Posts Tagged ‘death’

“I was the Child”

July 15, 2017


My beautiful picture

taken by my phone to the East

Real Toads in Imaginary Gardens is prompting with an interesting challenge:  your own death. Strange but not so strange.

Lady Nyo

I was the Child


I was the duckling held under the water

Drowned for the convenience of casual hate.

Eaten by snapping turtles, dissolved in the mud.


I was the child thrown out of the sleigh

A deal with the wolves

To save you and your children

To satisfy yearning to feed on flesh.

I saw the relief on my brother’s faces

Who survived this sacrifice

But to wonder when their turn

To be pitched in the snow.



I was the baby,

Head  misshapen

By forcepts,

A monster even a mother couldn’t  love

And  when the nuns wrapped me in

Starched cocoon   left–

You pulled the corner down over my face

Pushed me to the back of the bed

And wondered how  ugly could be

Born of your womb.


From that day I half- died,

As I came to know my place

In the shadows.


From that day

I half-lived

To know corners

To know shadows

To know the sting of insults

And to dance to your stinging hands.


I didn’t live long

As neighbors expected

A child hanging from the rafters

So I fled into the ether

Where I was not missed

Barely remembered,

And not found.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

“I Remember the Scream”, Albert Kohut 1915-1989

April 26, 2015
PItcher of Moon, available from Createspace,

PItcher of Moon, available from Createspace,

He was my father.  Had he lived, he would have been 100 years old today.  He didn’t, but even after 25 years, I remember the parent that always loved me. I have nothing material of his, except a mouthpiece from his French horn, but I have his DNA and I was his first child and his only daughter.  I have a lot of memories.  I remember this man who was loved by everyone, even the caged rabbit down at Tornquist’s, the corner store in Griggstown, New Jersey.  It took me years to understand him, and unfortunately these things sometimes only come after death.  He was  kind and gentle, basically a quiet man full of accomplishments and talents. No fanfare, no hysterics, and especially loved by stray cats and dogs.  Although he died before I started to write, he did see a few small paintings and I know he is the reason I am a poet.  His heart was huge, and he stands as an example of what is good in humankind. I’m proud he was my father.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

I Remember….


I remember the scream

In the middle of the night

Of something dying

Down by the river,

Killed by an owl

Or possibly a fox.

I remember bolting awake

In my parent’s bed,

My heart in my throat

My father just died

The funeral over

Sleeping in

His bed,

Afraid to move from this reality

To the next,

No comfort to be had

Even with the scent of

His tobacco in the sheets.

I wandered the house,

Touched the walls,

Looked through windows

To a landscape not

Changed over years,

Ran my hands down the

Black walnut banister,

Smooth, smooth

As if the days would turn back

Just by this touch

And he would be here.

That scream somewhere on the banks

In the middle of the night,

When I jerked from sleep to

Awake, knowing, he was dead-

The father who loved me

Was gone forever.

I knew then

I was unmoored from life

floating out of reach of love.

A scream that challenged dreams

He would come back,

He wasn’t awaiting the fire

He would wake up,

Much as I did,

In a cold-sweat fear

And slowly, slowly

resume his place in the living.

There are unseen things

That happen in the night,

Down on the river bank,

Where life is challenged by death

Where a rabbit screams his mighty last

Where the heart leaps to the throat,

Where the most we can hope

Is a silent ghost

Who walks out of the river’s fog,

Extends his arms

And comforts the living.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

“I Remember the Scream” from Pitcher of Moon, available at Createspace,, 2014

“Seasons Change”

April 8, 2015

Autumn colors from my bathroom window today

Why I write poetry? It’s a dedication to the imagination and also to the heart. It’s not a medium obsessed over by the general population with their smart phones glued to their ears, nor to those who watch endless tv and movies. Of all the arts, it’s probably the most ignored, passed over.

Yet….for some, they find the same phenomena I do.  It’s a passage deeper into introspection, weighing the difference between crass sentimentality and something ….well, less mawkish.  Of course sentimentality can’t be totally dismissed, because it is a factor of life and the human heart.  But….there has to be more to our cobbling of words, our poetry than that. At the same time a poet has to be careful of the other end of the scale: unfeeling rationality, hard-heartedness. It’s a balancing act.

It’s a life-time pursuit with many stops and starts.  In the end, we hope to sharpen our vision into those things around us, inside and out. We hope to be able, in our poetry, to connect in a universal way.

Lady Nyo


I took a walk this morning.

The seasons have changed here

though where you are they don’t.

The dried, brittle grass beneath my feet

made a consistent crackle,

echoed by the gossip of sparrows above.

The leaves are stripped from the birches and maples.

They fell like rain on a fallow ground one day

and I didn’t see them go.

I think of your rounded arms when I see the shedding birches,

the smooth bark like white skin

with a faint pulse of the river beneath.

Do you remember that river,

when it scared you to stand close to the bank?

You thought the earth would slip inward,

take you on a wild ride downstream

where I couldn’t retrieve you,

and I saw for an instant your raised arms

imploring me silently to save you—

though it never happened

and you never slipped down the bank

and I never could save you.

But imagination plays with your mind when it’s all that is left.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015 from “A Seasoning of Lust”,, 2009

“Via Negativa”, A Winter Poem

January 18, 2013


Via Negativa, as I understand it, (and as I read Matthew Fox’ “Original Blessing” book) is an acceptance of the Dark, of Silence, of Unknowing, of Stillness, of Unknowing the voice of God, of just Waiting. Well, it seems that this season, this Winter, is the perfect time to make our peace with the Via Negativa. Perhaps to gather our energies, to sit and stare out the window at nothing, to draw nearer a low fire, to feel empty and to feel the void around us. To await the next cycle…or spiral…of Via Creativa, that of Spring and all that means…all that blooming, tender energy. So a small poem came out of this ‘silent’ path, this new concept of Via Negativa. It fit the gray outside and and gave some sense to this time.

Lady Nyo


Via Negativa

Winter is the perfect channel

To carry Via Negativa,

No static

Just Silence, Stillness

And the embracing Dark.

On this path,

We sit in contemplation,

relish the early dusks,

No answers,

No struggle,

We empty ourselves of movement.

This time is filled by little outside;

A flash of darting cardinal

Like a thin stream of blood

racing past our eyes,

The sound of a falling limb

makes us search the skies,

The moaning of the wind

rushing around eaves

soothes us,

the rattle of skeleton- bones

Of attic haunts

does not disturb us.

These are part of this path,

this dark quietude of a particular season.

And yes, Death,

As Winter brings

To those who succumb to frigid winds,

And those lost from shelter.

We spiral into the Darkness,

Where we barely need breath,


Conserve our energy,

And stare outside at such

A severe palette.

Stilling ourselves,

stilling our hearts and thoughts,

We draw closer to low fires,

Scratch our dried skin

Like a monk in a hair shirt,

And, with time and patience–

spiral back into the light of Spring.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2012

Love Letters….

November 25, 2011

This is a sorrowful month for me.  My father, many years ago, died, right in the full swing of Autumn, the most glorious of seasons in the North.  Then my dearest of friends, Marge Chester died unexpectedly the other day.  They were both wonderful and similiar people in many ways. This is just a little letter of love to them, now so gone. 


Dear Daddy,

This month of your death so many years ago –feeling like a blurred yesterday—you would have loved this month, this glorious autumn.

The drought of the past few years has made the colors brilliant, longstanding.  I can’t remember a fall season, now sliding into the earliest of winter, so beautiful.  The reds of the maples are like the slashes of summer’s red cardinals, the oranges and golden leaves, bushes, long grasses as vibrant, as glowing as the sun refracting off broken glass in the grass.  The air is brushed clean with strong seasonal rains, a further blessing after a dry summer.

But the winds! They come out of the north, like bellows, or a bull bellowing. They blow everything before them, and trees, these large pecan and live oak so prominent in the south, are like swaying troupes of dancers.  When this happens at dusk, before the heat of the day cools, when the sky darkens and there is a roiling of clouds in a balmy sky, the winds come marching in like Storm troopers and this spectacle of nature is awesome, fear inspiring.

Thanksgiving was too warm for our holiday: 60 degrees; there is something wrong about this.  Pleasant, but wrong.  Better a cold dreary rain. I’ve been playing Copeland, conducted by your buddy Lennie, and I thought you would be pleased.   At least the music follows tradition if our weather won’t.

I miss you so much.  It took years for me to understand why. I only hope I can be as generous and loving to my own child as you were to me.  I didn’t appreciate you then. It took years for me to understand. But you were, are….loved deeply by me.  All the cousins and remaining dear aunt say I take after you.  I couldn’t be more pleased with that opinion.  Dear Aunt Jean was reading a letter from you from 1943, when you were up to your eyeteeth in WWII.  She said she could well understand where I got my writing ‘skills’ from.  I hope she will share your letter.


Your daughter


Dear Marge,

I still can’t get my head around your death.  We were talking the night before for Christ’s sake!

You died in the same month as my dear father.  You were born in the same month as my dear father.  But the strongest commonality here is  you had such a gentle generosity to you, such a love of life  and good, Talmudic wisdom.   LOL!  We would joke about that last thing, as I knew how much you were bent in life in dividing the wheat from the chaff.  And because of how you looked at life, you lived a beautiful one.  I haven’t been able to ‘properly’ mourn yet, sweetie.  That first hour of sobs scared me, as you know how I react to death, but I think the grief will come: it just hasn’t sunk in yet. 

You were my rock and my best friend.  Now I have to write to your mate, and I can’t get my words straight.  But I do have them in my heart, but I just can’t yet believe t they are needed.   I don’t believe you are gone.

In time, I will know but for now, I am holding you close to me, remembering the sound of your voice, and the years of compassion and solace…and good wisdom, from many streams.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Thanksgiving, 2011

Sparky, O Noble Hound!

June 20, 2011

We put to sleep our beautiful Sparky this morning. We never knew actually his age, but we would have had him 5 years this July.  We estimate he was around 9 or 10, way too early to die.

Sparky was a rescue from a drug house, given  by an officer from the Red Dogs here in Atlanta.  No one could figure  why such a breed, English Field Spaniel, would be at a drug house.  But it didn’t matter, he was  scared, sick, full of heartworms and afraid of everyone.  My dear son was bitten twice , and it took three months before Sparky got over his fear of people.  One day he crawled into the surprised arms of my son, and the terrors were gone.  After that, Sparky was the ‘best friend’ of everyone he came around, and that was fine with us. 

Over the years, he became my favorite doggie, one of four, but somehow different.  Calm, loving, oh so obedient, we took him on his first North Carolina Mountains camping trip just a week ago.  He did well, but then we didn’t know of the cancer in his stomach, about the size of a small grapefruit.  This morning we considered the options which weren’t very good: Sparky’s blood pressure was very low, though he had shaken off his high fever of last week through meds.  He wouldn’t have survived any possible surgery. His ailment seemed to come on fast, but of course, the cancer had been growing for a while.  When we took him in to his vet, he had perked up, wagging his tail, greeting everyone in the waiting room like the old Sparky.

These things are never easy.  We brought him home, buried him with a rose and a hollyhock next to his nose and planted an old boxwood over him.

The other dogs, Merlin, Galahad-The-Mook, and Laddie attended the funeral and Merlin whined all through the service, climbing down into the grave to paw at his buddy.

Animals have short and brutal lives.  Love them fiercely and redouble your affection for the living. Rescue as many as you can.

Lady Nyo

“River of Babylon”, posted for OneShotPoetry

June 14, 2011

My father died 21 years ago, and I have many regrets about things I didn’t do…didn’t have the strength, courage or will to do then. I was his only daughter, his oldest child.  Of course, I couldn’t have changed his fate, I couldn’t have made any real difference, but these things  we think we ‘could have done’ continue to haunt for a long time. Perhaps poetry is a way we can make peace with the impossible.

Lady Nyo


River of Babylon

Do you remember

That visit a few scant

Months before you were gone,

When I saw the pain

Saw the end coming

But would not believe?

I wrapped you in a hospital sheet,

Hiding your face like a thief

And we wheeled down the hall,

Avoiding the eyes of nurses,

Down the elevator, down to the street.

We were laughing, elated

Making our great escape

Right under their noses.

In the mellow spring sunshine,

The scent of daffodils

Blossomed beside us,

Up and down Witherspoon,

Enjoying this tender season,

Our escape made richer

By the danger of it all.

But you had different plans,

Intentions that blossomed as you

Lay there, waiting for

The right moment,

The right weather,

The right dupe.

I was driving your Audi,

That paint-faded car with

Butter-soft seats,

And somehow you knew where it was

And though your left hand was a claw

 Held tight to your thin chest,

You casually, so casually gestured

With your right to ‘go there, turn down

This street.’

I remember how you threw

Your white shrouded arm in that direction,

And I pushed behind you,

Not knowing your intention until

Too late.

You grabbed the door handle

And I begged you to let go,

But you were fierce,

Your determination to go,

And not just for a ride.

I broke your hold,

And I broke your heart,

Just a little to me-

A mortal blow to you.

How I wish I had lifted you

into that car,

How I wish we had run away.

We could have hid on the river bank

We could have been right under their noses,

Doctors and nurses and all the authority

They took from your now-fragile life.

I could have climbed the bank to the house,

Stolen your French horn

You could have played  Mahler,

Softly, softly Father,

We don’t want them to find us-

And we could have fished for sunfish,

Listen to carp jump in the water,

We could have slept in the hollow

Of a fallen log,

Ate blackberries until our mouths, hands

Were stained purple.

We could have thumbed our noses

At the rules,

Even for a little time.

But I was afraid,

Too much the coward,

Afraid of the anger, the fury

And now I wished I had done all this,

And more,

And damn all of them! All of Them!

We could have headed West,

Unknown alien territory,

Or we could have floated down the Millstone

The river you loved so much,

Taught me to love.

We could have floated out

To the River of Babylon

And let it carry us away.

 Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011

“Memories of a Rotten Childhood”….Doug Craig.

October 31, 2010


English Countryside, jkohut-bartels, watercolor, 2007


Recently I started reading this collection of essays.  It has bloomed into possibly a book.   Then again, there are things so deep down in the mists of childhood, that any dragging  them up into the light seems endless.  Childhood seemed endless.

Doug Craig was a favored childhood friend.

Lady Nyo

Chapter from “Memories of a Rotten Childhood”  (Doug Craig)

We met one fall, now years ago, when we were no longer young.  I was running from a mean early marriage.  Doug was just running.

It was 3 years since the end of the Vietnam War, and Doug had plenty of ghosts to run from.  He was to be shipped out, and the night before his platoon, company, whatever it was called….was attacked.  Doug woke up to gunfire in his tent, and got shrapnel in his torso, mainly his stomach if I remember right.

Doug was a kid I grew up with in the wilds of New Jersey back in the 60’s.  His father was the large animal vet in Princeton.  It was always a chancy issue to open the two refrigerators in their 1740’s house on Stockton Road.  One held food, and the other specimens.  It was a fearful thing for a child unaware of which door held which.  I can still hear the booming voice of this Scottish man yelling at all of us.  We lived in terror of his voice, but he was one of the kindest and gentlest men we knew.  Clearly a case of his bark worse than his bite.

Doug’s mother was the picture of elegance:  two shelties on two matching settees in the sitting room, a glowering portrait of some infamous relative over the fireplace, and his mother warm and welcoming.  We all loved this family.  Doug came from good stock.  Too bad he was so crazy.

We had a bluegrass band back then, called Marrowbone Creek Vagrants, made up of neighborhood kids.  I believe this band, in some form…with different name changes, still is viable.  Sort of like a vampires convention when the kids come back to the stomping grounds of the New Jersey countryside.

Music wasn’t the only thing we had in common.  Motorcycles, and the attendant accidents, horrible, property destroying stunts,  and basically goofing off.  But music was the river that ran through us.  Today for many of these guys and gals…it still is.

I came home that fall day with two shotguns.  One a 20 gauge Mossberg, and the other one a 12 gauge Ithaca.  My father gave me a weird look when he picked me up from the airport.  He was a pacifist and wouldn’t have a gun on the property, except for a Benjamin Franklin air pistol, which shot rivets.  That he kept for shooting walnuts out of the crooks of walnut trees.  He was a marksman during WW11 and besides a bow, he would not have weapons near him.  Perhaps being in a B-24 for most of the war was deadly enough.

Doug and I decided to go hunting.  I just wanted a chance to shoot off those shotguns.  Living in urban Atlanta didn’t give me many chances.  And the woods where it was legal to shoot off guns were miles away.

We ‘hunted’ all over the back of my parent’s property.  Mostly cut down soybean fields, and what we were looking to kill, I didn’t really know.  I DID know that I was a failure when it came to birds.  We have those big pheasants up in New Jersey, the ones who come up low in front of you, and wheel into the sun so you can’t see or follow them well.  And I had the problem of automatically flipping the safety on the gun after every shot.  I never could break myself of this, and don’t know where it came from.

But hunted we did.  I should have realized Doug ‘hunted’ differently than any other person I knew. He crouched down, held the gun low and crept through the underbrush.  I didn’t realize then what I was looking at was a man who had just come back from the wars.  Apparently Doug was trained, now irreversibly, as a soldier.

He was a very brave man.  He hunted with me, a real nincompoop when it came to hunting.  We scared up a young rabbit, and I kept shooting at it as it jagged away.  Unfortunately, I was mostly shooting at Doug’s boots, and it is still a wonder that I didn’t add to his shrapnel wounds.  Doug got the rabbit.

Then we decided our luck would turn better if we trespassed on ol’ man Staats land.  Full of woods, and we were bound to find something.  Doug found a pheasant there, and bagged it on one shot.

Then we got stupid and decided to go ask Staats if we could hunt on his land.  He thought about it a moment, and said ‘no’.  Fine with us, we had bagged that pheasant on his turf, stowed it behind a tree, and besides, we were tired of hunting.  It was turning colder, and we were hungry.

We went home, Doug to his house on River Road.  He was living with other varmints and it was an old farm house, looking none the better for Doug living there.

I remember skinning the rabbit.  I had read something about this, so at least I knew what to do. Mostly.  I do remember cutting off the rabbit head, and throwing it out over the ravine.  It slowly revolved in the air, looking at me reproachfully, with every revolution.   Thirty some years later and I still remember that stare.

I cooked the rabbit for my father.  My mother wouldn’t have a thing to do with my rabbit stew.  My father said he hadn’t had rabbit in thirty years, and pronounced it ‘good’.  The pheasant was another issue.  I plucked the feathers, saving the tail for some future decoration, and draped bacon over the back of it.  Problem was this:  pheasant was full of birdshot and dried up quickly.  Eating it was a problem, so I threw it into the ravine for the raccoons.

I threw the rabbit pelt up on the copper kitchen roof.  Why, I don’t know.  I do know that my mother bitched about it for about a year until my father or someone retrieved it.  Should have been well cured by then.

Doug and I didn’t see each other again until my father lay in the hospital with a stroke twelve years later.  Doug would take me late at night to visit him, and spent hours just talking.  I was there for a week, but it took my father nine months of recovery to die.

Doug was a good friend.  We both were running from ghosts, many kinds of ghosts.  He had an old Seth Thomas clock I bought from him.  He carefully packed it up and shipped it months later.  Doug was also a very fine Kentucky rifle maker.  He was going to make me a gun. Doug, once he focused his scattered and fried, mind could excel in anything.

Two years after my father died, Doug died on the streets of Philly one night.  He was mugged and lay in the morgue until identification was possible and Dr. Craig was contacted.

I think Doug was our first childhood friend to die.  Perhaps there were others claimed by the war.  But I don’t remember.  I do remember that all of us were in shock: Doug, though living and behaving always on the edge, seemed invincible.  Didn’t he survive Vietnam?  How could something like this take him?

If it could take him, it could take the rest of us.  Life has no guarantees, obviously.

I think all of us have a Doug Craig in our lives, somewhere.  They are the people we miss the most because they have lived the fullest of lives.  We know they are part crazy, but that was also part of the times, and lots of their charm.

We live through them at times because they are braver than us.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010


October 26, 2008

Haiku as many know is a Japanese form of poetry. It’s basically 17 syllables, 5/7/5. That’s only the structure, and that can be broken in ways.


Under the dark moon
I awaited your return
Only shadows came.

The light falling snow
Envelops the heart and earth
Better to forget.

Tips of trees bursting
Into the sun, while the dark
Earth claims the bottom.

There is nothing here
Except the howl of the wind.
Tonight owls don’t hoot.

Skeleton-trees wave
While the wind whips dead leaves
Wood smoke scents the air.

The moon, a ghostly
Sliver, rides on a jet sea
While dogs howl beneath.

A pendulum heart
Beats the cadence of a life,
Trips, sputters, brings death.

Pale lavender sky
Balances the moon and sun
The scale shifts to night.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2008

Poetry: “The Geisha”

October 2, 2008


Moon floats above the pines
the night is cold.
The Geisha sits on haunches
grown stiff with waiting.

She wears a
pink tea kimono
for this occasion but
white would be right
color of mourning
color of death.

Her lover disgraced
he has embraced
blood the sacrifice
wipes clean a
particular stain.

She is to follow
Honor fulfilled
death follows death
rigid path of hard order
life mostly of sorrow.

Opens her gown,
exposing white skin,
her maid, quietly weeping
on command,
opens the shoshi
a winter landscape
white snow on the rocks
white snow like her skin
soft , melting away.
Yes, life mostly of sorrow.

winter is silent,
snow falling like petals
Ah! She will never see spring
or cherry blossoms!

Floating over muted
glassine air
comes the sound
two monks
playing flutes
Shakuhachi artists,
mournful sound
sound that brings
rest to her heart.

She smiles
picks up the knife
plunges it downward,
blood of her line
answers for honor
of another.

Copyrighted, 2008

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