Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Lady Nyo’s Torment, from “The Nightingale’s Song”, Part 6

August 6, 2013

Man'yoshu image II

Lady Nyo’s Torment, from “The Nightingale’s Song”, Part 6


“I stay here waiting for him

In the autumn wind, my sash untied,

Wondering, is he coming now,

Is he coming now?

And the moon is low in the sky.

The only company I have tonight,

Now near dawn, is the paling Milky Way,

And Oh, my husband!

There are not stars enough in the heavens

To equal my sorrowful tears.”


Hana Nyo threw back the quilted robe from her head.

It was just a dream, just a dream. 

Then why does my heart pound so?


Two nights before

Lady Nyo and her nurse

Spent the hours til dawn

Watching the flame rise and fall

Through the shoji of Lord Nyo’s room,

 Watched the candle

Consume the poems he was writing–

But to whom?


“Ah, he has another woman!”

Her nurse was loyal but leaned

On the privilege of time.


Lady Nyo’s heart took flight.

Fear and shame dueled

In her blood, pushing reason

From her head.


Did he know?

Did he know?

Did he know about the poems?

Did he know of the vanished lover?


For two days it rained.

November rains poured like

Waterfalls off the eaves,

Broke the stems of the chrysanthemums,

Scattered the flower heads,

Blew great gusts of wet wind into her room,

Blanketing an already sorrowful mind

With a seasonal fury.


Lord Nyo had ridden out

The dawn after

The Night of Burning Poems,

Dressed for hunting,

His falcon on his glove,

Not a word of farewell,

Not a baleful glance in her direction.

She watched him mount his horse,

And gallop away.

She watched from the slits between bamboo blinds,

Like a thief or a beggar,

She didn’t know what,

Only felt the sharp sting of shame,

A particular loss of something she probably

Never had.


Lady Nyo spent the day journal writing,

Her misery reflected in an unpainted face,

Tangled hair,

Shunning food as a sacrifice:

The pain of her torment

Was not lessened.


Once I did believe

That no love could still linger

Within my heart

Yet, a love springs from somewhere

And forces itself on me.”




“My eyes have seen you

But I’ve yet to hold you close

You’re like a laurel

That is growing on the moon

And I don’t know what to do.”


Yes, and I don’t know what to do.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011, 2013


“The Temptation of Lady Nyo”, from “The Nightingale’s Song”, Part 4

July 30, 2013

Japanese Woman


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, 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 could be 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.



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?


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.


I read your poem.

I could do nothing else.

This time it was inked upon

MY fan.


“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.


“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?


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, 2013

“Tin Hinan”, Section 3 of Chapter 1

March 8, 2012

(Berber girl, from

My thanks to all who are reading this Chapter 1 of my novel, “Tin Hinan”, especially  the readers from d’  I am delighted by your comments and encouragement.  I have broken this long chapter into 4 sections, and will post Chapter II, but will also break it  into sections.

After 4 years I am close to finishing this book, and Bill Penrose, who formatted my last three books at, will stand again for this book.  Thank you, Bill.  None of these books would ever have seen the light of day without your hard labor.

Lady Nyo

Section 3, Chapter I, “Tin Hinan”…..‘Wedding Preparations’

Though the wedding was months off in the future, the first thing to do were to take a piece of my Mother’s tent and sew it into one of my own.  All the woman of the tribe gathered at my Mother’s tent one morning and with singing and playing of the bendir, a frame drum, we cut out a large piece in the back of her tent and started stitching the heavy cloth woven from goat hair.  It was long and tedious work, but we ate dates and millet puddings and drank honey-sweet mint tea and told stories.  For a fortnight we worked on my marriage tent.  The east side would be for Hasim, and the west side for me.  I would have our marriage bed and our stores, musical instruments and rugs on my side.  The marriage bed would be a day couch for my children and me.  Hasim would fill the east side with his weapons and saddles.  By tradition, after the marriage, Hasim would sleep outside, part of the guard men protecting our settlement from raiders across the mountain and from the desert. By custom, the tent, the bed and everything in it, except the weapons and saddles would be my property.

Our settlement was in a large oasis, nestled at the foot of a mountain range.  It was lush and shaded in parts by woods and orchards and streams running through the land. We tilled the fertile earth, made so by the runoff of water from the mountain, and fed by the snows of winter.  It was a beautiful site for our nomadic people, and we defended it fiercely from others who would drive us away. I walked to a little plot of land with my father and decided this would be the place for my tent.

There was much more to do, but the next task was to build my marriage bed.  This was to be the most important piece of furniture a woman could have, and each was done differently according to the skills and imagination of the carver.  My father hired the best carpenter and carver around to build it.  It would be big and wide and would not be too high off the carpets paving the floor of the tent.  My father went with the carpenter to pick the wood, and he obtained some beautiful, scented cedar to make the bed.  When it was carved and doweled together, it took six men to carry and place in the tent.  It was so beautiful, but of course, I was not allowed to lie down on it, or even to sit upon its frame.  I would have to wait for the wedding night with Hasim before I was even to touch it.  But I did peek in the doorway before the divider between sides was hung and saw the beautiful symbols of fertility and good fortune carved along with flowers and palm trees.  In the middle of the back of the bed, was a large and flowing palm tree, with its roots extending outward towards the side posts. Little pigeons and doves were being chased by two hawks and some of the doves were hiding in the tree.

Next was the sewing of the mattress.  My mother and her kinswomen sheared sheep and stuffed the thick wool into two large sheets of thick and coarse cotton. We spread it out on a carpet and during the night, my kinswomen, young girls to elderly women, my cousins and great aunts, would sit around the heavy mattress and we would all take up our bone needles and stitch carefully across and down the mattress.  This would be laid upon the woven ropes that were stretched from one side of the bed frame to another, and woven back and forth until there was a tight foundation for the mattress.  Our tradition said that a tightly woven bed frame augured well for a marriage.  Loose or slack weaving would let the attentions of the husband sag and the wife would stray in her affections.

As the wedding approached, I was bundle of nerves.  I had not seen Hasim, except from a distance.  We were watched very closely, for there was to be no contact before the wedding day.  I was not allowed to venture to the river without another woman with me, and I believe Hasim was told he could not approach me when his tribe came with herds of goats or to discuss shared pasturing with our men.

All seemed to be going according to plan, when the demons of Death took matters into their own claws.  I say Death  for nothing but that could have caused such a reverse of fortune and happiness in my life. We Berbers believe strongly in malicious spirits, and they seemed to hold their own festival with my wedding plans.

One day, very close to the time of the wedding, when already there were preparations for the five days of celebration planned,  I heard some women in my mother’s tent crying and went to see what had happened.  As I neared her tent, two of my favorite Aunties  ran out and threw themselves upon me.

“Aicha, Aicha,” said one fat old auntie, panting in her excitement. “You must prepare yourself!  You must be strong and comfort your parents!”

“What? What? What has happened that I am to be ‘strong’ as you say?”  I started to run towards her tent, and since I am tall, my legs were long, and my Aunties could not keep up with me.  I heard them wailing behind me, yet I did not heed their cries.

I made it to my mother’s tent and entered her western side, where I found both my parents in her quarters.  My father looked somber, and my mother was rocking back and forth, like she was in grief.

“What has happened, oh my parents?  Has something happened to Hasim?  Tell me, oh tell me now!”

My mother was beside herself, and had thrown a cloth over her head as we do when a kinsman dies.  This is to blot out the sight of any happiness and is one of our forms of our mourning.  I was white faced with fear and was sure that Hasim was dead!

“My daughter, my daughter,” began my father, with tears in his eyes.  “Our family has been tricked, we have all been betrayed. Even though our gifts were returned this morning, it is not to be borne.  Hasim has contracted to marry another and has left to go to her tent.”

I was told I stared like a dead person, my eyes empty, my mouth open without sound. Then, one long wail came out of my throat before I collapsed on the carpet at my father’s feet.

Poetry Challenge, Part II…Environment.

November 12, 2010

Irish Coast, janekohut-bartels, watercolor....

We read from a number of poets how they approach their writing of poetry, though I also heard privately some interesting ideas.

There is no exclusive method for writing poetry, at least that is clear. People proceed from different ‘places’, mental processes, and it is all to the good for the development of poetry.

Something that Shashi said sparked off some additional thoughts:  Shashi wrote something “about people leaving everything to write.”

That raised some issues with other writers, as I see by my email.

How much do we draw from our immediate environment in our writing?  Do we need isolation from the masses  to concentrate our thoughts and work?  How much support and encouragement do we get or  do we seek from our communities?  And then again, should we seek it from these people around us?  Are they the ‘stuff’ of poetry or are they the stuff and material of chaos, distraction, pettiness?

I think these are legitimate questions, queries.  I know that I live in a community that is broken, or perhaps ” filled with” so many issues: there seems to be two communities here in this part of Atlanta:  there is the daily hum of many issues  one would find in an urban community: racial issues, prostitution, drugs, unemployment, crime,  politics, opportunism of politicians, and the general living issues…going to work, family, and this big so-called ‘community’ that is really so divided by race, class, age and many other things, including drugs that are ‘acceptable’ to some because they don’t street deal.  It’s ok, because it’s done amongst friends.  (Drugs are a major issue in Atlanta, and now we understand that the Mexican drug cartels are very comfortable using Atlanta as a depot for further distribution.)

There is also an interesting issue of gentrification.  Over the past 10 years or so, this community has seen an influx of middle class whites and some blacks move in and try to establish themselves here.  Funny though, they seem afraid of their black neighbors.  Not all of them, but many, including some who call themselves ministers or are self-proclaimed leaders, community mouthpieces.

Perhaps it is easier for those of us (and not many) who have been here for 30-40 years.  We settle into the environment and either make our peace or we leave.  Many have, or with the current economic situation, are forced from their houses.  Foreclosures are no stranger to this land.

But back to the issue of poetical environment, for lack of a better term.  There is a lot of chaos out there.  There is an attitude that writers and poets are not doing what is oh- so- necessary right now, like running back and forth  to meetings,  joining community causes, etc.  Perhaps there is resentment for those of us who march to a different drummer, who are deeply involved with a personal creative life that demands a big portion of our day, attention and energies.

Artists, poets, writers have always been marginalized by society. Especially by those who don’t understand or have an artistic bone in their bodies.  We are expected to put aside our intense, creative abilities and become like them: living pale half-lives but demanding that we acknowledge their ‘rightness’ to lead or ‘influence’ a community.

I spent years here trying to make changes I thought or was told were necessary for ‘bettering’ the community.  That was a crock of shit.  I only delayed my own development as a writer and as a creative woman.  We swallow or believe so much inferior stuff because it is delivered by people who are sooner or later  revealed to be mundane, humdrum opportunists…with definite agendas.

And it goes deeper.  Especially amongst the young white liberals that insist the rest of us who have been here many decades learn the lessons they are going to sooner or later fall upon.  They want us to shut up as they reinvent the fucking wheel.

So it goes back to environment.  I live in an area of Atlanta that is heavily treed.  I look outside,  I go outside, I wave to my neighbors of many, many years, but I take solace and inspiration in what I see of Nature around me.  I look up at what I call ‘the saddle’, off in the distance, the juncture of trees that dip down and in a certain light look like mountains, and in another  are infused with gold from the falling sun.

Perhaps because I am what is called a ‘nature poet’ I have every reason to pull for my poetry from my environment.  But that environment must be above and beyond the chaos of humanity and those who would tell me what I must think and do. My life, and the life of other artistic, creative people here must be above the mundane that passes for ‘community’ and  leadership in this area.

I don’t buy their shit for one moment.  Our poetry, if we are poets, depends upon our independence and our intense, creative lives.

That is the internal environment we need to succor.

Lady Nyo


A pale moon rises,

Unheralded, surprising us

With its presence so early at dusk.

The summer heat makes it waver

Like a ghost under water.

The cicadas hold their breath-

Their leg-fiddles muted,

And the earth turns quiet

If only for a moment.

Brushing the lush green tree tops

It floats upward into a still-lavender sky,

Gaining presence, strength, gleam

As it balances in the darkening light,

A well-trod path– fascinating eternity.

A world-weary face appears

And casts a bemused gaze downward

Before sailing through the night

Into the harbor of Dawn.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010

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