongst them. Then a man walked from behind a tree, closer to us, and addressed us in some alien language. I had raised my sword menacingly, though we both were defenseless against so many.

“Before the Gods and Goddesses, what are two young girls doing in the mountains?”

He was a very large man, as tall as our Berber people, and we were known for our height. Perhaps he was a Berber, but perhaps also the hated Arab. With a sinking heart, I supposed we had fallen into the hands of raiders. The language difference would account for that.

“I am not a girl, I am a man and this is my wife.” I pitched my voice low, but I was shaking. All we feared was standing before us. Laughter erupted from the men who now seemed to surround us.

Then I realized I had not placed my veil over my face. Except for the faint blue coloring across my cheeks and nose, I probably looked like a girl. My men’s clothing not withstanding, I would appear female to them.

Takama started to moan in fear behind me, I trying to hush her softly.

“Aicha, Aicha”. Fear was making her voice waver. “We are lost, undone. Oh, why did you lead us out of our home to this fate? Aiiiiieee!”

Her wail annoyed me, and I wanted to beat her with my fists, but I knew I had more problems before me than the slave behind. I, too, was afraid, and my voice shook as I addressed the obvious leader before me.

“If you come near us, I will kill you. Leave us alone, we are poor travelers.”

I raised my sword before me, with both hands holding the grip. I saw the men all my life practice in camp, mock battles where sometimes blood was drawn. Being female, I was not allowed to touch weapons, for in our traditions, a woman handling weapons would make them turn in a man’s hand.

This black turbaned man squatted down on his haunches. His position was one meant to disarm our fears, but I was having none of it.

I did not relax my guard, and spread my feet wide to steady myself. Takama continued to whimper behind me and plucked at my robe in fear.

The squatting man laid his curved sword over his knees, for no Berber would lay it on the ground unless a death blow made him drop it.

“So you are called “Aicha” by your wife. Now, what a strange name for a man, if you be one.”

He pulled his veil down from his mouth and grinned. Big white teeth shone like bleached bones even in the dimming evening’s light.

“I can see for myself you were never a man, nor will you ever be one. Your woman’s figure is too full for that and besides, you have no beard on your face.”

He continued to grin and then his voice turned serious. “Now tell me, what are your names, and don’t lie to me. What are you two girls doing in these mountains?

I was silent for a moment, weighing what I would say, and how much to reveal.

“My name is Tin Hinan, and I go on this journey to meet my destiny.”

There was some hooting at my words, and I looked up at the men before us on the ridge with as fierce an expression on my face as I could muster.

“Tin Hinan, huh?” he said with a dismissive shake of his head. “Not too inventive for a woman who wears men’s clothing. “Nomadic Woman” is not very poetic, and since the Berber women are good poets, one would think you would call yourself something with more music.”

His comment made the men laugh and I again threw a fearsome glance.

“Well, “Tin Hinan” you will be, at least amongst us, but you will also join us for we soon return to our own tribe.”

“Are you Arab raiders?” I asked, my voice still wavering.

They all laughed and a few spit on the ground.

The man before us looked over both sides of his shoulders as if this was a great joke and smiled broadly, getting to his feet in one smooth motion.

“No, we aren’t Arabs, but you could say we are raiders. Now, let’s see what your beasts are carrying and if you present a danger to us.”

Of course, this was absurd, but we were in no position to resist. But my next concern was for Niefa.

With Takama still behind me, hanging close to my back, I moved towards Niefa and she grumbled and groaned and got to her feet. She was so beautiful in the dim light, like the moon fallen to the earth, so white and shining. Niefa took that moment to nudge me in the shoulder, throwing me off balance and when a camel pushes, you feel its superior strength.

“Niefa, stop it!” I scolded her in a whisper. She was not helping the situation.

The big man walked up like he had no fear of my sword or my using it, and laid his hand on Niefa’s hump. He stroked her and scratched her, and Niefa shook herself, groaning in delight. She had no loyalty at all.

I looked at Niefa and thought how much of a traitor she was in her affections, and that little moment of my distraction was my undoing. With the speed of a desert cheetah, the man leaped at me and before I could even think, knocked the sword from my hands. He was fast and I found myself sprawled on the ground, with him standing over me, scowling. I believed at that moment my life over, and raised my eyes to him.

“Take my life, but spare my slave. She is blameless. I forced her to follow from our tribe. And don’t kill my camel, her name is Niefa and she is young.”

His face softened at my words. He held out his hand and pulled me to my feet. I was shaking, still not sure of what was to happen.

“Well, Tin Hinan, you have no reason to fear us. We are raiders, not murderers of young women. You, your slave and your camel, will join us on our journey back over the mountain, but you will not wear the man’s veil or clothes with us. It is an abomination for a woman to do so. First, you don’t deserve to wear the veil and then, you defile your God-given beauty with man’s clothes. Come, we treat such brave women with respect. And don’t worry about your camel. She will have the company of her own kind in our settlement.”

We crossed the mountain and then another one, and within the time of a new risen moon, we came to a mountain ksar. Here, amongst a strange tribe, my life began anew.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007-2018

“Tin Hinan”, Chapter 3.

March 9, 2018

"Tin Hinan", Chapter II,  "Damaged Goods"


As I think back to those times, so long buried in memory, I wonder what I was doing. Only sixteen years old, such a tender age, and Takama even younger. We were two maidens driven by Zar-induced madness. There was no other accounting for what I did. Vigorously consulting the goddesses every night I never got an answer. False goddesses they were, or silent to my pleas. Safi. (enough)

The first few nights in the desert were sleepless with grief and anger. I didn’t think of the future danger. I didn’t dare. If I did, I would have turned back and then what face would I have? Our men were known warriors, but our women were just as strong.

Takama made the fire each night, bending over the fire bow and feeding our tiny blazes with twigs and dried camel dung from a sack. She drew precious water from the skins, threw in millet, salt, and we ate some of the dates. There was no variety in our diet, but I made sure Takama had packed my jewelry. Sold in a market town or oasis, this silver would bring a different food for our bellies.

Niefa and the donkey fed sparsely on the brush and wild grasses that pockmarked the desert. We had to be careful with our water, but Niefa was afterall, a camel and she could manage without much water. Takama’s donkey was another problem.

The first few days had the nature of adventure, and except some expeditions with my father and mother over the mountains, I had never been on my own. Takama, being a slave, had not even this knowledge. She never left the oasis.

I followed the sun to the east as it rose, and the desert still stretched out before us, endless and unbroken to the horizon. Some days I wondered if we would die here, the four of us, bleached bones in the desert. There was little shade except for crouching beside Niefa when we stopped to stretch our legs and squat in the desert. Takama laughed at me, for I still carried the behaviors of a woman. I squatted down to pass water, instead of standing. I would have to remember when we came close to an encampment.

Since we expected to meet others, Takama would be my ‘wife’, and I her young husband. That would give us at least some sort of story. But our biggest problem would be explaining why we were out in the desert away from our tribe, and traveling alone. This was foolhardy at best and dangerous in any case. A young couple travelling without the cover and protection of at least a small caravan could be runaway slaves. If we were perceived to be such, we would be slaves fast enough.

We talked around our pitiful fire at night, when the stars stretched from horizon to horizon, a blanket of diamonds over us. There was only the sound of the desert wind moaning in the nighttime air. It got cool as soon as the sun dropped to the horizon and cold when the stars and moon rose into the dark bowl of heaven.

“Aicha, do you think we will soon fine an oasis?” I heard the worry in her voice.

“Do I look like one of those old, smelly fortune women? Do I look like even a Sheikha? How do I know?” I was cross with her, for I was fearful myself. I hid my fear with fierce words to my slave.

“What if the Arab raiders catch up with us here in the desert? What will we do?” Her eyes were wide with her own fear.

“Ah, Takama, you can dance for them and I will hold them off with my sword.”

Stupid girl, I thought.

“A quick slash of a takouba (sword) and all our problems will be over. But I would bet even the hated Arabs aren’t stupid enough to kill women. If they guess at my sex I will be raped along with you and sold as a slave. In fact, from what I hear, even if they didn’t know my sex for sure, they would still rape me.”

Takama’s lip started quivering, and soon her childish tears would fall.

“Takama”, I said in a softer voice, “Soon we will find an oasis and good bread and salt will be offered. You know our traditions. The desert tribes are the most generous on earth! We will find a safe haven around their fire and protection from all else.”

Suddenly, Takama screamed and jumped up. A big desert scorpion, as big as a clay bowl, was crossing towards the fire. I took my takouba from my girdle and sliced it in half. It was a lucky strike for these creatures were fast.


After a week, the indigo-blue dye had stained my face, and I had the look of a young man. Takama tried to line my veil with white cotton, for she did not want to see her mistress degraded in such a way. I fought with her over this, and threatened to pummel her with my fists like a man would, but we only ended up laughing and rolling in the sand. I was glad for company, but felt guilty I had taken her from everything she had known for my own selfish reasons. She was a slave, and bound to follow my whims, but she now was also a friend. Throwing destinies together out in the desert is a great equalizer.

We rose early with the sun, and plodded slowly to the east. After a week, we began to see a change in the dunes. Off far to the east and north were mountains, and although our steps seemed not to bring us closer, we knew that it was just a matter of time before we would reach some oasis. Our water was low, and we rationed it out carefully, making sure that the donkey first, then Niefa, had a drink. Soon we saw shrubs, and more and more grasses. We pulled up the tough grasses to bite at the tender stalks where they joined the roots, but there was little moisture in this desert grass.

Finally we saw the faint glimpse of palm trees and we knew soon we would arrive at an oasis. We were coming up to the foot of the mountains and like our own oasis back home, the runoff from the mountains would give some water and pasture. That was where tribes would gather, and not all of the tribes were nomadic. Most were sheepherders, tied to the land until it was used up by the herds of goats, sheep and camels. Then they would move on, over the mountain passes until they found more pasture. This was the life of herders back into history. This was our history.

Winter was coming on, and already the nights were colder. Takama had brought enough heavy blankets for us, and we had the heat of Niefa to warm us as we huddled together under the covers. A stop at an oasis where we could obtain food, water and shelter was becoming urgent.

I don’t remember all the events of this journey, but I do recall the strong urge to keep running away from the scene of my shame. Hasim had found me wanting in some way, or had found another more desirable. Each time I thought of this, my heart overflowed and bitterness and shame rose up like a ghost before me. I could not quell my liver. I was single purpose in my need to put as far a distance from my memories as possible. Running was the only way I knew to change what had happened back there.

As we came closer to the oasis, we saw green grass and date palms. It was a big oasis, and soon we could see the black tents of nomads. Niefa bellowed as she smelled fresh water, and even Takama’s donkey picked up his hooves.

It was early evening, the star called Venus had risen when we plodded into the encampment. They saw us off in the distance, but since we were only two, no general alarm was sounded. Children ran out, curious as children are, and shyly made a ring around our beasts. They wanted to know where we came from, but knew those questions would be rude from children, and anyway, desert tribes did not ask. Hospitality was given first, and what a man wanted to reveal was all that was expected.

We proceeded to the middle of the camp, where men were assembled, and the women behind them. Now several boys came and grabbed the bridles of both Niefa and the donkey, and I slipped off her back and stood there, my good ‘wife’ Takama coming up behind me.

“Welcome, welcome, come and eat and drink with us”. A tall man, obviously a chieftain, came up to me, and touching the tips of my outstretched fingers to his, he then clasped together his hands in the traditional desert greeting.

I remembered to keep my veil around my face. No man would remove his veil from across his mouth in the presence of authority, and this man looked like he was fully invested with the leadership of the tribe. He carried a dagger in his girdle and the takouba, at his side.

Bowing to him, placing my hands crossed over my chest I answered.

“We have come a long way over the desert, and seek water and supplies. We have need of rest and a safe place to recover our spirits, praise the Gods and Goddesses.” I remembered to pitch my voice low, and tried to make my eyes look fierce.

“My wife is in need of sleep. The desert is hard on one so young and this is the first time she crosses it.”

I caught a slight flicker of a smile in the eyes of the man before me. We nomadic people are versed in reading the eyes, for they are the gateways of the soul. The soul resides in the liver, but the eyes are the portals.

“We welcome you to our camp. Come and sit with us, and tell us how you found the desert, the mother of us all. Your wife will be refreshed by the women.”

I didn’t look at Takama, for to do so would give too much regard for her welfare. Only if she were sick or breeding would a man publicly show his concern, and then in a very small way before strangers.

I sat and ate good mutton stew, and was grateful the darkness was falling fast, for when I lowered my veil to eat, perhaps my features would appear as that of a woman. But the blue dye soaked into my face, and I thought I passed for a young man. Young I would appear to all, and there was nothing I could do about it.

There would be no questions, for this is not our way, and I offered little about our journey, except to say the desert was a wide sea indeed, and we had come from afar. What I didn’t realize was this: anything I said about the journey, these nomads would already know. If I said we had been journeying for two weeks, they could probably pinpoint our tribe’s oasis. If I said a month, they would know I was lying, for there was only this oasis and we would have passed by two weeks ago. Stuffing my mouth with mutton and washing it down with goat’s milk, I was grateful for the hospitality and the few questions.



I fell asleep sitting at the fire, my blanket wrapped around me and covering my head. It was cold at night in the desert. The wind picked up towards morning, and at some point in the night I lay down, pulling my blanket tight around me. . Someone had placed heated stones nearby and this helped ward off the chill of the night.

Towards dawn, I needed to pass water, and I walked into the desert. In case I was watched, I stood and pulled up my robes high like a man would do. Of course, I watered my leg, and the warm stream steamed in the cold morning air. Shaking my leg and trying to wipe it dry on my gown, I headed back to the tents. Women had brewed a strong mint tea with honey, and I was grateful for this and the breakfast of couscous, flat bread and goat’s milk.

“You must stay with us as long as you like,” said the tall chieftain.

“We would have news of different tribes and we hunger for knowledge as to warfare. We have heard of raiders from the north, these Arabs, who attack our settlements over the mountains and take our women and children for their slaves. May Ammon slay these nonbelievers!”

The chieftain spat in the sand.

Ah! There was a problem. Two problems, actually. One there were possibly raiders around and also my stubborn determination to keep going. Where, I had no idea. All those hours on top of Niefa, plodding eastward had led me to the belief that my fate was to be revealed. I was to be carried on the sands of the desert to some final haven, where the still-galling thoughts of Hasim would be erased and I would emerge anew, in body and spirit. Somehow, I would be reborn from the distance I traveled and the time passed.

As I relate here: I was very young. I also was not prepared for what happened that day.

I had given my name the night before as Adal Berkan Yellel, which in our Amazigh language meant Tiger – Dark – to be Free. All those hours on Niefa in the hot sun had baked my brains and I should have picked names less colorful. But Adal Berkan Yellel I was now and I had days to memorize it. I even felt I could wear these names truthfully, for I wanted my freedom from the previous shameful life. It took many years for me to come to a place of peace with my shame, which really was not of my doing.

After breakfast, when Takama and I were attending to our beasts, I was asked by the chieftain, Zeggan Yuba , to walk with him out of the encampment to the edge of the desert. I thought this reasonable, for he realized we were very young and was taking a fatherly concern for two youths alone in the desert.

We walked out from the oasis, past the chott, where dried flood lakes were depressions on the landscapes and came to a place of hamada; rock strewn plains. Zeggan Yuba pointed out the Nubian bustards, other raptors and even desert eagles. There were many migratory birds, some now traveling towards the mountains, flying with the updrafts from the heated plains, and others in long flights from the shores in the north, many weeks travel from here.

I was watching a desert eagle, it’s effortless flight on the thermals above us, when Zeggan Yuba pushed me up against a large rock and placed his two hands on my breasts. Then, before I could protest, he ripped the veil from around my face, and held it hard within his large hand. His eyes searched my face, and at the same time, his other hand slipped down my belly to my woman’s place. Obviously, to his satisfaction, I was no man. Just when I thought I would be raped, he stepped back and laughed softly.

“I thought you were a woman from the first time I laid eyes upon you. By all the Gods, tell me now the truth, and I will not betray you.”

I fumbled to rearrange the veil over my face, and he slapped my hand away.

“Do not increase your sin. Men, and only real men may wear the tagelmonst. You are clearly a woman, though I could find out for sure if you defy me.”

My eyes widened in fear, and in spite of my former swaggering, tears, a woman’s shameful tears, collected in my eyes.

“I implore you, O Father, not to betray me, nor hurt my slave, Takama. I am a woman, though I run from that knowledge, and I take my slave with me in my journey.”

The desert men are a tough breed, immured to death and violence and many horrors of life, but they can be just men, and their word is their honor. I was assuring myself my truthful words would not fall on deaf ears. For him to violate me would also defame his own reputation.

So I told him my circumstances, and how I had come to be in the desert with only a slave girl as a companion. He squatted in the sand and I sat on my haunches as a proper woman would before a man, and poured forth my sad tale.

Zeggan Yuba was silent, and only the eyes above his veil gave me encouragement to tell him my story. At that time, he had the power of life and death over both Takama and myself. I was appealing to his tasa, the liver, where we desert people, now called Berbers, say the soul dwells.

All Berbers love a good story, they are the best in the world for storytelling and poetry. We are a talkative people and enjoy jokes and humor, too. I could see he was weighing carefully all I told him.

“Tell me, my child, what your name is, and don’t think for one moment I believe it to be “A free dark tiger’.” He laughed softly, his eyes never once moving from my face. Even though I was stained by the indigo across my cheeks, I blushed as any woman would do, caught in a lie or by flattery.

I told him my birth name was Aicha, and the name of my father’s tribe. I also said how far we had traveled, and that I was determined to find my fate, whether it was as bleached bones in desert, or in a village somewhere far from there.

Zeggan Yuba nodded his head, and sucked on a tough grass he pulled from a clump nearby.

“You show courage far beyond your years, but you don’t have the wisdom to back it up.”


I dropped my eyes to the sandy soil and was quiet. He was right, I was on a course dangerous and deadly, not only for myself, but I was dragging Takama into my fate, and this was compounding my sins.

“We are a hard but just people, my Aicha. If I were you, I would return to the tribe of your father. So you have cut off your woman’s crowning glory? It will grow back. You will find another man to marry, for you are comely, inspite of the indigo dye on your face.”

He looked out towards the desert, his eyes like a hunting hawk, narrowed from the sun’s rays on the sand. Even his bent nose looked like the beak of a bird of prey.


“ When you are young, you find great problems insurmountable, but when you grow older, your wisdom grows with you and these problems will lessen, with prayer to the Gods and patience to listen.”

How could I tell Zeggan Yuba that I had rendered myself unworthy for a husband, for what man will marry a woman without a maidenhead? Yes, if I was widowed or divorced, but that was not my station. No, I had no choice but to push on, and hope that fate would clear my vision and rest my liver.

Zeggan Yuba watched me closely and shook his head. “Aicha, Aicha, I see your father has bred a stubborn child. You will not listen to me? Isn’t returning to your tribe better than a mass of bleached bones in the desert? Or think of a raider party, what chance would two young girls have against such odds?”

He meant well, but I was Zar-driven, or I must have been, because all his reason fell on deaf ears. It was as if the Goddesses had stopped up my ears along with their own. I shook my head and he put out his hand and patted my shoulder, much as a father would do to comfort his child.

“If you are determined to go, we will supply you with food and water, enough to get you both across the mountain and down into the valleys. There you will find another settlement and hopefully you will make your way in safety. I have promised to keep your secret, Aicha, but know there will always be a place for you in our tribe if you have a change of heart.”

Again he looked out towards the desert and sighed.

“Think of my words, Aicha, when the winter’s winds howl and you and your slave are alone in the mountains. Think of the warmth of our fire and the smell of our stews. Perhaps your stubborn heart with turn with the scent of our food in your nostrils and the howling of your empty stomachs.”

Later that day I exchanged a silver necklace and bracelet for the generous water and food given to us. Mounted on my Niefa, with Takama on her donkey behind, I gazed into the eyes of Zeggan Yuba, as he stood besides me, his eyes searching my face. I had returned the veil across my own, and my eyes filled with tears. Kissing our fists and touching our foreheads, we bid each other goodbye, and turning our beasts to the east, we started our journey over the mountains.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2009,2018








Some paintings….landscape and wildlife.

March 8, 2018

Some readers didn’t realize the paintings displayed on this blog were done by the blog owner.  Me.  I have been a landscape/wildlife painter for over 30 years and have  taught classes.  I do know those who are self-taught usually are passionately bound up in the process of painting.  Why else would you stumble around an easel for frustrating years?  And yes, a class can give some direction.  For many beginning painters.  But many of us, we are off milling our own wheat. Sitting our butts down and watching someone paint is agony.   I think many teachers are insensitive to the fact that people learn in different ways.  Some can read and look at pictures and come away as confused as before.  Some need a naked model before they can paint body parts…But most just need a pad of good watercolor paper and some paint.  Doodling large shapes, just having ‘fun’ with what develops can be as inspiring as sitting in a hard chair.  I’ve been asked to do a video for beginning watercolor painters, and am thinking about it. Just at the thinking stage.  I don’t know. My hat’s off to anyone who plays around with paint and then falls into it.  And what is this garbage of painting is ‘relaxing?”  Aggggghhhhh~  It should be but I’ve missed that stage.  Each piece of heavy white watercolor paper brings its demons with them into the room to frustrate and irritate.  That is what is behind the old story of “fear of that blank page”.  LOL!

The paintings below are mine.

Lady Nyo


(this last painting was done from a photo of an Italian Landscape, from a cook book!  One of the problems with photography is the flattening out of dimensions and so you have to ‘think in the round’ a bit and add color.  This turned out pretty good but I had to really think.

Some of these aren’t displayed well, but so is much of life.

These are obviously of some wildlife.


owls, baby 2

(This last painting I will have to iron or figure out some way to straighten out the creases.  This comes from removing it from a board before it was dry, or some other strange event.  Cats prowl around my easel, so they could be suspects….)

And my personal favorite.  I gave this to a relative who obviously didn’t like it, hung it on a closet louvered door, where it fell  and lay in the dust under a bed for a few years.  I found  and brought it home and hung it (fixed) in my bedroom.  I used it for the cover of “Song of the Nightingale”.  One less cover I had to paint.  Now, that’s relaxing. LOL!


(And Thanks to Nick Nicholson in Australia for the photographing of these paintings.)

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2018



A Good Mother and her Precious Baby….

March 7, 2018

Sent to me by a dear friend, Steve New, in France.

To me, this is the most beautiful presentation of Mother-Love and her adorable baby.  Wish her my mother any day.


“The Token Rose”, a plea for tolerance.

March 6, 2018

backyard 6

The Token Rose

Outside it is cold,
No leaves flutter
In bitter winds,
No birdsong to
Sweeten the air,
Just the Token rose
Trembling in fierce gusts
Howling round the eaves.

Too early this spring,
This rose started to bloom,
A miracle of season,
A miracle of mercy.

Named for a woman
Who died by her own hand,
A hand forced by ignorance
Isolation, and
No Mercy.

Ah, we are so hard on those
We say we love,
We are lacking in compassion
To those who march out of step,
Those who don’t believe as we do,
And then we hide from
What we have wrought,
Uneasy but still righteous.

If there is any hint of shame
We bury it deep as deep as the grave
She now lies in.

The Token Rose flutters in the cold.
Pearly white tinged with pink
Catches the feeble sunlight
And waves a forgiveness
That we, hardened of heart,
Do not deserve.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2014-2018, because intolerance and hatred doesn’t have a specific date.

Token was a woman in an in law’s family who turned lesbian to the shock and dismay of her family, etc.  She blew her brains out while talking to these folk on the phone.  This was decades ago, but the horror of ‘Christian’ intolerance still shocks.  Fundamentalism leads to death  within any religion.  These people want to be called ‘early Christian’ but to me and many others, they are shock troops of Evil.

Regardless Token’s sexuality, she deserved better. When will our intolerance and ignorance abate?  Apparently never.

And….I transplanted this 20 year old rose bush to the new rose garden in the back last fall, as it was ailing.  Today I saw huge rose buds and such wonderful, green foliage.  Token lives on and I am grateful.  She will always live for me in this rose bush.

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