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“Winter Widow”

February 24, 2023

“Winter Widow”

February 24, 2023

She saw the naked trees of winter

Lit by a slivered crescent moon,

Casting thin shadows upon a frigid ground,

Skeletons in the moonlight

Dark ghosts,

Brittle like her bones.

Little flesh about her,

A fresh widow

Reduced to grief

Resembling fragile branches outside in the sullen night.

There was a time when she was juicy,

Ripe with swelling life,

Velvet of skin.

She lapped at life with full lips,

Embracing passions.

Speared on her husband

She moaned, screamed with laughter

And sheer joy.

Her life had been full,




A portrait of promise.

He died and life turned surreal.

The reason for living gone.

The temperature of her life

Had grown colder,

Like him under the soil.

It started to snow,

A gentle covering of branch

Bush, ground,

A tender benediction,

A white blanket to her pain.

She knelt in the garden

Suddenly grateful to feel anything

Even the cold.

She would live,

She knew this now,

But he must be so cold under the snow.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

“The Desert Zar” Part Two

February 17, 2023

The Desert Zar, Part Two

Each woman had a story behind her. This one was a very young woman, now married to a much older man. He lurked in the background, anger hard in his eyes, his mouth set in a grimace. He had paid a good marriage price for his wife and she had not given him what he expected. A son was what he demanded and she had only produced one stillborn in the two years they had been married. Something was wrong with her. Perhaps the ritual he paid for with heavy coin would answer to his concerns. If not, perhaps he could ship her back to her parents and demand the bride price back.

The Sheika’s voice called out, her arms raised towards the woman, and this woman began to pace around the altar. At first her head just nodded back and forth as she slowly moved around the room. Then her body began to twitch, her arms rose upwards, jerking with her movements. Her hair was unbound, and with each violent movement of her head, it swung around in great, undulating waves.

Still the drums increased their tempo. The drummers were off in their own trances, their faces blank, their eyes unfocused. The ney player, his wooden flute dark with age and the stains of fingers, was answered with finger cymbals and an undercurrent of chants. The room seemed to pulsate within another dimension as the incense and drums took over the senses. The chants increased in strength and sweat poured down the face and breasts of the Sheika and the possessed young woman, making transparent their white cotton dresses. Dark tipped nipples and golden breasts, the sheen of skin heated to match the frenzy of all around them, they danced on, now uttering incoherent growls and high pitched exclamations. Other women sat in place and tossed their bodies back and forth and a few stood up and joined the young woman, their own bodies beginning to mimic hers. Shrieks and groans were heard from different corners of the room and still the drums increased in rhythm, exciting the senses to a fever pitch.

Suddenly the Sheikha stiffened, her eyes rolled back as the young woman passing before her collapsed at her feet.

She had caught the Zar! He had released hold of the ends of the hair of the young woman and flown into the arms of the Sheikha! He had hit her with enough force that she staggered backwards and only the support of the women behind her kept her on her two feet.

Now the Wise Woman talked in a low, unknown language. She berated, cajoled, implored and threatened the Zar. She grasped at the air and shook it violently. She brought the Zar to her breast, seemed to stroke it, this unseen matter, and then push it from her, chiding and scolding it.

For those in the room who knew about Zars, knew one never could get rid them. No, he could be appealed to, reasoned with, but who but one equal to a Zar can reason with a Demon?

A man brought forth a white cock and with a quick flash of his knife, cut its throat. With a bow he presented the dying cock to the Sheikha who began to sprinkle the warm blood about the now still woman. Again low guttural chants rose all around but the drums remained silent.

The Sheikha would threaten this Zar with her own spirits. She would threaten with her own history of wrestling with past Zars, and call upon their power for her to subdue this one.

Silently she prayed the demon before her would attend. It would be a fierce battle to the end, and onlookers watched for signs of who was winning; who was more powerful.

Ah! There always was signs of the battle within. Exhaustion threatened to overtake the Sheikha. She would have to bargain hard with this Zar. He was a powerful one; not about to give up his berth without a fight.

But, slowly, slowly….there were signs she was winning, and those who knew of these things would see renewed energy on the part of the Sheikha, a renewed passion for what she was facing. If she was coming to victory, her voice would soften, her appeals would be as to a child and perhaps this Zar would listen.

But success was never assured. These Zars were thousands of years old and wily creatures. They may be made of air and malevolence, but they were a force outside Nature.

No victory over a supernatural force could be guaranteed. It always was a battle to the end. For you never get ride of a Zar, the possessor. You only give him a good shakeup, new marching orders, and you send him back into the possessed.

No one wants a Zar running around scaring the children and chickens. And a goat for possession will not do.

The Sheikha looked down at the woman at her feet. Ah! There was a change in her face, a smoothing of her brow, a peaceful countenance. She could be restored to her husband and the Sheikha prayed that he would see his wife in a new light.

The Sheikha knew what was wrong here. It was the same old story over and over. A man, too old to give his wife the pleasure she was made for, would demand from her what he could not give. So the senses were imbalanced, the forces of love were destroyed, the woman would suffer unless….

The Sheikha’s eyes snapped to the husband and with a gesture she had him approach. She stared deep into his eyes and held them. She muttered in her strange and frightening language and still she did not drop her eyes. Then she sprinkled his white robes liberally with the cock’s blood.

She had the satisfaction of seeing the fear in his eyes.

Perhaps this time the Zar will behave. And better, perhaps so the husband, too.


Outside the walls of the souk, outside where the night wind rested, camels complained and the dung fires scented the air, where the moon looked down on the sea of sand, other Zars were gathering to float over the walls.

The food on the altar would not last long. Again Spirit would invade Flesh and the drums would call out demons into the arms of some Sheikha.

In this part of the world, the Zars were part of human destiny.

They were a part of life as much as the desert sands, the groans of camels and the dark eyes of beautiful women.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2023

“The Desert Zar:” a short story of mystery and magic

February 16, 2023

Desert Zar

The dust  settled from the desert.  All day it howled and swirled around the souk, a  locust plague of stinging matter.  Now the sky over the sands was  fading pink, as daylight, filtered through the violent storm of silica, closed into a dark blue night.  

The roiling sea of sand, shifting like high waves of water, was now placid.  Off to the east, bells of a caravan mixed with  the groans and protestations of camels, floated over a heavy air. Jasmine and bougainvillea  scented the night and dung fires sent up their acrid smoke.

Dusk  was settling in, this  narrow time between day and night, bridged  by a few soft, sensual  breezes. The night inhaled deeply, holding the memories of the day close, then let them fly into the desert, to be repeated each dusk into eternity.

This was Tunis of a hundred years ago, before the awnings of  the souk, now woven reed mats, were replaced with sheet tin, and the trampled dirt paved. 

Somewhere a drum begin a steady beat.  It sounded like a heart beat, drawn from the village core. Then the soft piping of the ney flute floated out over the souk, it’s sweetness rising like a decant over the measured beat of more drums.

Black clad shadows moved  down the length of  clay walls, moving to the center well.  Bundles of jasmine, tuberoses, bougainvillea, red poppies, lavender and tea roses  had been placed on the steps of the well, seemingly to scent the still water.

An old Negress, her back twisted and with a prominent hump, took a few coins from each woman who passed her by.  Her hair twinkled like dull stars from the pierced coins strung from her dreadlocks.

This was the price of the Zar dance.  Each woman would exorcise her demon, her hysteria or her bad luck.  And with hope, perhaps a  mean husband.

As more and more women came around the well, it seemed that the drums became louder and the ney flute shriller.  A bleating of a goat was somewhere not too far off.

Still black clad figures moved in the settling darkness down the cobbles to the well and placed their few coins in the Negress’ hand.

Around the corner and down the street still was a doorway with a curtain drawn over the opening. The  incense could be smelled through the curtain as it scented the nighttime air, dueling with the tuberoses and jasmine growing up walls. The shrillness of the ney increased and the drums picked up a rhythm.

If one would go through the curtain they would enter a room that was heavy with smells.  Incense overall, but there were undercurrents of the tobacco and hookah being smoked deep in the darkened room. There was something acrid, like the smell of fear or sweat.

There were wooden benches placed far back upon the walls and already there were men and women, mostly women, sitting in the smokey fog. Most were still clad in the black chadors, but here and there were sparkles of elaborately beaded and adorned head scarfs.  One women sat like a princess with a stool for her feet.  She was dressed in embroidered and elaborate robes with silver jewelry over her forehead.  She was the youngest wife of the local chieftain and woe be anyone who accosted her. Black eyes, pupils expanded because of some drug were like ebony moons in her face.  The heavy sandalwood perfume that came from her robes scented the air about her. 

In the middle of the floor was a high wooden stool where a large tray of sweets and fruits were offered to the spirits of the night.  No mortal hand or mouth would partake of such offerings.

Part O ne of The Desart Zsr…

jane kohut-bartels


“Poem of My Husband”

February 12, 2023

“Poem of My Husband”

February 12, 2023

We have been married 38 years. A happy marriage, regardless of the turmoil of life around us. It doesn’t dare touch us.


“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, 2010-2023

“Metamorphosis I”

February 11, 2023

“Laura!”  Her husband’s voice near.  “I’m coming” she called back.

Peering out the window her pupils opened wider. She saw strange

things. The veins in the leaves, the mounds of disturbed soil from

moles far below. The moon so close! The night beckoned to her, she

felt like flying out there.

Under her gown she felt thin membranes grow under her arms. The

tissue, transparent, joined with two hooks on her elbows.  Her breasts

shrunk to nothing, only large nipples remaining. Her sex seemed to

shift backwards, her vulva misplaced.

  “I’m coming along nicely,” she whispered.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted 2023

“Chicken Hawk Talk”

February 11, 2023

Chicken Hawk!

Leave my chickens alone!

I have worked hard for them,

A handmaiden of fowl.

Collecting beautiful eggs

The gift of the species

Naturally dyed

Pink, brown, blue-green and white.

These colorful gems

Presented at Easter,

A symbol of the Lamb of God,

And the Spring of Life.

Leave my chickens alone, hawk.

I won’t even share.

I remember two short years ago,

When I saw you wheeling over the kudzu

Riding the thermals,

Not graced with the brick-colored tail of a proper Red Tail hawk–

And I gasped at your splendor, a winged god

From the cosmos, glittering white ash against a cobalt sky,

And you landed one day in my birdbath,

Trying to look like a stone sculpture,

And just the flicker of your 8x eyes

Looked over the songbirds for lunch.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2023

“A Mid December Poem”

February 10, 2023

“A Mid December Poem”

February 10, 2023

Thinking of the freezing Winter weather in Turkey, Syria and the Ukraine. War, recovery and relief are all subject to such horrible times.

It is the middle of December.

The wind is hollow sharp

Cuts like flying razors

Where only weeks ago

a balminess

A warmth caressed

The skin,

Did not sting with rudeness


The wind chimes out on the eaves

Sound like a drunken brawl:

Sharp, discordant jangles,

Clashes of mutiny

Fear and riot.


There is blackness in the north,

A bear of a storm piling down

Upon the trees in the distance

The sways of hundred year oak and pecan,

Fully half of their length gyrating like dervishes,

But so much more dangerous than those

Spectral gyroscopes.


It is Winter.

There are no buffering leaves,

Branches full with blazoned branches,

Green swags like pythons

Swaying from tree to tree.


No, it is Winter

And there is no

Curbing the natural violence

Of this peculiar season.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2023

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