Posts Tagged ‘“A Kapitany”’

“A Kapitany”, Chapter 20

October 9, 2015
from website: halfhearted dude...and thank you.

from website: halfhearted dude…and thank you.

About 8 years ago, I started writing a novel.  I had a vague idea about the story, but a stronger idea about the characters.  It started out as a novel about BDSM, but I knew nothing about the subject.  However, I did know a real sadist: a ‘sexual’ sadist as he claimed, and not ‘your usual garden variety sadist.” (His words).

I had joined an online writer’s group.  You find all sorts of people in these things.  Some normal and some very strange.  Some good writers and some hacks.  You learn a lot about other worlds out there and if you are lucky, you learn something about writing.

Corresponding with some of these writers gave me the opportunity to observe human nature or perhaps the sadder side of human nature.  It did give me a few characters for the novel, and perhaps those two years were worth it, if only for that.  As one good friend said: “Can you afford the therapy you will need just knowing these folk?”   He was right: they do leave nightmares.

Chapter 20 of “A Kapitany” (which I used to think meant  “Master”  in Hungarian, but I have been informed means “Captain”…..still works) sets a scene between the two antagonists:  Vadas Dohendy and Milkos Fargas  (Vadas in Hungarian loosely means “Hunter”,  and Fargas means “Wolf”) have been partners in art crime for a least 30 years in Europe.

 Vadas has met a woman (Elizabeth) and wants out:  He is tired of the life, and wants to settle down with Elizabeth and his vineyard in Eger, Hungary.  They are both ‘Doms’, but Milkos is even more of a control freak. A dangerous man, indeed.

He is out to hit Vadas where it will hurt most.

Writing  chapters of sex and violence was a challenge.  The extreme nature of both themes was unknown territory.  However, the book is now completed, and except for the usual rewriting of chapters, will be published next year.

Lady Nyo

“A Kapitany”, Chapter 20

It was well after one in the morning when they met in Miklos’ study. Vadas always liked this room, with its dark wood paneling, book cabinets, and the long windows that gave an almost panoramic view of the countryside. They were on the second floor of the house, in a corner room, with Miklos sitting behind an antique desk. He had placed a bottle of whisky before them. Both were into their second drink.

“This little woman, this Elizabeth. She is a bit different from what you usually have on your arm, no?”

Vadas swallowed his drink before answering. “She is, Miklos. She is different. She is deeper than the usual fare.”

Miklos laughed. “Ah, my friend, if you are looking for this ‘deep’ you must be feeling the creep of age in your bones.”

“I am, Miklos. It’s been coming on for years. My life has caught up with me.”

Miklos finished his drink and poured another for both of them.

“So”, Miklos said quietly. “You are feeling old. We all get to feel old if we are lucky. To be lucky is not to die young.”

Vadas raised his glass to Miklos.

Miklos drummed his fingers on the surface before him. “You were good with the women, Vadas. They flocked to you like pigeons in the park. You had more than your share if I remember right.”

Vadas smiled and sipped his drink. Miklos always drank heavily and could hold his liquor. Vadas drank sparingly with Miklos because he knew his game. Tonight he needed his wits about him.

“I see this Elizabeth is wearing Marta’s bracelet. No other woman in my memory has been seen with it. So, tell me, Vadas, what is so special with this girl?”

“Nothing much. She’s a woman innocent of our ways. She has no experience in these things. That has a certain charm.”

“But to give her that bracelet, Vadas? This means more than she has charmed you with her innocence. I hear she wasn’t the best of submissives, so you think making her your wife will improve her behavior?”

“What you have heard is probably from those two jackals who keep circling about. They know little, and Alexandra knows nothing.”

Miklos laughed. “They are rather like jackals, my friend. They move in for the kill before it is decent. They themselves were bad slaves as I remember.”

Vadas gave a wry smile. “Considering you trained Alexandra and I Soffia, I think the failing was on our side.”

“Well,” said Miklos with a shrug, “both of them have served a purpose, wouldn’t you agree?”

Vadas laughed. “Everyone in our lives, Miklos, has served a purpose.”

“But what about this Elizabeth? Why would she of all women interest you?”

Vadas pondered his answer. “I don’t know, Miklos. She was just the usual girl at first. I had my way with her, but something else developed. I won’t say love, but then again, what is love to us? Over time she was willing to trust me. She trusted my decisions for her, even to take her from her home. Not to say she wasn’t a brat at times, but she was pliable.”

Vadas sipped his drink. He had not said much but knew Miklos could read between the lines.

Miklos looked through half closed eyes at Vadas.

“So you are saying you were training her for yourself, and not someone else? “

“Yes. It was an indulgence and also an experiment. She charmed me how she saw the world. She wasn’t jaded. Our society, our friends, Miklos, they are too corrupted, too deep in the mire. Elizabeth was, well, just innocent of our lives. She probably never will understand what we are. Or what I have done with women. Or why.”

“You think you can recapture your life through the innocence of this woman?”

“It’s more about changing my life, Miklos, and this is why we are talking tonight.”

“What is it you want from me?”

“I want out, Miklos. I don’t want to work for you anymore. I don’t want to fence art and I don’t want the continued risk to life. I want to retire to my vineyard and I want to grow old in the hills above Eger.”

“And this Elizabeth has agreed to be with you?”

“Elizabeth has not agreed to anything, Miklos.” Vadas put his glass down on the desk and scowled.

“Hah! That is a strange place for a man like you to be. Perhaps you can persuade her with a little pressure applied at the right places?”

Vadas laughed. “That ‘little pressure’ you are talking of would send her scurrying back to the States.”

“So, it seems you have lost your interest in dominating her? You are expecting a different kind of relationship and life with her?”

“I don’t know what the future holds, Miklos, but I do know that I am tired, bone weary of life as it is.”

Vadas finished his drink. “What do you want Miklos? What do you want from me for my part in the business?”

“What do I want? Ah, Vadas my old friend. Why would you think I would want anything? You have grown rich from our partnership and so have many others. I am stunned you would want to leave what we have built up so carefully. Do you really think you can walk away from all this and be happy and contented among your vines?”

“We have both grown rich, Miklos, and so many others, as you say. We have kept ourselves in very good fashion, but for me it’s over. I am too old for this. Let Alexandra or Soffia take up my place in the business. They will be good at it. Perhaps it is a time for a change here, no?”

Miklos leaned back in his leather chair. “You are not going to walk away so fast, my dear Vadas. You might be having a mid-life crisis. Have you considered this?”

“Miklos, bottom line. What do you want for my leaving? If I can, I will give it to you.”

“What do I want? One, I am deeply hurt you would want to leave our partnership. Two, if you are serious, I want an exchange for losing you. I don’t want money, I want property. You decide on what property.”

“Let me think on this, Miklos. This whisky is clouding my brain. I will give you an answer as to what I feel fair in a few days. Let me think on this. And I am serious, Miklos. Don’t make the mistake of thinking I’m not.”

Vadas left Miklos in his study and went back to what remained of the party. Some of the guests had departed, and some had disappeared into the guest rooms above the main floor. He spotted Soffia and walked up to her. She was yawning and looked tired.

“So, you were with Miklos a long time, Vadas. I hope your conversation was cordial. You know how both of you are together. Two wolves with very bad dispositions.” Soffia laughed. “I can smell you were drinking.”

“You don’t sit down with Miklos without a drink to steady your hand.”

“Well, did you get what you wanted out of him, Vadas? You know how hard he is to best.”

“What we discussed is between two men, Soffia. You are a Domme, but you still are a woman.”

“Oh! Am I to take that as an insult, Vadas? You men are so full of yourselves. Perhaps a woman knows more about women than men ever will know?”

Vadas pulled Soffia to him and kissed her on the forehead. “You know, Soffia, I respect you and admire you. In fact, I pushed for you to replace me.”

“Replace you? What do you mean?”

“I want out, Soffia. I want another life, a quiet life, one with Elizabeth and my grapes. I am too old and tired to continue to do what Miklos demands. I want to be my own man, with no attachments to my old life. Can you understand this?”

“How did Miklos take this news?”

“I don’t know, Soffia. I will find out in a few days when we talk again.”

“What if Elizabeth refuses to marry you, Vadas? All this will be for naught.”

“If she refuses to marry me, I will be very persuasive. You know I can be, Soffia. And even if I can’t get her to marry me, I will still do this.”

Soffia thought a moment. “I have no doubt about your persuasiveness, Vadas. I remember some of that in the past.”

Vadas left around 4am, tired and sick of the company. There were a few still drinking and loudly laughing, among them Miklos. They kept apart, each knowing the other could be moved to violence if tested. Or just given the chance.

Vadas called up one of his men and was met by a car as he walked down the gravel driveway. He could fall asleep he was so tired but too much was on his brain. He would have to consider his losses with Miklos. He knew they would be heavy. It was just one trade off for another. At least he would be starting something different. The allure of that was headier than the whisky he had drunk this night. It was time he was his own man. Miklos be damned.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

“Ode To A Coopers Hawk”, from “Pitcher of Moon”

July 18, 2015
was to be the cover painting for

was to be the cover painting for “Pitcher of Moon” but didn’t work out.

To my friends: enduring and good people.  The world is full of good people, we must not forget this.

Lady Nyo,… poem dedicated to my beautiful Sparky and Maggie, gone but not forgotten.


Come to me.

Come to me,

Winged celestial beauty.

Come to me with your notched

Mermaid tail,

Your silken roll of feathers.

Fly down into my hollowed-out soul,

Fill me with your sun-warmed glory

Nestle in my arms

And bring the curve of the horizon

Embraced in your outstretched wings.

I need no white bearded prophet,

No mumbled prayer, no gospel song

No hard church bench, no fast or

Festival to feel close to the Divine.

The glory of the universe,

Is embodied in your flight

As you tumble through heavens,

Ride the invisible thermals

Screech with joy at freedom

Fill your lungs with thin air

And play bumper car with an Eagle.

I, earthbound,

No hollowed bones to launch me,

Just tired soul to weigh down,

No soft plumage to feel the course

Of wind through glossy feathers

No hunting call to herald my presence.

Still my soul takes flight

The breeze lifts my spirit,

My eyes follow you,

And we will find that glory

Transcend a sullen earth,

Transcend a mean humanity

And soar together into the blue eye of God.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010-2015, “Pitcher of Moon” published 2014, Createspace,

“A Kapitany”, Chapter 27 from the novel.

July 1, 2015

de la Motte house

In 2007, I started writing “A Kapitany”.   A number of books got in the way, but last year I finished it.  Revising, reconsidering, etc. is now and hopefully this violent and graphic novel will be published next year.  The theme is this:  Vadas Dohendy owns a rundown vineyard near Eger, Hungary, an area famous for wine production. He also has inherited a 300 year chateau that is unlivable, and a  hunting lodge where he lives, with intermittent electricity (that haunts most of NE Hungary) and a really old Aga that backfires like a gun.

Vadas is also an art thief, a half-hearted Dom (now that he has fallen in love), and attempting to put most of that 30 year career behind him. He wants to leave the sordid life of crime and marry Elizabeth. He wants to recover his vineyard and at 60 he doesn’t want to look over his shoulder every day.  Soffia is one of his ‘henchmen’ though she is a woman.  They have worked many years together and have a long history.  Vadas is overbearing, Hungarian and no fool.  Elizabeth has been tortured, raped by his partner, Miklos Farkas. Both haveheir own gangs of men and are hunting each other.     (Vadas sort of means “hunter” in Hungarian, Farkas means ‘wolf”)

Violence and guns play a role in this novel and I drew from my own experience.  Guns are not something I like, but I have them.  Shotguns and pistols.  I used to shoot skeet, and wasn’t very good.   If you have guns you should learn how to use them and learn the safety rules.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

July 4th, 2015…may it be a peaceful one.

Kapitany, Chapter 27

“Soffia, I need a favor, darling. Yes, I know, your Vadas only calls when he needs a favor. Soffia, listen to me. I must come to Budapest.”

Vadas grimaced and pulled at his cigarette. Soffia could be a hard ass and right now she was being just that. He shifted the phone on his shoulder and stretched his legs.

“I have several things to do in Budapest. What I need is you to come here and stay with Elizabeth. No, she is much better, she is walking around. Yes, she is better, but I don’t want to leave her alone right now. I still don’t know where Miklos is, and I don’t want him showing up here when I am gone. No, I have men posted to watch, but I don’t want to alarm her.”

Vadas held the phone from his ear. Soffia was full of grievances this morning. He wasn’t in a mood to listen.

“No, darling, I haven’t told her yet you are coming. I thought I should ask first. Yes, I know, Soffia, I take great advantage of you. I will make it up. What? You pick. You know your Vadas will buy what you desire. I always have, darling.”

Vadas blew smoke towards the ceiling. “Listen, Soffia, Elizabeth has agreed to marry. Yes, I am speaking the truth. No, I didn’t burn her passport. No, I didn’t break her arm, funny lady.”
He rolled his eyes. Soffia was chattering on. “Look, you can help with planning the wedding. What? Yes, it will be a wedding. A big wedding. You will be maid of honor or whatever they call the woman next to the bride. Where? Some church in Eger. You take her around and show things. You can buy the dress, and another one for you. Yes, like last time. I trust you, Soffia. She will be a pretty bride. You both will be pretty brides. What? I’ll marry you off to one of my men, ok? You will like living in the countryside. No, I am teasing, Soffia. I know you are too sophisticated for these men around here.”

A few more minutes and Vadas got what he wanted. Soffia was coming out by car and would stay with Elizabeth for a few days. This would give him the time to go to Paris, see his lawyers and visit the old aunties. They were his only living relatives. It was crucial he at least visit and invite them in person. They held some important purse strings.

At lunch Vadas asked Elizabeth what should be done with the frescos.

“For now? Nothing, Vadas. First secure the roof. Anything done before that would be pointless. Then fix the plaster in the ceilings. It’s rather scary lying under that ceiling in the bed. It could all give in at any moment. But the frescos should not be touched. They are too valuable and historic for any hands besides professional conservators. And that would cost a lot of money.”

Elizabeth pushed around her salad. She still wasn’t eating much.

“Probably the damp in the house doesn’t help. Fix the windows in the rooms where there are frescos. Where there aren’t, board them up properly. They will be costly to fix anyway. Those sashes have to be custom made.”

Vadas smiled over his coffee. “You have been thinking, no? You speak good sense, Elizabeth. Now, I have a plan. You do that stuff on the internet, you know, press those buttons, and find the people who can fix the roof first. You can go into Eger and ask. I would start there first.”

Elizabeth looked doubtful. “Vadas, do you remember I don’t speak Hungarian? They would laugh at me first, and then throw me out.”

“Well, I have a solution. I have asked Soffia to come up for a couple of days. Now, listen to me, Elizabeth. I have to go to Budapest for a couple of days, on business only and no you can’t come. I will be racing all over and you will not be able to keep up. Plus, I have to call upon my old aunties and invite them to the wedding. You and Soffia can plan the wedding, you two girls. This is woman stuff, and it best left in your capable hands. Four capable hands.”

Elizabeth still looked doubtful. In fact, she looked upset. Vadas guessed what was worrying her.

“Listen, Elizabeth. Soffia has promised to be good. She has promised not to get you under her or whatever she does. Ok? No hanky panky from her. Plus, she is Hungarian and can help arrange the workmen. It will be fun. You won’t even miss me and I will be back before you do.”

Elizabeth said nothing. She continued to push her food around the plate.

Vadas sat back and watched. “Do you remember, Elizabeth, when I told you I would feed you? That you would eat from my hand only? Do I have to do that now? You are going to look like a scarecrow at your wedding. What man wants to sleep with a woman who is skin and bones? The winter, Elizabeth, is hard in these hills.”

Vadas had no trouble with his own appetite. He cut up his meat and held out his fork. “You come here, Elizabeth. You eat this. Then you eat another mouthful.”

Elizabeth looked at him, her eyes filling with tears. “Vadas, I’m scared.”

“What? You  scared of meat?”

“You know, you must know. What if Miklos comes back when you are gone? What if he comes here? Soffia is no defense against him. You know that.”

Vadas sat back and patted his knee. “You come here Elizabeth and I will explain something.”

Elizabeth knew his behavior made her look like a child, a ‘good girl’ in his terms. But she was scared and the news he was going away put her on edge.

She sat on his lap and Vadas wrapped his arms around her. He had this habit of humming off key when she was close by, and Elizabeth found it strangely comforting.

“Now look, Elizabeth. You and Soffia will be safe. I have men here you won’t see. But anyone who approaches by foot or car will be known. These men are hunters and they know this particular prey. And you are wrong about Soffia. I would rather go up against two men than Soffia. She is a good shot, too. I will give her a gun. Hell, you can have a gun, too. Ok? Dry your tears and eat this good food.”

“Vadas, I can handle a gun. I have before.”

“What? You know how to shoot? I will sleep with one eye open from now on. Eat another piece of meat.”

Just to see if she was telling the truth, Vadas took her out behind the lodge where there was a meadow. He set up some bottles as targets and loaded a large pistol. Standing behind her with his hands around hers, he told her to gently squeeze the trigger. She missed.

“Ok, we do this again. You hold the gun steady, Elizabeth. You are jerking when it went off.”

“Vadas. Let me do this without your hands all over. Let me try, please.”

Vadas backed off and Elizabeth considered the target. She closed one eye and aimed carefully. The bottle exploded.

“Good girl! That was beginner’s luck. You try again.” Elizabeth hit the bottle but the gun was heavy. It wasn’t a light pistol, but a heavy European model. The sound scared her.

“Enough, Vadas. My wrist hurts. I have shot a gun before. I don’t use pistols, so this was hard. I have my own shotgun.”

“What? You have a shotgun? What, a lady’s gun? Maybe a small gauge? Something for mice?”

Elizabeth laughed. “No, Vadas, I have a 12 gauge for bird hunting. I have another, a breech loader, I use with skeet.”

“Oh, skeet don’t taste good, Elizabeth.” Vadas was laughing.

“Each day I learn something new about you. This is good, Elizabeth. By the time we are married I will know all your secrets.”

Elizabeth smiled. “Don’t bet on it, Vadas. I have lived a long life. I have many secrets.”

Vadas took the gun from Elizabeth. He put his arm  around her shoulder and they went back to the lodge.

That evening Elizabeth asked him. “So when are you leaving and when is Soffia coming?”

Vadas looked up from his paper. “Are you pushing me out the door? Well, Soffia is coming tomorrow and I thought I would hang around until she got here. Then I can read her the riot act again.” Vadas went back to his paper.

When Soffia arrived, Vadas brought her into his study and closed the door. They were in there for a while and Elizabeth decided to take a walk. She would see if she could spy these men lingering about. Vadas said they would be invisible, but she wanted to see for herself. When she came back in the lodge, Vadas and Soffia were by the fire drinking whisky.

“Ah, Elizabeth darling! You look good! So much better than those first few days in hospital.”

“Hello, Soffia.” Elizabeth went and kissed her on both cheeks. “It’s good to see you again.” She sat down on a small sofa. Vadas held out his whisky to her and she shook her head.

“Vadas has given me a list of things we can do and things we can’t do,” Soffia said brightly. “But we can spend his money and that is the best thing.”

Vadas sighed. “Always you women spend my money. That is constant.”

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2007-2015

“The Children of Aleppo”, poem

March 18, 2015

Children playing in a field

Suffer the little children……

The Children of Aleppo


There is no childhood in Aleppo.

There are little martyrs-in-the-making

Where 5 year olds and 8 year olds

Wish for a ‘family death’

Where they can die together

With their parents

Where they live in peace in Heaven

Never tasting the fruits of peace on Earth.

There is no childhood in Aleppo.

The children haunt the abandoned dwellings

Of friends who have fled the city.

There they find abandoned teddy bears

While looking for guns for the rebels, their fathers.

A dead canary in his cage

“Oh, the poor thing!”

Abandoned by its owners

As they flee the rockets, bombs

And mortars,

In the face of daily death,

The sight of this bird

Evokes a child’s sorrow.

But the gunfire outside continues

(They are used to the noise)

And huddle in the pockmarked

Halls until safe to scatter


The children of Aleppo

Have no teachers, doctors.

These have fled the cities, schools

But they still pine for ice cream,

For music in the streets,

For curtains not torn by violence,

For books and toys

And gardens and flowers,

For friends that have not died

Innocent blood splattering

The dirty cobble stones

At their feet.

The children of Aleppo

Are free and children again

Only in their dreams,

And perhaps, if you believe so,

After death.

How do you put back the brains

Of a child in the cup of the shattered skull?

How do you soothe the howls of the mothers,

The groans of the fathers in grief?

How do you comfort the left-alive siblings?

The children of Aleppo

Have no future as children.

Suffer the little children,

They are the sacrifice of parents

And factions

And politicians

All with the blood of

10,000 children

Who have died

In a country torn

By immeasurable violence.

The beautiful children of Aleppo

Like children everywhere

Still want to chase each other

In the gardens, on playgrounds,

Want to dance in the streets,

Want to pluck flowers for their mothers

And they still pine for ice cream.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014-2015, originally published in “Pitcher of Moon”, 2014,, by Jane Kohut-Bartels

“BlackBerry Winter”, a poem for Steve Isaak.

March 11, 2015
Blackberry Winter

Blackberry Winter

It’s almost Spring, and the weather this week seems complacent, giving in to our hopes for gentler weather. Though it’s dicey to plant anything down here in the South before Easter, I have put in a long row of onions and hope for the best. Never had any luck with onions, because you have to ‘hill’ them, plant them shallow, and push the soil from their growing bulbs. I’ve done the hills and we expect rain this whole week, but as I sit here writing, the sun is coming out and rain seems will be spotty. I have trays of tomato seeds germinating on my painting table in front of a large window and tender sprouts are raising their leaves above the plastic.

I love Winter, but this one gave us nothing but cold weather, no snow and that was a major disappointment for me. The new woodstove has finally been learned by us, and now it’s not called “the worse stove ever”. There’s intelligence in these things and ours was wanting.

Steve Isaak is a poet friend from California of many years standing.  It is good to have poets as friends.  They nudge you in the direction of what you are not writing lately by their friendship, and they a generally, when their hearts are forgiving, loyal.

Lady Nyo



It is Blackberry Winter

One last shot across

The bow of an emerging Spring.


Winter does not play fair,

It will not give up the ghost

Exit with a dignified bow

Preferring to show its rotting last tooth.


The blackberries are blooming

Kernels of lusty fruit,

Black as midnight

Sweet as a baby’s kiss,

Unavoidable staining of hands and mouths

To be shared with a snake or two down below.


The Easter planting is done

The earth knows your game

And blankets seeds

With dark, moist soil

Cozy enough to shelter tender life.


We will make blackberry wine

From Blackberry Winter.

The present chill will

Sweeten the fruit.

And will toast this short

Spell of Winter’s fading glory.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

“A Kapitany”, Chapter 25

October 9, 2014

It’s probably confusing to post a novel in bits and pieces, but right now this book is in the state of rewrite.

It’s a novel I started 7 years ago, and didn’t ever think I could finish it, but then last year did.  It’s an ‘erotic novel’ or something that has a fair amount of sex in it, but hopefully it feeds the storyline. 

Vadas Dohendy is an art thief in the employ of a very dangerous man, Miklos Farkas. They have worked together for decades, mostly in this ‘business’.  Over the past 5 years Vadas, who owns a vineyard near Eger, Hungary, has moved away from Miklos’ illegal business and wants out. Elizabeth is American, though half Hungarian.  Vadas is Hungarian and lives in Paris and Hungary.  He has brought Elizabeth with him to Hungary, and in spite of all else, has managed to fall in love with Elizabeth.  She isn’t so sure about this man, and his activities have placed her in great danger. Miklos Farkas has raped and assaulted her, and Vadas and his men are looking for Miklos. Zoltan (an employee and friend of Vadas) was also shot by Miklos’ men in their kidnapping of Elizabeth.  Miklos was sending a loud message to Vadas in his abducting and brutalization of Elizabeth for Vadas daring to leave his business. Vadas will attempt to hunt Miklos to the ends of the earth for what he has done to Elizabeth.  Vadas in Hungarian means “the hunter” (sort of…) and Farkas means wolf.

Lady Nyo

Three days after Elizabeth was hospitalized, Vadas visited Zoltan in a different hospital. He was careful not to link Zoltan and Elizabeth’s circumstances. To do so would ignite suspicions, or make connections in the heads of the police. He needed time to figure out what to do about all this. Since Zoltan was shot, the police would have been notified, a report made, perhaps even an investigation begun. They would connect the dots soon enough.

A grizzled man with a hat pulled over his eyes visited Zoltan one morning. Either Peti or Sami watched over Zoltan. They didn’t think Zoltan was in any danger from Miklos’ men. At least not right now. They were probably scattered and hiding. At least Vadas and his men hoped so. They needed time.

It was Vadas who entered Zoltan’s room and sat in a chair by the bed. Zoltan looked pale. He had lost enough blood to need transfusions. He would be in hospital for at least another week. Zoltan turned his head from the window when Vadas came in. His face crinkled with a weak attempt at laughter.

“Even without a shave and that hat I could tell it was you.”

“How are you, my brother? Are you feeling stronger? Peti tells me you will be out of here within a week.”

“I’m weak, Vadas, like a kitten. I am sorry about Elizabeth. The men told me about her. I could do little to protect her, Vadas.”

“Of course, Zoltan, the bastards shot you. At least you didn’t die. Elizabeth is alive, but it was close.”

“Vadas, this shit is serious, this shit with Miklos. What happened there? Not for a moment did I think he would take such a risk.”

Vadas grimaced and pulled his hat off, brushing his hand through his hair. “He will pay for it. Now tell me, Zoltan, can you remember any of Miklos’ men? Do you think you know who shot you? Who acted in charge here?”

“I told Sami I thought it was the man called “the Romanian”. I heard someone say that name. He’s a big, bullet-headed man, Vadas. He was in charge. He knew what he was doing.”

Vadas cursed softly. “That sounds like Miklos. He would have a Romanian as his top man. Probably a relative.”

“I heard what you did to Barna.” Zoltan laughed softly. “I think you will take more than a finger from Miklos when you catch him.”

“Yeah, Miklos is living on borrowed time. You know, Zoltan, we can’t find him. At least not now. We think he might have been warned by Barna after we left him. We should have taken his cell. Barna probably called someone and they warned Miklos. Miklos had time to escape as we drove back. It’s like he disappeared into air.”

“Well, he’ll surface, Vadas. He won’t stay underground for long. He can’t. He’s got a business to run. Several.”

Zoltan sighed and lay back in the pillows. “You need more men, Vadas, you know that. You should go to Eger and call them together. You know what will happen here. Miklos will be doing the same thing. You don’t want to be short gunned as nasty as this has turned out.”

Vadas was thinking. Zoltan always gave good advice. They had been friends, worked together in the vineyards for over forty years. They had been boys, hunting and making trouble in Eger. Zoltan was one man Vadas trusted completely. He was right. He needed more men.

“So, how is your Elizabeth doing? Peti said her injuries were severe. What is known of Miklos, I would imagine she didn’t get off lightly.”

“An understatement, Zoltan. Her wrist is broken, she was raped and tortured. I found her hanging from a hook, out of it. Miklos left her there to die. He knew I would find her, sooner or later.  The doctors sedated her, but she’s awake and talking now. She’s in a lot of pain but the body will heal. Her mind?” Vadas pointed to his head. “Another story.”

Zoltan shook his head. He knew Miklos as long as Vadas. The level of hatred Miklos had in him-well, he would pay with his life. Miklos was somewhere on earth. Vadas would hunt him down like the boar.

“Elizabeth told me Alexandra was involved. She caned Elizabeth. They will pay. The offense was intended for both of us.”

Zoltan crossed himself. “Alexandra was always a ringyo. She hid behind Miklos in the early days, and she still jumps to serve him. She is jealous of your woman, Vadas. That is obvious to anyone looking.”

Vadas shoved the hat back on his head as he stood to leave.

“Well, my friend, you are out of the fight for now. You get better, Zoltan. Stronger. You come back to Eger and rest. I’m going to take Elizabeth there, if she will come. Right now? I don’t know what she will do, and of course, I can’t force her. A man has limits on what he can make a woman do. She can be stubborn like a mule. Like all women, no?”

Zoltan shifted in the bed and groaned. “You care for this woman. It’s been a long time since I saw that. She’s a good woman, Vadas, but you go slow. She has some shock and can’t think straight right now. If forced, she will bolt. Better hide her passport.”

Vadas laughed. He had already considered that. Elizabeth was an American, traveling under an American passport. He needed to keep her name from the eyes and ears of the American embassy in Budapest. That would be another can of worms for him. Better she marry him, and soon. At least it would change some things, and would provide some protection for her. And he would be protected in ways, too.

It was less than a week and Vadas was in Eger with Elizabeth. He wondered where to put her, since she was clearly in pain and needed help with the most basic things. He decided on his bedroom. He would sleep on a couch there, comfortable enough. He would sleep in his bed but for that damn cast. He was afraid of turning over on her.

His bathroom was better than the one attached to her bedroom. She would need help bathing and dressing. Maria Kovacs would help. He knew Soffia could be there periodically. He still wanted to run the show, to watch over Elizabeth’s recovery. He had brought her into this shit. A some point he had to concentrate on Miklos. And soon. And by him, not the police. He needed a plan. His hatred for Miklos was eating a hole in his gut. Miklos was still breathing air, not in the ground. This was an outrage he could not swallow.


Seven men were sitting at the table in the dining room one night. Vadas sat at the head of the table and studied each man. There were empty wine bottles all over and the men were getting pleasantly drunk.

Vadas knew they could be trusted. He had known most of them for decades. If not them, who else? All had worked in the planting of the vines and the harvest for years. A few had worked on other things, too, not legal. He was the last to cast stones. He had made his money illegally. With some of these men, he had few secrets. At times they had been part of his operations.

They were all strong and independent men, good men at heart. They were closed- mouthed men and he needed help in capturing Miklos.  They could dig for information, talk to men hanging in the taverns around Esztergom, grease some palms. He would pay well for this information. If they could, they would get it.

Andor spoke up, knocking back his wine and setting the heavy glass back on the table with a bang.

“Miklos must have gone insane. For him to do what he did? No man would tolerate it.” He turned and addressed Vadas.

“I can understand Zoltan being shot. He’s a man. He knows violence. He was in the way of what they wanted. But I saw the condition of your woman when we found her. Jesus Christ! What man would do this except a wild animal?”

Vadas looked up at the ceiling and pulled on his cigarette.

“When a man does this to a woman, he insults and injures not only the woman, but the man. He did this (Vadas made a vulgar thrusting motion with his hips) to fuck with me. With this, he defiled Elizabeth, but he also defiled me. Elizabeth was just a way to fuck with me.”

The men were silent, some nodding their heads. What Miklos did would not be tolerated by any man in the room. Some wondered at the calmness of Vadas, but those who knew him best knew Vadas never moved without a plan. The stakes were too high and dangerous.

Markus spoke. “This Romanian? Who is he? Has he been with Miklos long? I never heard of him. Barna, I did, but Barna wasn’t a leader. He was just a thug. This Romanian worries me, Vadas.”

“He worries me too.” Vadas took a long pull at his wine. “Sounds like he is a professional. Miklos is smart that way. He would size up what he wanted and get the man who could get the task done. This Romanian got the task done.”

Miklos wasn’t seen in Budapest. Vadas had his own men there and there were no reports of Miklos. It was thought he could have run back to Romania. He had many people there. Then again, he could have been in Paris. No one knew where he was.

Suddenly the room quieted. Elizabeth was standing in the wide doorway to the room. She was wearing a bathrobe and barefoot. Vadas turned and jumped out of his chair.

“Elizabeth, you shouldn’t be down here. You go back upstairs. Tonight is for the men and you are not to be down here. Understand?”

Elizabeth waved her hand in front of her face. “The smoke in this room would kill me, anyway. I heard the noise and I got nervous. I’ll go back upstairs and leave you to your drinking.”

She turned to go back and wobbled a bit. Vadas caught her and carried her upstairs.

“Look. The men are drinking and it’s no place for a woman. Get in bed and I will be up later.”

“Oh Vadas. I’m just nervous. I heard noise and I didn’t know what was happening downstairs.”

“You are not to worry, Elizabeth.” Vadas placed her on the bed, and kissed her on the forehead.

“Soffia told me you went to see Zoltan. How is he?”

“He is recovering, Elizabeth. He asked about you. Now, we will talk later. I must go back to the men.”

Vadas turned at the doorway and looked at Elizabeth on the big bed. She looked so small and defenseless. She looked like a child.

“Elizabeth, if you feel up to it, tomorrow we go to the house. You will like it. And the murals, of course. Do you have strength enough to walk around the house?”

“Yes. I feel so pointless sitting here, doing nothing. That would be lovely. Tomorrow morning?”

“Ok, I’ll be up later. I have work to do right now. You are ok now, you dream of your sheep.”

Vadas went back to the men and they argued and plotted until 2am. They were all pretty drunk when they left, but had at least agreed on a plan.

Vadas climbed the stairs knowing Elizabeth was long asleep and would ask no questions. Well, tomorrow was another day. Perhaps seeing the house would give her something to look towards. It needed a lot of work, but would take up her energies. He didn’t need Elizabeth hanging on his trousers with fear. Women were all a bother, with some interesting parts. Luckily the vines looked good, going into summer. The grapes had sense enough to grow on their own.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2007-2014

“A Kapitany”, Chapter 35

October 5, 2014

Budapest Balcony with flowers

I started this novel seven years ago.  I dropped it, mainly because it started out with a bdsm theme and it fast queered me out.  I left it for 6 years, just dangling in my documents, but last year finished it.  The trick of this was the change in emphasis of theme.  Gone was the bdsm stuff  and the characters were able to develop.  The woman, Elizabeth more fully fleshed out, and Vadas, the former Dom, became more human.  Actually, besides an ‘action’ story, full of things like art thieves, violence and revenge, it also  became a love story between two very convoluted characters. I was able to research some historical information about WWII and what happened in Hungary and the ‘containment’ camps for Jews and all others, and especially what happened with the Soviet occupation.  All this information went into the novel and I believe deepened the plot.

I had a lot of fun this summer rewriting this.  Mostly tense changes and some other changes. This is just one chapter of 40 and perhaps I will post others later.

Lady Nyo


Vadas slept badly. Shortly after dawn when first light appeared, he left the bed and stood watching Elizabeth, still sleeping. He avoided her questions the evening before, but she was no fool. She pressed him why Marcus was sitting in the hall of the lodge, obviously armed. Why the gun cabinet he was so careful about locking was unlocked and wide open. Why Maria wanted her company in the kitchen even though they couldn’t understand each other, and also because Maria wasn’t that welcoming of Vadas’ new squeeze. And why he had disappeared without notice.

Vadas avoided her questions until he started yelling at her. She didn’t back down. God, how she had changed in the months when he could do as he pleased! Now? She met him word for word, even yelling and stamping her foot. She was pushing him. He raised his hand, thinking she would shut up. He wouldn’t have hit her, just wanted her to stop with the questions. She looked shocked and then laughed. “You fall back into Hungarian because your English is so bad. Actually, it’s cute.” That had cut him. Cute? He was the Dom and didn’t think what he did was cute. What in hell was she thinking? Ah, there was no fear in this woman. She was fast getting the upper hand.

Vadas went downstairs. Maria must have gotten up even earlier as the coffee on the sideboard under the boar’s head was fresh, waiting for him. She must have heard the ruckus upstairs last night.

A cigarette and some coffee would concentrate his thoughts. He needed to think. He needed to get in control of Miklos and Elizabeth. Miklos was the serious threat, but Elizabeth was getting too bold. Ah, God. Women. If she wasn’t so fragile now, he would beat her. Of course he wouldn’t, but she needed to fear him a little.

It was still raining, but lighter today. The gloom outside fit his mood this morning. He looked out the window at the mass of trees and to the landscape stretching down the valley. There was a lot of land out there. He needed to put Elizabeth out there with a spade. Perhaps a plow. A big garden would tire her out, made her more docile.

Janos must have come in the middle of the night to lay the fire. Maria would be making breakfast soon. Elizabeth? Let her sleep. She probably was disturbed by his tossing in bed all those hours. By bed time they weren’t speaking. Like an old married couple, he thought with a sigh.

Miklos. He was in control now. His appearance (if that information was reliable) in Eger was part of his strategy. Andor was right: Miklos was playing cat and mouse. Vadas didn’t like being the mouse.

All this over a mere woman. No, that wasn’t right. Elizabeth was just a pawn in Miklos’ game. Actually a pawn in a shared game. He had done the unthinkable. He had pulled down the foundation of Miklos’ empire. Well, if not that, he certainly had disrupted his business. Why didn’t Miklos pick someone to replace him? He knew why. Twenty years and Miklos was comfortable the way things were. It was a delicate operation. Each man was necessary to the success of what they had been doing, illegal as it was. They were well honed parts of a particular machine. A man just didn’t walk into the job: years of risk and valued contacts, years of trust, at least with the clients. No, his wanting out had come from left field. Miklos didn’t believe he would walk away. It was an affront to his power and control. Of all injuries and insults, this was the one thing Miklos could not stand.

Vadas thought of the woman upstairs. It was an old tale, a classical tale. Both men wanted her. For different reasons, but both used her against the other. Vadas had used Elizabeth to break with Miklos; Miklos had used Elizabeth to break Vadas. It was like Achilles and Agamemnon, with Briesis between them. A long war with much causality until one defeated the other.

None of this was fair to Elizabeth. But women were pawns in the conflict between men. It had been so since the beginning of time. Why should it be any different now?

He felt like a sitting duck. Miklos was moving the pieces around the board right now. Well, there was nothing to be done about it except go on the offensive. Perhaps getting Elizabeth out of here for a while would give him time to develop his own plan besides sit and wait for Miklos to show his ass.

He sipped his coffee and decided he would take her to Budapest. Let her be introduced to the old girls there. It was right and proper she be brought before them anyhow. They shouldn’t meet her at the reception for the first time. Plus, he could kill two birds with one stone; he could meet with his wine clients and perhaps take in a museum or two. He had promised this to her before, and he had broke his promise. She was anxious, nervous. God knows she had reason to be. They were getting on each other’s nerves. A change of scenery would do them both good.

He would ask Zoltan to go with them. He would talk this crap through with Zoltan and get a better perspective. Right now he wanted to stalk Miklos to the ends of the earth, shoot him down in the street. He knew he had to be smarter if he wanted a future.

Vadas looked at his watch. Too early to call Andor and Marcus, but he wanted to meet with them before leaving. Perhaps they could meet together at Zoltan’s and lay down a plan while he was gone. Just talking it over with them would be good. Right now he was too close to the fire to think straight.

He heard someone in the dining room and thought Maria was bringing in breakfast. It was Elizabeth. She poured herself coffee and came into the room, saying nothing to him, only nodding her head.

“Good morning, Elizabeth. You sleep as badly as I did?”

“Your moving around in the bed didn’t help.” Elizabeth sat down across from him and looked out the window.

“I’m sorry, but I have a way to make it up to you.”

“What? Separate bedrooms?”

Vadas laughed uneasily. “No, smarty pants. That will never happen, not while we’re married. The winters up here are too fierce for that. No, I was thinking we go to Budapest later today to visit the aunties and play tourist.”

Elizabeth looked over the rim of her cup. “Are you serious, Vadas? Look me in the eye and say that?”

Vadas laughed. “So, you are picking up the phrases? Good, you need to learn if you live in Hungary.”

He sipped his coffee.

“Yes, would you like that? A change of scenery will do us both good. I am going to ask Zoltan to come with us. He needs a vacation, too.”

“I would like to see Zoltan. I would also like to see Budapest, again. This time with you instead of seeing it alone.”

She put her cup on the hearth. “Vadas? I want to pick up art supplies while we are there. I need to get back to my painting. I think it will calm me.”

“Then we will do it, Elizabeth. And it is time you met the aunties. We will stay maybe for three days. I will have to visit some of my wine clients while we are there, but you will enjoy that. We will go play the tourist like I promised.”

“Thank you, Vadas.” Elizabeth gave him a wry smile. “I’m sorry we fought last night. I didn’t enjoy it at all.”

“Well, that was hardly a fight, Elizabeth. The big ones come later in marriage.”   Vadas smiled into his cup.

“Vadas? Don’t ever raise your hand to me again. I am not a dog to discipline. You do, and I will be on the next plane back to the states.”

There was no mistaking her. Her tone said it all. Vadas knew she would do just that.

“I’m sorry, Elizabeth. You were pushing me. A man doesn’t like to be pushed. And, my English is good, not ‘cute’.”

“And a woman deserves answers, especially when it concerns her life.” Elizabeth stared into the low fire.

She would have the last word this morning, thought Vadas. Let her be difficult. She would come to know he was the man and a man didn’t answer every whine.

“Vadas, can we see Soffia in Budapest? I sort of miss her.”

“Sure, Elizabeth. You can call and warn her. I’m sure she wants to see you, too. But don’t think the old aunties want to see her. They never approved of Soffia, not in all these years.” Vadas laughed.

“Why, because she is a lesbian?”

“No, because they wanted me to get married after Marta, and Soffia looked too fast for their idea of a wife.”

Vadas stretched, the tension of last night mostly resolved.

“Look, Elizabeth. I go see Zoltan. I won’t be long. I need to talk to him. You go pack and pack for me, too. It will give you good practice when we marry.” Vadas half closed his eyes and smiled at her. Now, he would have the last word.

While Elizabeth was upstairs he called Andor. They agreed to meet at Zoltan’s. Then he called Zoltan to let him know he was coming. Gulping down one last cup of coffee and chewing on some bacon, he left before Elizabeth could appear and ask more questions.

Vadas met Marcus and Andor on the road to Zoltan’s cottage. Again the same dog met them at the gate and again Zoltan’s cousin yelled at the cur. It ran to the back under the house. Zoltan was in his favorite chair, his shoes propped up on the fender of the woodstove. It was early, but he was drinking plum wine. The cousin brought in a tray with a bottle and glasses. She left it on the table with a large sausage and a knife. The men found places to sit and Vadas poured out the wine.

“Well, Zoltan. We got news Miklos was seen in Eger yesterday. Maybe true, maybe not. But I have men there watching. It’s a big town, and Miklos knows the hiding places. But so do the men. We will see what happens. You up for a trip to Budapest?”

Zoltan blew out smoke and nodded. “Sure, sure, I’m up for anything right now. I’m getting stir crazy sitting here. I got my pills. I can visit a woman I know. Fine, but I drive, Vadas. We will make it with our lives spared.”

The other men laughed. Vadas drove too fast, talked too much and drove with his knees, his arms flailing around with his talking. Only Zoltan was used to his ways, but now? He decided he had tempted fate enough and wasn’t a cat with nine lives. Being in Vadas’ company was dangerous enough. He would drive.

“What about Miklos’ men? Has anyone seen or heard of them lately?” Vadas lit another cigarette.

“Nah, only that Barna is still bitching about his finger. He can’t grip his cock with his hand missing a finger,” Marcus said.

The men laughed. “Barna better be grateful Vadas left him his cock to play with,” said Zoltan.

“What about this Ukrainian?”

“Nobody has seen him, Vadas, but he’s probably lying low. What happened to Barna sent a clear message to those dickheads.”

“To some of them. Some need to clean the wax out of their ears.”

There was nothing new so they decided to continue to wait and see. Sooner or later they would flush out Miklos and his merry men. It was a dangerous game all around, but they had little to go on. They could wait. Miklos would come to them, eventually. The point was not to fall into another trap. That would mean ‘game over.’

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

Life is Good.

September 5, 2014

My beautiful picture

Except for war, except for women in India and Pakistan…hell, all around these more ‘backward’ countries where the rights of women are non existent…..except for Ebola, terrorists, threats, attacks on the children and innocent.

Well, this summer has been quite an adventure.  It’s been a sharp learning curve but things are working out.  The blinders have come off my eyes on any number of issues, and for that I am grateful.  My dear Aunt Jean dying hasn’t really hit me yet, but it will.  I am slow on some of these things.

It was hot this summer at times.  But the good news for me is  I finally finished a novel…..”A Kapitany”…..a Hungarian themed….art thieves, insurance crimes, bdsm, redemption, etc.  LOL!  Not the novel I wanted to finish, but one that was most completed.  Spent the summer  changing tense and tightening up the book.  Will publish it next spring with Createspace….

Talked with my dear friend Bill Penrose last week.   He is well and silver smithing and rock climbing still.  Bill formatted the first three of my books with  He is an amazing writer and man.  He believed in my writing when I didn’t have a clue.  You can’t buy friends like that and he will always be at the top of my list.

No cats or dogs here died, which is a very different circumstance than last summer when we lost three darlings to old age.  We have three more, a dog at 15 and two cats at the same age, but they are doing great.  We are preparing for winter this fall with a new woodstove:  it’s our 30th wedding anniversary, and we thought to go on a long vacation, but then decided that a new woodstove would last longer…and be more comfortable.  LOL!

I am planning a new and expanded version of “Boundaries, Setting them and meaning them”…..for the blog.  Things happened this summer that brought back to me the importance of such issues.  In particular, a meeting with a fool of a man after more than 40 years.  We will call this man Bubba, because he acted with all the finesse of a lout.  Bubba overstepped every boundary known to women, and he did it with glee.  Or perhaps thoughtlessness.  But I think he thought he could get away with a very self-centered and polluted agenda, so it was purposeful. (Though he couldn’t believe that I would ‘take offense.”  Hah!)   Boundaries are something that every one needs, and why is it so damn hard for most of us women to remember them and put them into action at the immediate time and proper place?  I think it is because our shock that the Bubbas Of The World  would violate them without thought or consideration. It’s because some very stupid men think that they can and it’s acceptable to do so.  Showing me a picture of his naked wife on his phone was just the beginning of the offense.  What a wanker! His poor wife.  And this man thinks he can be taken seriously???  Jesus, good thing this badly aging man didn’t meet my husband.  He would have summed up the offense to me and taken care of the situation, probably in the usual way men deal with insults.  With their fists. Primitive but effectual.  But we don’t usually travel around with our husbands so we have to be alert and faster on our feet. And depend upon ourselves.   Applying boundaries again and letting the chips fall where they will.

But the fall is coming and I love the change of seasons….especially this one.  There is expectation in the air, a cooling of temps which is welcome in the Deep South, and I am ready.  The garden gave a lot of tomatoes and that is about all, but I am planning next year’s garden already.  A better one.

Except for the writing, nothing really new here, except I have slowly gone back to belly dance and the feared flamenco …..mostly for exercise…..with weights.  LOL! Ambitious a bit,, but it’s working.

Life can be a sharp learning curve.  I guess the point is to keep learning and pushing forward.

Lady Nyo



The soil has lost its excellence.

Worms hide in the

Deep sullen earth

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 hard rain.


I squandered the bloom months

Thinking paper and pen

Would bring its own blossoming

Scarcely seeing the vitality outside


Allowing cabbage moths and beetles

To dominate

My nod to farming

To self-sufficiency,

My tithe to the earth.


The soil is hardened

By the sins of the season.

Sharp winds make


The cold buries down,

Deep, deep down

Torments, teases life

Who would show a 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 pulp and soil

And mocks with a barrenness

I feel inside and out.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014, from “Pitcher of Moon”, published by Createspace, Amazon, 2014

“Part II, A Short Introduction to Tanka”

February 18, 2013
A Courtesan's fleeting life of beauty.

A Courtesan’s fleeting life of beauty.

I promised some readers I would post this Part II on Tanka, so here it is. I haven’t rewritten it, but it is just an introduction to this wonderful poetry form. People can use it as a jumping off place for their own further study. It is not meant to be a complete presentation. I have grown a bit on tanka, but still find this useful.

Tanka is refreshing to the mind and heart and fixes that which breaks at times.

Lady Nyo

PART II, Short Introduction to Tanka

Like the lithe bowing
Of a red maple sapling
My heart turns to you,
Yearns for those nights long ago
When pale skin challenged the moon.

Lady Nyo


Today the standard form is generally noted to be (in syllables) 5-7-5-7-7. This is both in English and Japanese. (Translations of Japanese into English don’t necessarily fit this rule, but usually a reading of the tanka in the original Japanese will be of the 5-7-5, etc. format)
It is said that this format is the most natural length for a lyric poem expressing emotion for the Japanese.

Too, according to some theories, tanka is short (31 syllables) because the rhythm possesses magical power; the poems were spells. (Well, some of them could be…) Syllables in such meter would burst out of the throats of a miko or shaman in a state of divine trance, so that the rhythm is itself numinous. Certainly some poems have been used as spells, for bringing down a deity, for propitiating him, for calling forth to a lover, and to this day are still to be found embedded in the tougher soil of Tantric Buddhist rites. Or so writes Arthur Waley in “Japanese Poetry, The ‘Uta’. Believe what you want.

But this I think is true: The thirty-one syllables are but an inner core surrounded by unspoken yet powerful circles of images. These circles, rings radiate outward and pull so much more into the presence of the poem.

However, earlier tanka, (and tanka as a name didn’t come into being until the 19th century in the poetry reform movement) was called waka, and the earliest examples could be 3,4,6, in ‘syllable’ progression from the first line. But syllable in English doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing in Japanese poetry. Onji is more a ‘mora” like a sound than a syllable. (This part can be disputed)

More to the point, tanka is actually not one poem, but two. It’s a combination of two poems, or thoughts, etc. The first three lines are called Kami-no-ku (upper poem). The lower poem…the last two lines of 7-7 is called Shim-no-ku. They are joined together by that middle 5 syllable pivot line, called kakekotoba.

The kakekotoba is an interesting invention. It is a pivot or bridge between the two main poems. It should be part of the upper verse AND the lower verse in thought or poetry. The pivot line is both the last image and end of the upper verse as well as the first image and beginning of the lower verse. Both poems, read divided…the top from the bottom, should be able to stand on its own.

In my example on the top, the first three lines could be a poem in its own right:

Like the lithe bowing
Of a red maple sapling
My heart turns to you.

Taking the bottom lines and topping them with the pivot line:

My heart turns to you,
Yearns for those nights long ago
When pale skin challenged the moon.

This is not the finest example but it’s about as best as I can do right now. Oh! Tanka usually has no punctuation. However, English-speaking poets feel more expressive in their poetry with punctuation. I find that true for myself, even writing tanka and haiku.

This last unit of 7-7 is used as a repetition or summary of the top poem. I think of this shim-no-ku more as a re-enforcement or continuation of the sentiment of the whole poem. Perhaps like a repeated refrain?

To further complicate the form of tanka, it usually contains a Kigo which is a word that reveals the season without making it plain. Or not. In the example above, perhaps the ‘red maple’ gives a hint of the season, but I wasn’t carrying that ‘rule’ in my head when I wrote this tanka.

After a while, we pick up on seasonal (what I call) ‘markers’. Plum trees (ume) are the first blossoming trees of early spring. (though with Global Warming my red maple is budded out with these clusters of red blossom in January!) Dragonflies and mosquitoes represent hot summer; green tips of wheat in a field, early spring; a cardinal, winter; frogs, summer; golden leaves, autumn; the list is endless, but here, they are all from nature.

I don’t want to set up stumbling blocks to the thrill of composing tanka for modern, English speaking poets. These are the forms that many learn in the beginning, and perhaps later discard. But it’s good to learn them and to try to formulate your tanka in the classical sense. Too often poets attempting haiku and tanka never attend to the ancient rules and in not learning they miss the important DNA of these specialized forms. What they write (and I have long made this mistake) is nothing but freeverse. Study classical examples; get a feel for them in the head and mouth, and then go further afield. But see the beauty and reason for these rules first.


As to rhythm in tanka, there are two distinct rhythmic parts (top and bottom) separated by a major stop at the 12th onji. Then the rhythm starts out again to the end of the poem.

Basically, in reading a tanka out loud it is done in 2 breathes: the first three lines complete the first breath and the last two, the second breath. However, this is more applying to Japanese than English poets. (In haiku, it is one breath.)


There isn’t any in Japanese poetry. It would be too simple as most Japanese words end in one of the five open vowels. But that shouldn’t dismiss the poems of other poets who do use a rhyming scheme in their works. But is rare and is not favorable to most tanka poets.


Things changed with the passage of centuries but nature, (especially the moon), seasons and their lifecycles, the rustle of leaves, the sighing of the wind, the crickets, frogs, reflections of the moon in the frog-pond.

Expressions of love and devotion, yearning, mourning and love loss, plum blossoms, cherry trees, death poems, praise of Emperors, poems upon aging, illness, things of a personal interest, were some of the topics of ancient tanka. They still stand for tanka of today. Saigyo came along and added the ‘common element’ by his writing of fishermen, prostitutes, nuns (sometimes the same thing…) laborers, beside the moon and nature, and certainly we read his very personal expressions of longing, loneliness, and self-doubt.

Tanka has that pointed ability to embrace every topic, but to compress, to distill or refine our words and work.

Later in the 19th century jiga-no-shu, poems about the ego, were beginning to be written. There was a poetry reform movement around 1900 in Japan where many new developments in tanka and haiku were read. A nascent women’s movement developed from the writings of one woman poet, Akiko, who wrote ‘uninhibited compositions of sexual passion and love, and this came from the core of her poems, called jikkan, which means writing from the emotions that the writer is actually experiencing. Since this was confusing to me when I read this early in my study of tanka, I think I have come to an understanding. Then, in 1900, the forms were more ‘polite’….though you will read a lot of bitching in classical tanka!….and to write about direct emotional experience would possibly be new? But in a way this denies the beautiful poems of Komachi, Shikibu, etc. Well, maybe I don’t have a clue here.

To some eyes, tanka seems too simple, sometimes falling into platitude. Japanese poetry depends on the subtlety of its effects. It is a poetry of sensibility. And according to Kenneth Rexroth, (One Hundred Poems From the Japanese) If these effects are extended and diluted, the sensibility easily degenerates into sentimentality.

A poetry of sensibility no longer seems as strange as it did. If you think of a poet like Emily Dickinson, Whitman, you see this ‘immediate experience’.

And further from Rexroth: “Classical Japanese poetry is read in a slow drone, usually a low falsetto; this is the voice is kept lower and more resonant than its normal pitch, with equal time and stress on each syllable. And this is quite unlike spoken Japanese.

Somewhere I read the way to compose tanka was to grab a lover, a friend, break off a plum branch and contemplate, grab even your wife! and dig deeply into your soul.

Tanka can be a deep, contemplative statement of observation, declaration, etc. In other words, today tanka can incorporate any theme.

Finally, tanka means “short (or brief) song”. To me, it’s a colorful burst, a declaration, like a songbird trilling in the dead of winter. It can startle us, shock us, it can be memorable, like that sudden burst of birdsong.
But the real essence is the myriad possibilities of creativity with tanka. Don’t get too hung up in form, or trying to understand all the ins and outs of classical tanka. I believe even the greatest poets learn and abandon some of them to fly beyond a cultural standard. (But! They learn them.)

I want to end with some poems, some tanka from “Love Songs from the Man’yoshu” one of the most influential books I have come across, and one of the most erotic in poetry. I will also offer my own tanka.

Have fun with tanka. It will enrich the soul.

Lady Nyo

From the Man’yoshu, 8th century anthology. (Man’yoshu means “The Collection of a Thousand Leaves”)

“Tonight too
Does my woman’s pitch-black hair
Trail upon the floor
Where she sleeps without me?”

“As I stay here yearning,
While I wait for you, my lord,
The autumn wind blows,
Swaying the bamboo blinds
Of my lodging.
—Princess Nukata (8th century)

“Thick and fast stream my thoughts of you,
Like the layers
Of endlessly falling snow
Upon the cedars.
Come to me at night, my man.”
—The Maiden Osata Hirotsu

“Your hair has turned white
While your heart stayed
Knotted against me.
I shall never
Loosen it now.”

“Oh for a heavenly fire!
I would reel in
The distant road you travel,
Fold it up,
And burn it to ashes.”
—The Daughter of Sano Otogami

“I dreamed I held
A sword against my flesh.
What does it mean?
It means I shall see you soon.”
—Lady Kasa

“The flowers whirl away
In the wind like snow.
The thing that falls away
Is myself.”

“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?”

“I shall not take a brush
To this hair that lies
Disheveled in the morning,
For it retains the touch
Of my dear lord’s arms that pillowed me.”


The poems to the end are Lady Nyo’s poems, some to be published in “White Cranes of Heaven” by, Spring, 2011.

Shooting star crosses
Upended bowl of blue night
Fires up with excited gaze!
A moment– and all is gone.

This is the problem!
Do not give over your soul,
it returns tattered.
What tailor can mend the rips?
The fabric too frayed by life.

“Shall an old gray wolf
subdue a woman like me?
“I shall be born soon.
The wolf head I will cut off
and nail the pelt to the cross.”
(Lady Nyo’s Death Tanka, but not dead yet.)

This grim November,
The month of my father’s death
Always bittersweet.
My memories float, weak ghosts-
Haunting in the fog of life.

So lonely am I
My soul like a floating weed
Severed at the roots
Drifting upon cold waters
No pillow for further dreams.

A late Summer moon
Floats above the conifers.
Autumn is coming.
Do pines know the season turns?
Their leaves don’t fall; do they care?

—Lady Nyo, various tanka and extended haiku.

Jane Kohut-Bartels,
Copyrighted 2011-2013

“A Kapitany”, Chapter 34…..

February 17, 2013

…. with a little bad language, but only in Hungarian.

I am having a lot of fun with this novel. And, I have heard recently that Hungarians are also reading these few chapters on the blog and liking the story. That means a lot. I knew that since I started posting chapters of “A Kapitany” I had readers in Hungary. That was important to me. Some of them wrote and kindly corrected some of the sentences I used in Hungarian…a very difficult language. My father’s family is Hungarian and I was raised around that complex language, but it certainly was a boon for Hungarians to give me advice on the language.

I wanted to see if what I was writing struck a spark of recognition in these readers. Of course, it’s fiction, but every writer writes from fact and experience. Or tries to.

I have almost finished the book. It’s been a long haul but now the hard work: rewrite.

Some clues to readers who haven’t been following this story: Vadas Dohendy is an art thief. He works for Miklos Karkas, who is a bigger art thief. Vadas has left Miklos’ employ and gone back to his vineyard in Noszvaj, near Eger, Hungary. He wants a new life, and Elizabeth is his way out…or an excuse. Elizabeth many chapters back was kidnapped by Miklos Farkas and his hired thugs. Both men have their own hired thugs and are gunning for each other. Playing cat and mouse, but each has a reason to kill the other. So far, the Eger/Budapest police are waiting for them to kill each other. It makes their jobs a lot easier.

Farkas means ‘wolf” in Hungarian. Vadas means “hunter”. Wolves feature heavily in earlier chapters of this novel. Grey and black wolves. Vadas told Elizabeth that black wolves come from Transylvania and grey wolves are Hungarian. Miklos Farkas originated from Transylvania, or his family did. There’s a snarling black wolf head in the hall of the lodge in Noszvaj that scares Elizabeth every time she sees it. Vadas has it there for a reason.


A Kapitany, Chapter 34

It was raining the next morning. It pelted the roof, drummed loud enough to be ‘white noise’ coming from a cd.
Vadas opened one eye, saw the gloom of the morning and curled himself around Elizabeth.

Elizabeth woke up, yawned and stretched. “Come on, it’s morning. It’s late. Get up.”

Vadas buried his head in her hair. “No, I want to stay in bed all day. You, too.”

“Vadas, don’t be silly. There are plenty of things to do today.”

“What? You got someone to visit? You want to go shopping?”

Elizabeth yawned. “No. I have no where to go. But we could do something.”

“You can scratch my back. Massage my shoulders. Maybe you trim my toenails.” He snuggled down in the covers and tightened his arm around her.

“I don’t trim your toenails, Vadas. Even if we marry, I don’t do that.”

“What? A wife does these things for the husband.”

“I’m not your wife, yet, remember?”

“So? You are in training, no?”

“Hah. Come on, Vadas. I’ll get you some coffee.”

“Good. Bring back the pot.”

Elizabeth went downstairs and poured two mugs of coffee. On the way back she looked out the window at the top of the staircase. It was pouring outside. Perhaps Vadas was right. Perhaps it was a good day to do nothing.

Vadas was sitting up in bed, scratching his chest. Elizabeth handed him his mug and sat down in a chair by the window, sipping the hot coffee gingerly.

“It’s too wet to go visit the grapes, Elizabeth,” he said mournfully.

“Ok. Why don’t we go into Eger and see what furniture your aunts have stored in that warehouse?”

“We could do that. You could pick what you wanted for the house.” Vadas yawned. “We could also stay right here in bed.” He patted the bed beside him.

“Vadas, we don’t have a lot of time before the wedding. If you are serious about making the house livable, it’s going to take a lot of time and attention. The roofers should be coming soon, right?”

“Ah, we can go up there today and see where the rain is coming in, Elizabeth. Good idea. First, take care of your man.” Vadas grinned over his mug.

‘You are going to wear me out before we get married.”

“Yes I am. Aren’t you a lucky woman? The ló fasz is lonely.”

“You’re a maniac, Vadas. Later, sweetie, maybe this evening. I want to get some things done today.”

“As long as you remember the ‘later’, Elizabeth.”

“I’m going to take a shower.”

“Good, I’ll join you.”

“Nothing doing, Vadas. You know what happens when you butt into my shower.”

Vadas smiled, finishing the last of his coffee.

“Listen, Elizabeth, before you go shower, I’ve been thinking. The reception? We need a big place. We can rent a hotel, or we can open part of the house. You want to live there, right? Well, we can fix up the roof. We can have people come in and repair some of the rooms. We can have chairs and tables rented. We can make part of the house livable. What do you think?”

Elizabeth stopped where she was. “Vadas? Can you afford to do this? You know that roof will cost a lot of money. And we have to agree we don’t touch the murals. We need a conservator to look at them. They might be of historic value. We don’t want to rush things. Is the house even wired for enough electricity? What about bathrooms? You are planning on, what? Two, three hundred people?”

“Elizabeth. I would be expected to have at least that many. This whole village and people from Budapest and Eger. It will be a crowd. For three days.”

Elizabeth’s mouth fell open. “Vadas. Some people will have to be put up for that long. At least those from Budapest. Your aunties and my Aunt Irene for much longer.”

“We can put a tent on the grounds. We can have people from out of town stay here. It would be tight, but Maria and Janos will arrange. As for toilets? They can use the bushes.”

“Oh, stop it, Vadas”, said Elizabeth laughing in spite of herself. “Be practical. And the food? We need a wedding planner. We need caterers. We need someone who knows what to do.”

“Ok. Hire someone. Vadas pays.”

Elizabeth shook her head in disbelief and went to take her shower. Vadas picked up a paper and started to read.

Vadas’ cell buzzed. It was Andor. Miklos was seen in Eger. Vadas sat up, and swung his legs over the side of the bed.

“What are you saying? When? When was he seen?” Vadas stood up and paced while he was talking.

“Ok, ok. This changes plans for today. I have to get rid of Elizabeth. No, no. She wants to come into Eger, but that can’t happen. Yes, get Marcus and some of the other men here. I want at least two men here in the house, and two parked near the house. If Miklos is around, Elizabeth is in danger. No, I will meet you in half an hour, maybe a little more. Ok. I’ll unlock the gun cabinet in the hall. You know what to do.”

Vadas put the phone down on the nightstand. So, the bastard had surfaced and he was right under his nose. Now he had to convince Elizabeth to stay here, and not ask questions. But she would be alarmed with two other men in the house. She wasn’t stupid. She would know something was up.

Maria. She would help. Vadas threw on clothes and went down to find Maria. Janos and Maria were both in the kitchen drinking coffee.

“Good. I’m glad I caught both of you. Janos, Miklos was seen in Eger. I ‘m going there. There will be four men here, two in the house, and two parked nearby. Just in case. Maria? I need you to keep Elizabeth under your thumb. Perhaps she can help in the kitchen? I don’t want her alarmed, but these men here? She will know something’s afoot.” Vadas shrugged his shoulders.

Janos nodded. Maria wasn’t so easy.

“Vadas. Elizabeth will know. She will be scared. I’m afraid for you. Don’t do this, Vadas. You don’t know what Miklos is planning or how many men he has. Please, Vadas, don’t go after Miklos now. Let the police handle it.”

“If the police get involved, I will go down with Miklos.”

Janos spoke. “Maria. This is Vadas’ decision. You, woman, stay out of it. You just keep Elizabeth busy until the smoke clears.”

“Son? What are you going to do?”

Vadas turned in the doorway and looked at Janos. “I don’t know. Maybe beat him up. Maybe cut off his dick. Maybe I kill him. I don’t know, Janos. But I won’t go easy on Miklos. That’s if I find him.”

Vadas picked up Andor and Tomas, another man who knew what Miklos had done. Andor filled Tomas in about the sighting of Miklos. They got to Eger fast, Vadas driving like a maniac. They met the man saying Miklos had been seen. He had disappeared, though someone had followed. Vadas turned and punched the wall of a building, cursing his head off. Bad move, as he skinned his knuckles. Shoving his hand in his mouth, he looked at Andor.

“This seggfej is screwing with me.” Vadas lunged at the man, anger contorting his face.

Andor and Tomas grabbed Vadas by the shoulders and arms, holding him back.

“Vadas! Stop it. Don’t kill the messenger, you shit head,” hissed Andor.

The man went pale. He stepped back.

Vadas shook his head, recovering himself and held out his hand.

“Sorry. I lost my head.”

The man didn’t take his hand, his eyes flashing anger. Andor stepped in front of Vadas and put his arm around the man’s shoulder. He led him away and spoke quietly to him. Andor slipped something into his hand. The man looked back at Vadas and nodded.

“Maybe I should stay here and tail him myself.”

“No, Vadas. Miklos wanted you to know he was here. He’s playing cat and mouse. Go home and wait. He probably will do this again. We will get him. Just be patient.”

Vadas looked at Andor and Tomas and sighed. “You’re probably right. Miklos always was a tok feju. I just lost my head. I can’t afford to do that again.”


Elizabeth found the gun cabinet opened and guessed something was happening. Maria hadn’t said a word, but Janos was smoking in the kitchen, something Maria forbade him doing. They realized she knew something and tried to take her mind off Vadas’ absence. Elizabeth had already seen Marcus sitting in the hall in a chair. He nodded to her and Elizabeth could see he was armed. She walked to the gun cabinet and looked for a small pistol. Vadas’ guns were too big for her but she was damned if she was going to be unarmed. Marcus came to her and in bad English asked her what she was looking for. She said “gun” and he rolled his eyes. She opened the bureau next to the cabinet and rummaged around. She found a small .38 and opening it, saw it was unloaded. She found five bullets that fit. She flipped it closed and stuck it in the back pocket of her jeans. Marcus winked and nodded at her and went back to his seat. Elizabeth went into the kitchen, pulling her sweater down so the gun didn’t show on her butt. Maria didn’t notice, but Janos did. He smiled to himself and puffed on his cigarette. This was no helpless, dumb American woman.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2013

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