Posts Tagged ‘16th century Japan’

“The Kimono”, Chapter 17

June 30, 2017

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European Eagle Owl, watercolor, something I imagine what would be Lord Mori in bird of prey form.

 

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For my friend, Kanzen Sakura.

This is a book in progress.  Actually there is a ‘corrected’ version at Dropbox, but I don’t seem to be able to copy and paste it here.  So it goes.  I am no computer whiz.

I hope to have this ready for publication in this fall, 2017.  Nick Nicholson is a dedicated reader and much more:  his intelligence and eagle eye has made this  a much better novel.  

I know it’s not easy to post a chapter mid flight in a novel…lends to confusion. But I am now, after 4 months, beginning to finish it…”The Kimono” has it’s origins back in 2007 or so, so it’s a novel of 10 years writing.  

Short course as to the theme of the book:  Mari, 21 century Japanese/American woman, married, buys an antique kimono and donning it, is transported back to 16th century Japan….northern region, Akita,  to the domain of a warlord, a samurai and a daimyo, Lord Mori.  Plot thickens….

Lady Nyo

 

CHAPTER 17, THE KIMONO  

Mari stood at the window, a copy of the Man’yoshu in her hand.  Love poems, and of course in a language she couldn’t read.  Literally “The Collection of a Thousand Leaves”.

Some scribe had taken the time to carefully illustrate this book with erotic drawings.  They were exquisite, though rather pornographic in her opinion.  Compiled during the 8th century, this book was considered the pinnacle of Japanese verse, even in this more ‘modern’ 16th century.  But eroticism to these Japanese didn’t seem to have many boundaries.  Sex was very natural to them, and even nudity. They did not have a concept of sin, at least of sin she understood.

Lady Nyo was ordered by Lord Mori to teach her to read and write.  He was of the opinion, according to Lady Nyo, that Mari should be entertained while learning a difficult language.  Therefore he gave her this book.

Entertained!  How different their cultures, stretching across the centuries, two oceans separated by mountains and sand.  It was now two months since the miscarriage, but her mood had not greatly improved.  Her heart was a mass of confusion. She would wake in the night, sweating.  She dreamed constantly but could not remember much, just disjointed scenes in clashing and violent colors. Dreams before were fathomable, but now?  They were strips of some unrolling and unending painting, without words or knowable meaning to her.  Just confused sensations with a hidden terror.

With patient instruction by Lady Nyo, Mari was beginning to recognize some of the words.  She still couldn’t construct a decent sentence.  There were all sorts of issues with the Japanese language, and her attempts in forming a sentence sent Lady Nyo into peals of laughter.

Well, at least she was entertaining to someone, if not exactly entertained.

 

The house was a flurry of activity.  Lord Mori was to visit sometime in the afternoon, and Mari felt anxious. He had not visited her since her miscarriage, but Lady Nyo said he had come. Apparently,  she  was asleep due to the medicine prescribed by the doctor.  The only evidence was a short poem inked on his fan. Something about laughter and fireflies.

Mari turned from the window.  There were two small women kneeling outside the entrance to the room. They bowed with their heads to the wood floor as soon as she saw them.  Lady Nyo came up behind them and bowed to Mari.

“So sorry to disturb you, Lady Mari.  These women are here to attend to the house.  Would you please come out to the rokka and view the niwa?

Mari nodded and put her book down on a small chest.  She recognized the words rokka and niwa as the porch overlooking the garden and niwa as garden.  She was beginning to recognize the names of her environment.

“Oh, Lady Mari!  If you would like, I will come with you and we can read together those wonderful poems.”

What she really meant, thought Mari, is I can read these poems, because you are still stupid about our language.  Of course, Lady Nyo was the picture of decorum and would never say such, but Mari was foul in mood and took offense secretly at many things.

The house was more like a cottage, with small, bare rooms constructed from a central passageway, closed off by shoji screens.  They walked through the house towards the back where kneeling, Lady Nyo pushed a screen open and they faced a narrow platform looking out upon a small garden.

Enclosed by a low stone wall, the garden  very old with a misshapen tree in the middle.  There were raked pebbled paths and small green bushes with buds and a few open flowers beneath.  Upon the wall were small plants growing out of the rocks.  The cherry blossoms were almost beginning to bloom. This event was as important to the Japanese of this century as much as it was in Mari’s.  She heard how beautiful they were on the castle grounds when in full bloom.

 

The morning mist, kasumi, had lifted but there was a possibility of rain.  Mari liked the rain, it fit her moods.  She could withdraw from the company of Lady Nyo and look out her window, wrapped in a silk quilt against the cool air.  As she recovered, she spent less time sleeping late and would get up earlier.  She liked the kasumi, it comforted her.  It put a barrier between her and the world.  Any rain or mist was welcomed by the people around her.  There had been a drought for a couple of years. Lord Mori had mentioned the rice production had dropped.  Famine was always around the corner.

Mari sat on a wooden bench on the rokka overlooking the garden and above the pebbled paths.  The mists had all gone from the morning, replaced by a gentle wind.  White cranes lifted off the water down by the shore, their black legs trailing like stiff ribbons behind white bodies.

It was peaceful.  She felt her nerves untangle, fall away.  Breathing in quietly, she could smell the scent of plum trees within the garden wall.  The wind made cascades of plum-snow litter the raked pebbles.

“Lady Mari, I have bought your book outside.  If it pleases you, may I read aloud a few poems?”

Mari could not refuse this simple request.  Lady Nyo’s role was to educate her in these finer arts. It was not as if it were her idea to do this.  Clearly,  it came from Lord Mori.  Mari could see Lady Nyo was obediently following orders.

“Oh, Lady Mari!  Here is a poem by the Princess Nukata.  She was very famous many centuries ago for her lovers.  She was wife to Prince Oama and then the Emperor himself!”

“As I stay here yearning

While I wait for you, my lord,

The autumn wind blows,

Swaying the bamboo blinds

Of my lodging.”

 

“Oh, isn’t that the most romantic of poems?”  Lady Nyo clasp the book to her flattened bosom.

“Well, I would think it would be a matter of taste, my Lady.”  Mari didn’t want to sound sour, but the poem did not move her as it obviously did the reader.

“Oh, Lady Mari”, said Lady Nyo plaintively.  Perhaps the part of the poem that is more obscure is a key here.  The autumn wind in this poem represents the visitor….or builds yearning for him.   And this morning we have such a lovely, gentle wind blowing.”

If she is referring to the Lord Mori, she got him all wrong, thought Mari.

Lady Nyo looked at Mari hopefully.   Mari laughed and asked her to read more.

 

“Tonight, too,

Does my woman’s pitch-black hair

Trail upon the floor

Where she sleeps without me?”

 

Mari sat up straighter, her interest piqued.  Now, that poem had interest and so modern in sentiment.

But why were they separated? There were more secrets than answers in this sort of poetry.

 

“Read more.”

 

Lady Nyo smiled and looked for another poem to please her.

“Though I sleep with

A single thin rush mat

For my bedding,

I am not cold at all,

When I sleep with you, my lord.”

Lady Nyo smiled over the book, again clasped to her bosom.  “She must have been a poor woman to be only able to afford such bedding. But here’s another poem that speaks to men.”

 

“Though I sleep beneath

soft, warm bedding,

how cold my skin is,

for I do not share my bed

with you, my woman.”

 

“Now, that is nice”, said Mari wishfully.  And how modern. A man who shows his main concern in bed:  warm feet.

 

Lady Nyo read another.

 

“Brave man like the catalpa bow

That, once drawn,

Does not slacken—

Can it be that he is unable to bear

The vicissitudes of love?”

 

As soon as Lady Nyo read this particular poem, she blushed deeply.  Mari saw her reaction.

“Lady Nyo.  I am a stranger here.  I have no history among your people.  Clearly that is obvious.  But please tell me.  Does Lord Mori have a wife, or children?”

Lady Nyo’s face went sad.

“Ah, this was a long time ago, but Lord Mori still mourns, I think.  It is hard to tell with men, but Lord Mori, though powerful daimyo, is still a man.”

Lady Nyo moved closer on the bench to Mari and dropped her voice to a whisper.

“Years ago, before my Lord Nyo and I were vassals to Lord Mori, he lost his young wife and children to the sea.  They were travelling to a city on the southern coast and a terrible storm took hold of the boat and all were lost.  Lord Mori was not with them, being on land.”

Lady Nyo sighed.  “I understand he travelled to a sacred mountain and for years lived in the forests.  He talked to their ghosts and shunned all men.”

Mari felt her breath catch in her chest.  Perhaps this was key to his personality.  He was certainly a strange man.  Even for a 16th century daimyo.

 

“But surely he has remarried? Does he have a wife in the castle I have not seen?”

Lady Nyo’s eyes widened.  “Oh, no!  To my knowledge, Lord Mori has never remarried.  Certainly she would be amongst the women with Lady Idu.  Oh, it would be hard to ignore a daimyo’s wife!”

Mari thought, yes, she would be first among all the women in the castle.

“But perhaps he has a wife that lives apart from him?”

Lady Nyo shook her head. “No, not that I have ever heard, Lady Mari.”

“But of course men and women many times do not live together.  So that would account why we know nothing about a wife.  However, surely my husband would tell me.  But in all these years, he has said nothing.”

The expression on Mari’s face took Lady Nyo by surprise.

“A man and wife don’t live together?  How strange.”  As soon as Mari spoke, she realized her mistake.

“Oh, Lady Mari!  Surely the married people where you come from don’t live together after marriage?”

“Well, actually they do.  Except if the husband has to travel for his…ah….business.”

“Oh! People are so different it seems.  Only the farmers live together, but that is because their women are needed in the fields.

That morning Mari learned that among the upper classes, and especially within the aristocracy, men and women lived apart.  The visits were planned, and each was notified by a messenger.  Now that poem of autumn winds and the bamboo blinds blowing made sense.  These marriages were conjugal visits.

“No, no wife I think, but the finest courtesans do visit him….or he them, from time to time.  It is only right and proper. He is not a hermit.”

“Who?  Tell me, Hana, do you know the women?  What do they look like, have you seen them?”

Lady Nyo, touched Mari would use her name, blushed and shyly touched Mari’s hand next to her.

“Well. There was the beautiful courtesan Midori last year.  Oh, Lady Mari!  You should have seen her kimonos! Such silks and colors!  She looked like a beautiful butterfly!”

Lady Nyo giggled like a girl and rushed to explain.  “I was passing from one hall to another on some endless errand and I saw her with attendants.  She was so beautiful!  Her skin was as white as a lily and her hair was as glossy as a blackbird’s wing.  Long, too.  She wore it unencumbered and it swept her hems. “

Mari chuckled to herself.  So, Lord Mori wasn’t the hermit he appeared at first to her.  He was man enough.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lord Nyo’s Lament, from “Song of the Nightingale”, Episode 3.

May 16, 2017

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Lord Nyo’s Lament

 

Oh my wife!

My feet take me over mountains

In the service to our lord

But my heart stays tucked in the bosom

Of your robe.

Lady Nyo, circa 2015

 

 

The song of the arrow

As it arced into the sea

Was as tuneless

As a badly strung samisen.

 

Gun- metal clouds

Stretched across a dull horizon

The sun still asleep

As he should be

His quiver empty

His heart, too.

 

When had the callousness of life and death

Become as comfortable as breath to him?

He had become too much the warrior

And too little the man.

 

His distance from his wife,

From most of life

Was as if some unseen object

Kept them ten paces apart.

Perhaps it was the cloud-barrier

Of earthly lusts which obscured

The Sun of Buddha?

 

 

Perhaps he should pray.

What God would listen?

Then it came to him

That joker of a Buddha, Fudo

With his rope to pull him from Hell

And his sword to cut through foolishness-

Fudo would listen.

Fudo knew the quaking hearts

The illusions embraced

To stomach the battlefield

The fog of drink,

To face life

In the service of Death.

Fudo would save him from

The yellow waters of Hell.

 

He remembered those years

When she could bring him to his knees

With the promise of dark mystery

Between silken thighs,

And the glimpse of her white wrist-

A river of passion

Just beneath the surface.

How he had steeled his heart

Believing himself unmanned

For the love she induced!

 

Three cranes flew low to the shore,

Legs streaming like black ribbons behind.

Three cranes, three prayers, three chances

To find his way back

Bound up in Fudo’s ropes,

Prodded in the ass by Fudo’s sword.

 

He would write a poem

On a bone-white fan

To leave on her cushion.

She would know his love

She would know his sorrow.

 

The sea took his arrows

Beyond the breakers,

The glint of sleek feathers

Catching thin rays of light.

An unexpected peace came over him

As they journeyed far from his hands.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011, 2016 (Song of the Nightingale was published on Amazon in 2015 and can be bought online)

 

 

 

 

“The Stillness of Death”, Episode 2 of “Song of the Nightingale”

May 12, 2017

Song_of_the_Nightingale_COVER

Continuing on with the story……

THE STILLNESS OF DEATH

 

 

“My heart, like my clothing

Is saturated with your fragrance.

Your vows of fidelity

Were made to our pillow and not to me.”

—-12th century

 

Kneeling before her tea

Lady Nyo did not move.

She barely breathed-

Tomorrow depended

Upon her action today.

 

Lord Nyo was drunk again.

When in his cups

The household scattered.

Beneath the kitchen

Was the crawl space

Where three servants

Where hiding.

A fourth wore an iron pot.

 

Lord Nyo was known

For three things:

Archery-

Temper-

And drink.

 

Tonight he strung

His seven foot bow,

Donned his quiver

High on his back.

He looked at the pale face

Of his aging wife,

His eyes blurry, unfocused.

He remembered the first time

pillowing her.

 

She was fifteen.

Her body powdered petals,

Bones like butter,

Black hair like trailing bo silk.

The blush of shy passion

Had coursed through veins

Like a tinted stream.

 

Still beautiful

Now too fragile for his taste.

Better a plump whore,

Than this delicate, saddened beauty.

 

He drew back the bow

In quick succession

Let five arrows pierce

The shoji.

Each grazed the shell ear

Of his wife.

 

Life hung on her stillness.

She willed herself dead.

Death after all these years

Would have been welcome.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted , 2015, “Song of the Nightingale” can be bought on Amazon.com

 

 

“Song of the Nightingale” introduction…..

May 10, 2017

Song_of_the_Nightingale_COVER

 

In 2015, I wrote and published on Amazon.com “Song of the Nightingale”.  It’s a story in 13 episodes of a man and wife in 16th century Japan, he a general in a daimyo’s army and she fully half his age.  Obviously an arranged marriage.

I loved this story and apparently others did, too, but I never really concentrated on this book because life got in the way, along with other writing.  So, I am going to post some of the episodes on this blog just for entertainment and hopefully for  interest in the entire book.  A Moon Baby appears, a rather nasty Tengu priest, and other issues that involved 16th century life in Japan.  Lord Nyo refers to himself as ‘an ugly old warrior’, but his heart, immersed in war for so long, does begin to soften and attend to his wife, Lady Nyo, who is smarter than she appears.

Lady Nyo (but not the one in the book.)

 

Introduction to “The Nightingale’s Song”

In Old Japan there was an even older daimyo called Lord Mori who lived in the shadow of Moon Mountain, far up in the Northwest of Japan.  Lord Mori ran a court that did little except keep his men (and himself) entertained with drinking, hawking and hunting.  Affairs of state were loosely examined and paperwork generally lost, misplaced under a writing table or under a pile of something more entertaining to his Lordship.  Sometimes even under the robes of a young courtesan.

Every other year the Emperor in Edo would demand all the daimyos travel to his court for a year. This was a clever idea of the honorable Emperor. It kept them from each other’s throats, plundering each other’s land, and made them all accountable to Edo and the throne.

Lord Mori was fortunate in his exemption of having to travel the months to sit in attendance on the Emperor. He was awarded this exemption with pitiful letters to the court complaining of age, ill health and general infirmities. He sent his eldest, rather stupid son to comply with the Emperor’s wishes. He agreed to have this disappointing young man stay in Edo to attend the Emperor. Probably forever.

Lord Mori, however, continued to hunt, hawk and generally enjoy life in the hinterlands.

True, his realm, his fiefdom, was tucked away in mountains hard to cross. To travel to Edo took months because of bad roads, fast rivers and mountain passages. A daimyo was expected to assemble a large entourage for this trip: vassals, brass polishers, flag carriers, outriders, a train of horses and mules to carry all the supplies, litters for the women, litters for advisors and fortune tellers, and then of course, his samurai. His train of honor could be four thousand men or more!

But this tale isn’t about Lord Mori. It’s about one of his generals, his vassal, Lord Nyo and his wife, Lady Nyo, who was born from a branch of a powerful clan, though a clan who had lost standing at the court in Edo.

Now, just for the curious, Lord Nyo is an old samurai, scarred in battle, ugly as most warriors are, and at a lost when it comes to the refinement and elegance of life– especially poetry. His Lady Nyo is fully half his age, a delicate and thoughtful woman, though without issue.

But Lord and Lady Nyo don’t fill these pages alone. There are other characters; priests, magical events, samurai and a particularly tricky Tengu who will entertain any reader of this tale.

A full moon, as in many Japanese tales, figures in the mix. As do poetry, some historic and some bad. War and battles, love and hate. But this is like life. There is no getting one without the other.

 

The present Lady Nyo, descended from generations past.

 

“A Fortunate Fate”, from “A Seasoning of Lust”, just published.

March 4, 2017

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https://goo.gl/YNzows

 

There are a number of Japanese inspired stories (actually flashers, 200 word stories) in this edition of “A Seasoning of Lust”.   “A Fortunate Fate”  is one of them. They all seem to be stuck in the 16th century, Japan.  A colorful time indeed.

Lady Nyo

A FORTUNATE FATE

 

Hana Takate was nineteen years old, a courtesan in old Edo. When she appeared in public, men’s eyes turned like sunflowers to her sun.

Lovely Hana had bones like melted butter and skin shaped from powder. She was a creature so luminous a flower of purest jade could not compare. When she rose from a nap, wearing a simple gauze robe, free of makeup and perfumes, she floated like a spider’s web. A vision of culture and desire, her laugh was a tinkling bell, her hair of bo silk, and her movements like cool water.

One day during cherry blossom time, she was entertaining, her robes folded open like gossamer wings, her rouged nipples suckled by another. A young daimyo was admitted to her rooms by mistake. This new lover was so angered he cut off the head of his rival with his long sword in one swift blow.

Hana knelt before him, head down, exposing her swan neck, awaiting death. Seeing her trembling fragility, her obedient meekness, he could not take her life and disappeared to write more bad verse.

She became known as “The Immortal Flower”, a courtesan of first rank. She prospered and became fat.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted,  2016, from the new edition of “A Seasoning of Lust”, published on Amazon.com.

“Kimono”, Chapter 13

September 28, 2016

Tengu stone

A Tengu. Mythological (???) creatures that are shape shifters. They love to trip up arrogant Buddhist priests.  They are attached to the Yamabushi clan.

 

Koku: is a measure of rice…like a bushel. Wages to samurai and others were paid in koku.

Samurai in Battle on Horse

At the Hour of the Dragon, Lords Mori and Ekei were drinking the first of many cups of cha.

The morning dawned with peach colored clouds over the lake and raucous honking by resident geese. It was cool this morning, though late spring, and the brazier did little to boil the water for the cha as Lord Mori poked more charcoal beneath the small fire. The brass kettle sweated with cold water filled from a jug.

“Lord Tokugawa will expect a report by the new moon.”

Lord Ekei’s voice was a sleepy whisper. Except for the distant sound of waterfowl, there was little noise outside the castle except for the nightsoil men making their rounds. The buckets clanged against the old stones as they dropped their poles to shovel in the manure left from beasts and oxen the day before.

“I know. He is expecting much detail.” Lord Mori sipped his cha, his face scowling into his cup.

“Our lord is expecting troops and provisions.” Lord Ekei blinked his eyes, trying to wake up. It was still very early and the room cold.

“He asks much to put down a peasant rebellion. It will just rise up again when the rains wash the blood from next spring’s soil.”

Lord Mori grunted into his cup, his face maintaining a scowl.

“The problem” said Lord Ekei, pushing his point, “isn’t about what the peasants do, it’s about what the daimyos don’t do.”

“And what is that, my friend?”

“The corruption from the tax collectors breeds these rebellions. Too much koku is taken from the fields and not enough left to live upon. Under heaven, there is nothing else to do but riot. Starving bellies are invitations to rebellion.”

Lord Mori grunted. “That is a big part of the problem. This is another one. Living in Edo for six months every two years. The cost of this impoverishes every region.”

Lord Mori filled both cups with more hot water, added a small amount of powdered tea to the cups and stirred with a bamboo whisk.

“Yes, yes, that is a large consideration, but until Heaven moves its bowels, nothing can be done about that.”

“A good strategy on the Emperor’s part would help. Or rather the Shogun. The Emperor has no power anymore. He and his court are like painted gourds. The effort to mobilize each daimyo in obedience to the court’s demands keeps us from each other’s throats.”

“I think we better do—“

Suddenly a large bird appeared at the window, and startled both lords. It was big like a vulture and had a long red nose and dark iridescent feathers. It was a tengu.

Shaking its feathers violently, a dust storm obscured it for a few seconds. Then both lords saw a skinny priest, dressed in a filthy kimono appear. Both lords bowed respectfully from their cushions.

“Man, those air currents! They would tear a bird’s feathers from his body. Got a cup of sake around? Travel dehydrates me.”

This tengu was a priest from the Yamabushi clan. He hopped down from the window, scratching the side of his face where a scrawny gray beard covered it.

“Lice,” he announced with a grin.

Lord Mori spooned powdered tea in a cup, poured some hot water over it, carefully stirred and handed the cup to the scratching man. He took it with a sour, disdainful glance at both lords, and drank it without ceremony, smacking his lips loudly and wiping his hand across his thin lips.

“Lord Yoki, we are honored you have come to advise us”, said Lord Ekei with another bow.

“Well, beats hanging around Haight-Ashbury. Had to appear as a pigeon to fit in, and all there was to do during the day was beg for breadcrumbs. Did look up skirts at muffs, though.” He laughed, a coarse, wheezing sound.

Lord Ekei suppressed a smile, and Lord Mori didn’t a grimace. They had dealt with Lord Yoki before. His antics were well known.

Lord Yoki lowered himself to a cushion and rubbed his hands over the brazier. “You got any sake? Spring is a bad time for travel.”

Lord Mori clapped his hands twice and within several minutes a servant appeared with three cups and a brown bottle of warmed sake, placing them on the low table between the lords. Lord Mori poured three cups and offered the first to the Lord Yoki. He drank it fast and held out his cup for a refill.

It would be a long morning with Lord Yoki and it best be spent drunk.

“My Lord Yoki, our Lord Tokugawa in Kyoto has called upon the daimyos of the western borders to send troops and supplies to put down a rebellion of peasants in Mikawa providence.”

“Yeah? Well, being a vassal is tough. The nature of the beast. Too many kits and not enough teats.” Lord Yoki burped.

“You want my advice? You got bigger problems closer to home. I hear from some other birds Lord Kiyami is looking at your southern border with a covetous eye. That’s a dicey mountain range there, and if he controls those trade passes, he can hem you in. Adding a kunu to his territory would be a feather in his cap.”

He punctuated his statement with a belch.

“If this is true, my lord Mori” said Lord Ekei with a slight bow, “then you will have to organize two campaigns at once. That would be very costly, neh?”

Lord Mori eyes narrowed and he grunted. “I am sure Lord Yoki’s information is impeccable,” he said with his own bow to the disheveled priest.

“You bet your nuts it is”, said the priest sharply.

“Is this information you have read in history books, Lord Yoki,” asked Lord Ekei?

“Can’t read, never learned” said the priest in a raspy voice. “Some things don’t make the history books. Sometimes pillow talk is more….ah…reliable.”

Both lords considered his words. It was not beyond the pale. Men talked to women, and men talked in their sleep. Either way, information was obtainable.

This news of Lord Kiyami’s interest in his territory disturbed Lord Mori. It would be a very bad position to be hemmed in at that mountain range.

“Perhaps there is a need to change plans,” suggested Lord Ekei to Lord Mori.

Lord Mori looked at both of the men sipping their sake.

“Do I dare go against the desires of Heaven to thwart the schemes of Lord Kiyami?”

Scratching his scrawny beard absentmindedly, the Yamabushi priest coughed.

“You might be looking at a new portion of Hell if you ignore him.”

“If he hems you in, Higato, you will not be able to serve the needs of Lord Tokugawa in any case,” said Lord Ekei.

“Let me suggest, my lord,” said the priest with a little bow, “that you think about a spy or two in the household of Lord Kiyami. This could glean you some important and timely information.”

“Yes, Higato, this is excellent advice. We need to know his future plans, even if he is to seize your southern territory soon. How many forces he would deploy for this. He also would be called upon by our Lord Tokugawa for his support. He will have some of the same considerations we have.”

“Good. I agree. A couple of well placed servants should do the job.”

“I would further suggest, my lord, that you place a spy in his guard. A samurai that can be trusted with such a task. Perhaps an unknown captain of your own guard.”

“Again, I agree.” Higato Mori nodded to both men.

“Now we must consider the problem of what daimyos to call upon for support. Surely we have allies, Lord Ekei?”

“Higato, without a doubt that our Lord Kiyami will be also looking with the same eyes. Perhaps a visit to one or two would set things better for us.”

“If I may be so bold,” said the priest scratching at his skin inside his kimono, “I agree a visit be made soon. One never knows the plans of another man, especially at a distance.”

Lord Mori picked up his cup and glanced at his advisor, Ekei, sitting across from him, and fell into deep thought.

This priest has much sense for an old crow. Perhaps he should be the spy in Kiyami’s household? Could he dare presume upon the favors of such a man? Well, we are all Yamabushi, so there should be something of favor there. Perhaps this has possibilities. Perhaps Lord Yoki will be able to answer to this.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016

I started this novel in 2008 and it is finished, except for the editing, rewriting.  This novel is a time warp novel, where it goes from 21st century Japan to the 16th century, and back again.  Some of the characters are fiction, but many are historic, like Tokugawa, a dynasty that spanned centuries.  I aim to publish this novel Spring, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘The Temptation of Lady Nyo, from “Song of the Nightingale”

August 29, 2016

Song Book cover

 

Does he know?

Does he know?

Does he know about the letters?

 

The court of Lord Mori

Was a small one

Where the men,

Lord Nyo included

Sat and discussed business:

The pleasurable business of hunting,

Archery, drinking

And on occasion,

Just for form’s sake,

Wrote bad poetry.

 

The women of course

Were positioned behind carved screens,

Where the eagle-eyed Lady Mori,

An old and rice-powdered dragon

Conducted her own court of

Writing more bad poetry, finger games

And layering sleeves and hems for the

Best effects…unseen by anyone else–

Except the other women.

 

There was a break in this

Unending monotony one day;

Lady Nyo received poems

From some unknown admirer

Stuffed in different places where

She would find them:

Her screen at court,

On her silk, embroidered cushion,

And even penned on her fan.

She never knew who was so bold,

Never saw even a glimmer of him-

He could have been a ghost.

She recorded her answers in her journal

So she could have evidence of her innocence

Yet she buried his poems in the garden under

A bed of peonies.

She could not bear to burn them.

 

Japanese Women

 

 

1.

Yesterday I found a fan with a poem

Stuck in the screen.

Today I found another one placed

On my cushion at court.

Do you have a death wish?

Do you desire the death of me?

You know my husband is known for his temper.

Would I end my life so dishonored?

 

2.

I see you are as persistent

As the rain in Spring.

Have you no fear?

What is your interest?

Surely I am just another painted face.

 

3.

I read your poem.

I could do nothing else.

This time it was inked upon

MY fan.

 

4.

“The wind blows from the north

Chilling my heart.

Only the thought of a touch of your sleeve

Warms me.”

Very nice, but my sleeves are not interested.

 

5.

“I throw acorns

To the darting carp.

With each nut I say a

Prayer for your health.”

Lovely sentiment, and I am

Always grateful for prayers.

But do you think of my reputation

And what you risk?

 

6.

I see no poetry this morning

Though I searched for your usual offering.

I knew your interest was as capricious

As a flight of moths.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011, 2016

 

 

“The Kimono”, Chapter 5

August 12, 2016

 

 

My beautiful picture

 

PICT0069.JPG

Posted for Connie, who also loves kimono.

(A kimono I made from cloth from a quilting store. Lined with light green cotton.)

 

Summer Reading!  And why not?  We should slow down in the heat of summer and entertain ourselves.  I have always felt that writers are just storytellers who know how to type, and most importantly….we entertain ourselves with our words.

I started “The Kimono” in 2008, and dropped it for years.  Just recently I finished the novel, all 28 chapters and now I am going through the entire book, chapter by chapter, trying to fill in the worm holes.  Up to Chapter 5. Yahoo.

Mari is a 21st century Japanese/American, whose husband Steven is working for a large company in Kyoto. She buys a kimono in a strange shop, one that she can’t find again….and this kimono whips her back to the 16th century where she lands at the feet of a dangerous daimyo.  But he’s not controlling the kimono.  Something else is.

 

 

Chapter 5:

 

Early that morning Mari was dressed by the two women, Nyo and Idu. She was told she was to attend both Lords.

Mari had an attack of nerves. What in Hell was she supposed to do? Either she was entertainment for these two dangerous men, or she would be  breakfast. After last evening’s appearance, her knees knocking and mouth dry, she thought her days in front of Lord Tokugawa would be past. Apparently not.

Lady Nyo walked with Mari behind the men, as was proper. Those two ahead cast large shadows in the sunlight, their kimonos, robes and swords making them move like tanks. Slowly, but as dangerous.

Mari could almost forget those men as she looked about her in amazement.

Everywhere she looked she saw evidence of a highly developed esthetic. Gingko trees and small maples, other plantings she could not identify, were carefully placed. Small ponds, gravel walks and stones set in groups. Some, like huge boulders were set alone. Each stone was natural to its site.

Mari had read a small book on Japanese gardening, but this was from a modern perspective. She knew enough from inference to recognize each garden was an expression of the character of its owner, whether poet, warrior, philosopher, or priest. What Lord Mori was, Mari was not certain, but she thought perhaps he had all the above aspects. Nothing she had read gave a clue as to what a garden from the hand of a samurai-magician would look like. She glanced at the stones, wondered if at night they would get up and walk around. There was an old tale of an early emperor, well into his cups, who struck a large boulder in the middle of the road with his sword. It ran away.

She knew enough that a gardener, from whatever walk of life, tried to create not merely a place of beauty, but to convey a mood in the soul. She had read the earliest landscape gardeners were Buddhist monks who expressed abstract ideas like faith, piety and contentment with the design of their gardens. Ultimately, a dual purpose to their work: an expression of the mood of nature and that of man.

Mari was thinking of the landscape, listening with one ear to the chatter of the Lady Nyo. She wondered why  she understood Japanese? Was this part of the magic of the flying kimono? Or was it from something else? She listened to Lady Nyo whisper, her mouth hardly moving, about colors, and spring; less than small talk.

Suddenly, Lord Tokugawa stopped walking and turned around, his hands cradling his two swords.

“Lady Mari! Give us a poem on Lord Mori’s gardens. Surely a poet would have a verse upon approaching that pond over there!”

Lord Tokugawa threw out his hand towards a small pond, and Mari looked to where he pointed. It was just a small pond, but artfully tucked between willows with a maple on a very small island in the middle of the water.

Mari looked at Lord Mori. His face was blank, with just a small curve of his lips, barely a smile. He did lift his eyebrows to her in a questioning manner.

Mari bowed to Lord Tokugawa and also to Lord Mori. “If it would please you, Sir, I will need a little more walking in the fresh air this morning to collect my thoughts. I would not want to disappoint you with my poor attempts. I already see that Lord Mori’s gardens are very beautiful.”

Lord Tokugawa looked hard at her with his one eye, and laughed. Turning abruptly, he and Lord Mori continued to walk and talk in low voices. Mari and Lady Nyo followed, the Japanese woman finally silent. Mari could almost heart Lady Nyo’s heartbeat. She was so scared by the presence of the men. Perhaps she knew firsthand the violence of  men in this century.

Mari wondered what she could compose that would please both men. Lord Tokugawa had pointed out the pond. Surely something would come to mind, even if only an attempt at a verse.

She looked at its outline, the gentle surface like glass, the graceful willows trailing its fronds at the water’s edge. What caught her eye was the red miniature maple standing in the middle, with only a few crimson leaves remaining on its branches. There was something poignant in its isolation, or perhaps its solitude. Mari’s thoughts began to float outward to that tree in the water.

Lord Tokugawa stopped and turned. “Lady Mari, we are waiting for your verse.”

Mari bowed to Lord Tokugawa and took a deep breath.

 

“Surrounded by gentle nature

A man rests in contentment

But keeps his sword nearby.

A heart does not convey

The warning of a mouth.”

 

Lord Tokugawa remained quiet for a moment, seemingly to contemplate her words. Suddenly, he threw back his head and roared with laughter.

“Ah, Lord Mori, this one is worthy of breeding. She has wit and sense, uncommon in a woman. Perhaps she will produce many poets in the future. She is not too ugly in this morning light.”

Mari blushed and heard the soft gasp of Lady Nyo next to her. Lord Mori narrowed his eyes and contemplated the two women.

“You are correct, Lord Tokugawa. Perhaps she is not too ugly in this light.”

Mari could not resist raising her eyes to his face. Her glance was not lost on Lord Tokugawa.

“She does have spirit. However, she is a woman and needs the command of the whip. She has a boldness that might disrupt your peace if allowed to grow.”

Turning his back on the two women, the men continued to walk ahead.

“Lady Mari “, whispered Lady Nyo, her voice almost breathless with excitement. “Lord Tokugawa gives you great compliments. He is pleased with your verse as is our Lord Mori. You are found pleasing to both of them. You must compose more verse, and fast, for he might ask you again.”

Mari listened to her chatter with half an ear. “Perhaps she is not too ugly in this light.” If this was a compliment, she could do without.

After the morning’s walk among the gardens, she had returned to the women’s quarters. She was summoned to Lord Mori that evening where she found him working at his table. She was ushered into his room by two guards and stood there waiting for him to acknowledge her. Lord Mori was writing something with his brush, wetting the ink stone and stroking his brush across the ink. He spoke without looking up at her, his brush making strokes across the paper.

“So, Mari-who-is-married. How did you find Lord Tokugawa this morning? He was very liberal in his compliments. For both your verse and wit. I have not seen him before to so acknowledge a mere woman in his presence. You should feel greatly honored, Lady Mari.”

“Let me ask you, Lord Mori, if it so pleases you. Am I seen by you and Lord Tokugawa as a brood mare to produce little poets? This is very strange thinking to me, as I have not had children.

Lord Mori looked up, his brush suspended in the air, a look of surprise on his face.

“You have not been bred? What is wrong with your husband? Does he not think to breed you? Even an old man can produce children. What is the matter with you?

Mari thought his questioning rude and was about to say so. She checked her tongue.

“Lord Mori”, she began as one would with a child. “In my world a woman has many options, and one of these is the decision to have children or not. My husband is very involved with his work and thinks children will be an interference in his career.

Lord Mori’s expression of surprise was now replaced with one of confusion. “What is the issue here? A woman’s place in the world is to produce heirs. It is not such an onerous task. The wife is naijo. Do you understand this? It means ‘the inner help’. You are slave to your husband, and he is slave to his authorities, whoever is above him. This is the order of life. You turn the children over to the servants and you have your freedom to attend your Master’s desires. What is wrong with your world, Mari, that you can’t see this for yourself?”

Mari considered his words. There was such distance between them so there was no easy answer. Steven’s stubbornness about this very issue was one of true conflict. She thought of all those mornings and afternoons when she walked the streets, watching the couples, families with strollers and children racing around parks chasing each other. She felt the emptiness of her arms when she saw mothers holding their children. She could even feel the emptiness of her own womb.

 

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008-2016


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