“Three Love poems….

April 21, 2023

“Three Love poems….

April 21, 2023

Come to me
If even only in my dreams
Where my head rests upon your arm
And not mine–
Let this veiled moon
Above and these dark, brooding pines below
Be witness to our love, my man.”

Come to me,
When the rocks have disappeared
Under sheets of snow,
The moon appears through tattered clouds.
I will be
Listening for the sound of
Your footfall in the dark.

Come to me, my man,
Part the blinds and come into my arms,
Snuggle against my warm breast
And let my belly
Warm your soul.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
copyrighted 2023


April 20, 2023

“Hana, the German Shepherd

April 20, 2023

we adopted Hana one day before she was to be euth. It was our 38th wedding anniversary….Clayton County Rescue. Hana is 6 years old, a real Barbarian but she is changing with love, steady food and her own home and yard. She was 49 lbs when we adopted her…it was pathetic as she should have been 70lbs at the very least. This morning she came upstairs and jumped up on the bed and that was all right.

Hana is Home.

“The Kimono” Chapter 39

April 19, 2023

Kimono, Chapter 38? With the ghost stories….

After three days, Lord Yoki was up and walking in front of the temple. He must keep out of sight of Shon-oni-gawa, for he was not able to fight. To do so would prove fatal. 

He maintained the guise of an elderly man, though the head priest knew he was tengu.  He was garbed in a decent, plain kimono found in the temple chests.  Mari saw him extend his left arm and then try the right one.  He was limited in movement, and she heard his curses of frustration. 

She was suffering her own doubts.  She knew her presence would be a shock to Lord Tetsu.  He probably had no expectations of her turning up in his century.  She wondered if Lord Yoki was telling the truth. He had a way of scrambling things.  Perhaps he was here for his own reasons and not those of Lord Mori. Maybe he was curious to see if his feather worked.

Late one morning Mari heard the temple bell ring. It was too late for morning prayers and too early for noon devotions. It rang to gather in the priests from their gardens and hillside crops.  She heard Lady Nyo calling to her.

“Lady Mari!”  Hana Nyo appeared at the doorway to their room.  “The men have returned.”  She looked flustered, patted her hair and readjusted the skirt of her kimono.  “ Come, let us greet them.”

Mari was anxious.  “Hana, I don’t know how Lord Tetsu will take my presence.  I am fearful he will not be pleased.”

“Oh, how could you think that?  It will be a shock but he’s a man and I am sure a woman appearing will not be the worse he has had.”

Mari could do nothing.  She was here, had used the feather to appear, and now she was to find out the effect of her presence before him.  The past months of despair, divorce and waiting in this drafty temple had come to this.

Lady Nyo stood on the porch of the temple along with Lord Yoki and the head priest.  Mari hovered in the shadows.  She didn’t want to venture forth until the men were greeted by the others.   She watched as the men before the temple dropped the ropes, their bows and quivers, their staffs in a pile.

First Lord Nyo bowed to his wife and Lord Yoki and the priest.  Then Lord Ekei, looking thinner and worn, came to the porch and bowed.  Lord Tetsu was standing with his older samurai as they piled up their various bundles.  Then Lord Tetsu came forth and bowed to the head priest and the rest of the company.  They all looked tired, thinner and their clothes were not clean.  Their appearances showed the trials on the mountain.

Lady Nyo stepped back and grabbed Mari’s kimono by the sleeve.  She pulled her forth into the sunlight and Mari stood with them on the porch.

She watched for Lord Tetsu’s reaction.  It was not long coming. He was leaning on his swords and staggered back. He caught himself, but his face was a range of emotions.  Mari hoped he was glad to see her.  She saw him struggle in front of the others.  Then they bowed to each other. This time, Mari bowed as low as she thought proper.

The men would go to a hot spring to bathe and after, a small banquet would be prepared by the priests.  As Lord Tetsu passed Mari, she saw him stare at her in wonder. He reached out and touched her hair. Then, shaking his head and smiling he passed on with the other men.

Mari sighed in relief. She wondered when she would be able to speak to him.  Now that she had seen him, she felt shy, an intruder. Could her life fit in the confines of this man? She didn’t want to admit it but she was ardently in love.  And just as uneasy. Could he love her or was she just a passing fancy? That last meeting by the lake, where the little red fox pawed the water under a full moon had give her a glance into this man.  He was so tender towards her that night. She remembered him wrapping her in a quilt and singing her to sleep in a low, off key voice.   Or was this just part of a confusing dream?

“Come, Mari”.  Lady Nyo whispered in her ear.  “The men will be gone long enough for us to dress and put our faces on.  My lord, they all look exhausted. Lord Ekei looks especially gaunt, but he was too stout.”

Mari dressed in a kimono of Lady Nyo’s.  A patterned robe, stamped with black and white iris. She had a plain plum colored obi. Mari allowed Hana Nyo to powder her face and place rouge where she thought best. She refused to have Hana brush those caterpillars-for-eyebrows on her forehead.  Nor would she blacken her teeth.  She brushed out her hair and tied it with a red paper ribbon.

The main hall in front of the temple god was the only place to set up several low tables.  It was dark and cool and perfumed with incense. The rafters were black with centuries of smoke.  Bats slept under the eaves, their guano streaking the walls.  

The village head and some of the more important villagers were invited as such an event was a rare occasion.  To meet pilgrims from another region was, though not unusual for the area, still something that didn’t happen often. The snows of late fall would start to appear and then travel would stop until late spring. Of course, only the Abe no Shin thought he knew the real identity of his guests, and Lord Ekei allowed him his fancy.  To all else, they were just pilgrims, though wealthy ones, who climbed Mt. Gassan.

The priests of the temple were also attending, but most of them as waiters for the banquet.  They were grateful for the food they never saw in such quality in the temple. 

The Abe no Shin gave a short speech of welcome and performed a pray of thankfulness for the safety and protection of the pilgrims and also the village.  The coming winter would trap them in their cottages and hovels.  The lakes would freeze and food would become scarce.  The temple gardens would be empty and starvation was not the plight only of the villagers below.

Sitting across the low table from Lord Tetsu and the other men, Mari had a chance to observe them closely. Lord Ekei did look exhausted. He seemed rather quiet.  Lord Nyo looked about the same, but he was younger than the rest and this mountain climbing would not have been as trying.

Lord Tetsu looked tired.  He also lost weight, but other than that, he wasn’t changed.   All of them were sunburnt as they made their way across long valleys and meadows.  The priests had offered the best from their chests, but the kimonos the men wore were plain, unadorned.  As what one would expect in a temple of priests.  But they were clean and smelled of sandalwood and camphor.

The priests had prepared grilled sea bass, made dishes of pickled vegetables, rice balls and miso soups. They had called upon the villagers to bring produce and prepared foods to the temple. There was a surprising amount offered by a small mountain village.

After the feast, the cask of sake was brought in with pipes and smoking trays. The room settled down.  Then Lord Yoki called for a round of ghost stories.  Who doesn’t like a good ghost story, thought Mari?

 Lady Nyo didn’t.

 Hana was trapped.  She could not desert Mari because she had been ordered to be her companion, and this from Lord Tetsu, not her own husband. In any case, it would be improper for a lone woman to be in the company of men.  No, she would have to endure the vulgar stories.

Lord Yoki spoke up, well into his cups.

“Let us begin differently tonight.  Let each of us tell a story, and go around the room.  I will start with a tale of a battle between two mighty Tengus  who fought to the….”

“No you won’t, my Lord”, interrupted Lord Ekei.  “I know your stories and they never end.  We will be up arguing the finer points of your battles and we need sleep.  The forest floor is an uncomfortable bed at my age.   I look forward to tatami mats tonight. My bones will thank me.”

“Then you start with a ghost story, my lord.  That will put us all to sleep.”

The men laughed.  There was a history between those two men. Even Lady Nyo giggled.

Abe no Shin announced that the village head man was known for his story telling.  He was sitting at the end of the table, an elderly man who had been a fisherman his entire life until his sons and sons in law had taken over his boat.  Now he sat under a tree in the village and smoked his pipe until called home for dinner.

Bowing to the company, he lit his pipe and puffed for a while, thinking.  In a low monotone he began.

‘There once was a son of a merchant. He married a beautiful young woman and everything went well until the second year of their marriage.  One night, he awoke in bed and looked at his wife through sleepy eyes.  He saw her head rise up and up, and her neck like a serpent stretch out until her head left the room!  He heard a slurping noise and realized she was drinking something.  Her head reappeared, and her neck retracted, now her head lay on her pillow, her lips shining with lamp oil. ‘

“There is a moral lesson here and what is it?” he asked the room.

“Don’t drink all the oil from the lamps!” yelled Lord Yoki to general laughter.

After a few stories, where Lady Nyo whispered a translation into Mari’s ear as the dialect of the mountain was almost unintelligible, she needed to excuse herself.  Though she had only two cups of wine her bladder was full.  There was a bamboo stand used for that purpose off one side of the temple and down the hill.

Mari slipped out as the smoke filled the room and the laughter grew louder.  She stopped at the temple porch and looked at the moon.  It was a crescent, bright, low in the sky.  Breathing deeply, she tried to clear her mind.  During the feast she tried to watch Lord Tetsu without being caught.  He seemed oblivious to her presence.  Leaning against a wooden pillar she searched the night sky for stars and comets. She never knew how vast and clear the night sky was without the glare of city lights.  Suddenly, she she wasn’t alone.

Lord Tetsu came up next to her. She looked at him and saw he was looking out at the night.  He remained silent.

Mari didn’t say a word.  She would wait until he spoke.  Where to begin?  There was too much between them unspoken. How to begin was the problem.

“So you have come back.”

It was impossible for Mari to know what to make of these words.  Was he glad, annoyed, what?

“Yes.  I made a choice.”

“Lord Yoki aided you in this choice I would assume.”

“Oh.  I didn’t know if Lord Yoki’s involvement should come from me.”

Lord Tetsu snorted. “Lord Yoki is known to mettle in affairs not of his business. In this case, I am glad he was of service.”

Mari said nothing. There was so much history behind the feather. She didn’t think she could talk about it.  At least, not yet.

“I understand you are now “Mari-who-is-not-married.”

Mari gave a small, sad laugh. She had almost forgotten the name he once called her.

“No, Lord Tetsu, I am no longer married.  In our time, it is called divorce.”

“In our time, too, Mari, it is called divorce.  But perhaps not for the same reasons.”

“I am not sure I can explain to you why I came back.  I am not sure myself.”

 “An earthquake makes a mess of lives  and sometimes the future.”

Lord Tetsu rested his hands on his swords.  “If it gives you any peace of mind, I am glad you have returned.  I have missed many things.”

Mari took a deep breath.  “Did you mean to kill me?”

Lord Tetsu looked down and laughed.  “I hoped I didn’t, but these things generally don’t work by yamabushi magic alone.  There is fate and destiny in the making of events.”

Mari stiffened.  “You might see it that way.  The purple marks on my neck  said something happened.  I was in a coma for weeks.  I didn’t remember anything. My memory was blank.”

“Perhaps that was the blessing.  You didn’t have to make up any lies.  You were innocent of events.”

Yes, perhaps she was.  But until Lord Yoki appeared in the park, memories were hard to untangle.  Nothing made much sense.

“I think you are a fox maiden. Kitsune.   I think you put a spell on me.”

Mari laughed.  “Unfortunately I don’t know any spells. And I don’t know any foxes.”

“Still, perhaps you will make many discoveries. . May luck follow you closely”.

“Thank you,  Lord Tetsu.”

“You may call me Higato when we are alone.”

Mari thought that was quite a concession from him.  Perhaps this was his way of drawing close?

“Thank you, my lord.  I will not abuse the privilege.  I am grateful for your kindness.”

Lord Tetsugrunted and rocked on his heels.

“I would like to do more right now.  I would like to do more but I won’t defile the hospitality of the temple.  The priest doesn’t  know who I am, though he thinks he does.  Actually, he thinks Lord Ekei is the noble here and I have let the priest think as he likes.”

“That is probably wise, my lord.  Lady Nyo thinks we are still in Kiyama’s lands.”

Lord Tetsu scowled. “And she would be right.  At least by the way the crow flies.  Danger will follow us as we travel back home. I will not rest easy until I see my carp in my pond.”

Mari laughed, remembering his carp.  He was rather fond of those fish.  He called them his trusted councilors.

“I would like to talk with you more of  many things. What you call science, the forms of battle and weaponry in your times, many  things.  Your knowledge of medicine and herbs.  All this will be beneficial.  It is a boon to me, Mari, that we have met, even in such strange ways.  I will give you your own residence.  Perhaps you would like to return to the cottage before?  We will have more privacy there than in the castle.  And Lady Udo will not be around to torment you.”

Mari laughed.  “I am most grateful, Higato.  There is much to discuss and learn from our different cultures.”

Mari knew she could disturb his world.  Lord Tetsu, like almost every Japanese,  saw the world as existing of Japan, Korea and China.  And they had no idea how big China was.  But the rest of the world was far bigger.  It would scramble his brains if he knew the extent of the Earth.  Perhaps here was her power over him.  She would have preferred love, but there were many obstacles.  Culture, class, every aspect of existence came between them.  Whatever she was to face, it would be an uphill battle.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2018-2023

“The Kimono” Chapter 37

April 19, 2023

During their morning tea, Mari spied a man walking up the path.  Even at this distance, there was something familiar about him.

Then she knew.  It was Lord Yoki. Their very strange bird.

He looked like a court official, dressed in an elegant ichidic (overcoat) , with his sleeves pulled back to show the silk embroidery of the lining.

Mari snorted.  That would tell of the vanity of the man…

He had a high stiff cap on the top of his head, with strings tied under his chin. The closer he came, the more she was convinced it was he. His nose gave it away.  It might appear normal to some, especially men who drank too much sake, but to her, it was clearly the mark of a tengu. Long and red.

 Over his form he had thrown a glamour of magic.  Only where his sandals beneath his long robes, could one tell this particular piece of magic wasn’t working.  His feet were still bird claws, the nails curving to the ground.

“Who is it, Mari?”  Lady Nyo was becoming agitated. her eyes huge with fear.

“Oh, Hana!  I believe it to be Lord Yoki.  There are telltale signs that say so.”

Mari expected him, sooner the better.  She wanted to give him her thanks for the feather and the flight. But there was more than wanting to give him her thanks..   Seeking the protection of a Tengu was not a bad idea. He had his own forms of magic.  This was comforting. Plus, he was the only bird around who understood (somewhat…) her century.  They had a bond born beyond magic.  He was the only ‘real’ creature in this very long dream.

Most of all she wanted news of Lord Tetsu..   Her appearance at the temple would evoke strong emotions, even from a man who put on a  poker face.  Would he want her back in his life?  Whatever he wants, she was here and probably would never go home.  But this could be her home, a new start in a strange land.  Whether she would be alone or not was something she couldn’t answer. But she was hopeful that something could be salvaged from their former selves.

The two women watched as the man made his way up the steep path, leaning on a heavy staff.  Faced with each other they bowed.  Mari could see the glamour didn’t take with his hair, either.  Hair that should be jet black was iridescent.  The colors of the spectrum streamed forth, the hair dissolving into feathers if you looked long enough.

Mari smiled.  The first time she met Lord Yoki was after the séance at Miyo’s when she was walking home.  The street lamps were on.  Sitting on a wire, under a lamp, was a big bird.  He barked at her to get home, get out of the cold, girl.  His feathers thatcold night shone like jewels from Solomon’s mines.

The glamour was fading and Lord Yoki appeared in more of his tengu features. The feathers in his ears stuck out under his hat, his nose became redder, bending downwards, more beak-like.  Mari saw bird feathers at his ankles.  She couldn’t be more pleased at his sudden appearance on the path, feathers or not.

“My ladies.  How fortunate to find you this morning in my rambles around the mountain. I see, Lady Nyo,  your arm is recovering.  Are you in much pain?”

He looked like a bird of prey as he addressed plump Lady Nyo. A hungry one, thought Mari.

Lady Nyo finally recognized Lord Yoki and again bowed to him.  “Thank you, my lord, it is a great honor to have you join us.  This temple is so isolated, never yet a visitor and there is little to occupy our hours.”

“And the Lady Mari?  I see you have arrived safely.”

“Yes, Lord Yoki”, said Mari with some surprise.  “Perhaps you will accompany us on our walks?”

“I would be most pleased to do so.  The season is most lovely and the views from here enchanting.”  He waved his hand about, with several rings on his fingers.  Even in the wispy fog, they sparkled like stars.

 “May I attend you, my Lady Nyo, when you have great pain?  I have remedies for pain and other discomforts. I would be honored to attend to you.”

Lady Nyo bowed to him.  Would she want to be nursed by a tengu?  Would that mean she was embroiled, at least on some level, with demons? What would Buddha do?  What would the Goddess of Mercy, Shannon, do?  But the pain was unrelenting, and she couldn’t get any real sleep.  It showed in her face.  Dark circles beneath her pretty eyes. Oh, her husband would put her aside to see her like this!

“Would you excuse me, Lord Yoki?  I am feeling weak this morning and would like to withdraw.  No, no, Mari, I will be fine.  My servant will be there for me. Enjoy your morning.  I am sure that you will be safe with our Lord Yoki in attendance.”

Mari thought this rather sly of Hana.  Of course, they both knew the possibilities of gossip but there were no people around so it was not a sin.  Yet.  Mari laughed to herself.  She must do more study of the behaviors of the men of this climate and century.  It might be a matter of keeping your head.

Lord Yoki walked Lady Nyo up the path to the temple porch.  She was met by her servant and disappeared into the darkness of the hall.

“So.  You made it.”

Mari laughed.  “Obviously.  But I am not sure this isn’t still a very long and epic dream.”

“Oh, it is real enough, my girl. You will find there are things not so different from your own century, and you will find things totally alien, too.”

But tell me, you have broken with your husband?”

Mari thought this a far question.  “Yes, Lord Yoki.  I am divorced.  I am free of our marriage.”

Lord Yoki sat down on a rock, propping his chin on his staff. “And you are about to step into another mess?”

Mari was a bit annoyed at his questions. .  What other reason would she come back to this century if not for Lord Tetsu? This was her reason, if she would be so honest.

“I don’t know about stepping in another mess, Lord Yoki.  I hope to find a life here and to start over again.  With or without my previous entanglements.”

“Oh, don’t get rattled, girl.  I am only curious.  Lord Tetsu is a handful.  As a samurai and daimyo.  Have you any idea what awaits?”

Mari thought about what might happen.  Of course, she thought more of the man and not so much of his position.  Or his responsibilities.  This was probably nothing she could share in.

Shaking her head, Mari had to agree that she knew almost nothing about the role of daimyo.  Those meetings with Tokugawa and Tetsu gave her a taste of what two powerful men could concoct.  How they behaved as polished barbarians.  And how the presence of women in this century meant little in the toll of things.

“It’s going to be a steep learning curve for you, girl.”  Lord Yoki laughed and then snorted.  “You are going to need friends.”

“Oh, Lord Yoki, certainly you are not going to fly away and leave me to make all my mistakes by myself.”  Mari laughed uneasily.

“No, I had no plan of that.  But you do know that  Lord Kiyama is going to march on Lord Tetsu soon enough.  And any preconceptions you have had about life in this century are certainly going to disappear.”

Mari had to agree, though she didn’t want to give the point to Yoki.  She hadn’t even seen Lord Tetsu yet and now she had even more doubts.  Where was her place in this strange land?

“Where you with Lord Tetsui on the mountain?”

“Ah….no.  Each mountain has their own nests of tengu.  Think of the territorial disputes between birds.  That is what awaits an alien tengu.  We are, after all, only birds.”

“So, you were not allowed to climb Mt. Gassan?”

“Not if I wanted to keep my tail feathers.”

“Then how did you come to the temple?”

“I knew of the plans to drop you girls there, and bribe the priests for their protection.  I decided that it would be good form if I showed up and made sure things were honky-dory.”

Mari laughed at that.  One thing that drew her close to Lord Yoki and had from the beginning, was that he had reference to things and language in her century.  That was a comfort unexpected.

“And….our Lord Tetsu sorta suggested I appear.  He entrusted Lady Nyo with your education and comfort, and now she is impaired.  So he gave the honor of this to his old friend, Yoki.  To be your companion and protector.”

Mari was glad for his protection.  About a companion?  Lord Yoki could get tiresome she thought.  Or perhaps merely entertaining would be more hopeful.

“Lord Tetsu would have my head on a pike if anything happened to you, Lady Mari.”  Lord Yoki bowed from his seat.

“He has that high a regard for you.”

“Or, he would wear my head on the top of his war helmet. I wouldn’t expect anything less.”

Suddenly the sky darkened, and Lord Yoki rolled over and over into the soil. .  Mari was knocked backward from the rock.

Righting himself with the help of his staff, Lord Yoki gave a few curses and said “I wondered when he would appear.”

As Mari watched, Lord Yoki transformed.  Those embroidered kimonos and the funny hat disappeared, and  he stood naked in full feathers.  A tall man, he grew feet in every direction.  His eyes turned yellow like an eagle and his nose a cruel, wide beak.

Shaking out his feathers which made him appear even more enormous, he mantled over to the rock and jumping up, he gave a series of terrible shrieks.  Mari thought it wise to cower in the bushes behind her.

With another fierce some shriek, Lord Yoki took to the air and disappeared.  Mari came out from her hiding long enough to see a terrible battle above her below the thermals.  Locking talons, they rolled over and over in the sky, only breaking when they were feet from the mountain sides.  Feathers floated down to earth and the shrieks between the two tengu were frightening.  All the birds of the forest stopped their chatter, the monkeys went quiet, even the waterfalls seemed to silence their torrents.

Suddenly they broke apart, the tengu of this mountain flying off to the west.  Lord Yoki made a thump of  a landing beneath the path on the rocks.  Mari saw him and tucking up her kimono tried to get to him.  The straw bottoms of her sandals slipped on the rocks and she fell a couple of times before she reached him.

Lord Yoki was now a man, dressed in his stained and patched kimono, his right arm at the shoulder bleeding heavily.  He looked dazed, almost unconscious when Mari cradled his head in her lap.  Tears coursed down her cheeks and she heaved with sobs.

Suddenly, Lord Yoki opened his eyes and spoke.

“I ain’t dead yet, girl.  Stop that snuffling.  That was a mean old bird, but so am I.”

Struggling to stand up, he was helped back up the path to the temple, relying both on his staff and Mari’s arms around him.  She did not see the sly smile on his face, now turned from her.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2018


April 19, 2023

“Tsuki tonight….and not biting me.

April 19, 2023

“Tsuki tonight….and not biting me.

April 19, 2023
No photo description available.

“Tsuki” a sequel to “The Kimono”

April 17, 2023

For the past year, I have been writing this sequel and it is going very slow. Life gets in the way….this chapter is dedicated to Gayle Walters Rose, a friend and a good poet. She also read “The Kimono” when it was published.


The years passed quietly enough though it wasn’t without a tragedy.  Lord Nyo had died a few years back from mountain fever.  All the doctoring of Lord Yoki and the priests from the village could do nothing to save him,  Lady Nyo mourned as a loyal wife would but nothing Mari or anyone else could make her consider another husband. Lord Nyo died but left her with another child, this time a son.

Ah we are growing old, thought Lord Tetsu and Mari’s hair was now shot with silver. His own was the same.

When Tsuki was nine years old, he and his band of friends burned down the village’s bath house.  A delegation of village elders came with the news and Lord Tetsu was outraged.  He summoned his son to the meeting of the elders and Tsuki knew he was in deep trouble.  He did not lie or try to avoid blame, his eyes on the floor, and Lord Tetsu could see his son was trembling.  Reparations must be made and Tsuki and the other young criminals were made to work hard and rebuild the bath house.  This time they were ordered to collect heavy stones and learn to place them so they constructed the walls.  Mari saw her son come home from his labor with hands that were blistered and bloody.  She felt sorrow that she could do nothing except order salves and ointments to soothe his hands.  Each night she wrapped his hands in soft cloths so in the morning they started to heal. Lord Tetsu saw the same blistered hands of his son but said nothing.

“Wife” said Lord Tetsu one evening as they sat on the wide porch.  When Tsuki and Miu had gone to bed, they usually had time to talk about the day’s events.  “When he is finished with the bathhouse, he will no longer be studying your science and poetry.  I am putting him in training as a samurai and this is what he will be.”

Mari sucked in her breath and thought how to answer.  “So, he will be a soldier, a warrior?”

“I started my training when I was seven years old.  Tsuki is now nine.  He needs discipline and training.”

“Yes, he needs discipline but he also needs to have an education.”

“Poetry and your science will do nothing to give him a future.  I had decided to put him under the training of Lord Matsue”

Mari heard that name and spoke too fast.  “The Butcher”?  Why, Hanuto.  You know what he is.”

“And you should know that he took on the right wing of Kiyama’s castle and had it not been for his courage, we probably would not be sitting here talking.”

Mari took a deep breath and tried to still her fear.  She knew that this man was her husband’s go-taisho, a battalion general and the backbone of his samurai here.  Her husband had great respect for this man’s courage and training.

She remembered Matsue as a smallish, dark man, with scars on his face from battles and a reserved manner.  Her husband respected him without question.  Mari didn’t like him. She didn’t have to wonder long how he had gotten that name; ‘Butcher”.  He appeared as a brutish man who wore an oni, a fiercesome creature on his headdress to scare other men.  who didn’t have friends but had an old wife. Because of custom and respect, they both were invited to the few ceremonies that they had held in the seven years they were here.

“ I will also put him with an archer that will teach Tsuki to draw a bow properly.”  Mikoyama should be a good choice for this.”

Well, at least he isn’t called “the Butcher”, thought Mari. She had met Lord Mikoyama and knew him to be respected for his Zen training and demeanor. Mari made the assumption that Mikoyama came from the local mountains. Yama meant mountain, but Mikoyama had been exiled from Kyoto for decades for some offense.

“You know best for our son’s future, husband. But I wonder if he has any talent for poetry?”

That was a tricky thing to ask.  She knew that her husband loved poetry but struggled with form. She had brought him some haiku and he liked it because, in his words, it was ‘weird’.  Yes, it was and that was half the charm of it

Lady Nyo lived farther down the coast. There was a small mountain between their homes.  She only came a couple of times a year to visit, and now a widow she came rarely.  Of course she now had two children and the son a toddler still.

Lady Nyo was never far from Mari’s thoughts. It was with joy and sadness when she thought on their history. Hana Nyo was her first and only friend and their friendship had begun a decade ago.  They had suffered Mari’s miscarriage, Hana’s fear and superstition, their kidnapping by Kiyama’s forces and now Mari wasn’t so sure what Hana feared was all superstition.  She had seen some outrageous stuff since she came to ancient Japan, and had believed a little in the ogres and onis of folklore. Certainly she had seen the namamori with her own eyes.  A floating woman who moaned was scary and real enough.. Lord Tetsu believed none of it, but Mari knew he did believe in some of the supernatural.  He just didn’t like women scaring each other with tales.  If they screamed in  nightmares, it disturbed his sleep.

Hana Nyo was full of dread.  It came from her unbridled superstition and scared Mari who didn’t believe in these tales. But seeing the namamora floating above the path, groaning and pulling her long white hair out with her hands was not to be denied. In any case, regardless of these past things, Lady Nyo was anticipated with great joy.  Mari had little enough women around her to talk of things.  The girls around her were servants who came from the villages around.  No real education and they were full of superstitions.  She could say that Lady Nyo was in good company with her servants.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2023

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