Posts Tagged ‘domestic violence’

‘The Stillness of Death’, Chapter One.

March 17, 2017


Painting: watercolor by Jane Kohut-Bartels…of nightingales…for book cover.


The Lady and Lord Nyo are not me nor he….this is a chapter, or an episode from my book, “The Song of the Nightingale”, published by in 2015.

Lady Nyo





“My heart, like my clothing

Is saturated with your fragrance.

Your vows of fidelity

Were made to our pillow and not to me.”

—-12th century


Kneeling before her tea

Lady Nyo did not move.

She barely breathed-

Tomorrow depended

Upon her action today.


Lord Nyo was drunk again.

When in his cups

The household scattered.

Beneath the kitchen

Was the crawl space

Where three servants

Where hiding.

A fourth wore an iron pot.


Lord Nyo was known

For three things:



And drink.


Tonight he strung

His seven foot bow,

Donned his quiver

High on his back.

He looked at the pale face

Of his aging wife,

His eyes blurry, unfocused.

He remembered the first time

pillowing her.


She was fifteen.

Her body powdered petals,

Bones like butter,

Black hair like trailing bo silk.

The blush of shy passion

Had coursed through veins

Like a tinted stream.


Still beautiful

Now too fragile for his taste.

Better a plump whore,

Than this delicate, saddened beauty.


He drew back the bow-

In quick succession

Let five arrows pierce

The shoji.

Each grazed the shell ear

Of his wife.


Life hung on her stillness.

She willed herself dead.

Death after all these years

Would have been welcome.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted , 2015, from “Song of the Nightingale” published by, 2015.


‘Lord Nyo’s Lament’

October 11, 2011

Lord Fudo

I promised a response by the character Lord Nyo last week, little suspecting the trouble I would have in fashioning this poem.  In part it was because I was trying to develop his character within the context of this poetry, and in part because I kept going far afield in the doing of this. Perhaps the best excuse is that there were so many ‘issues’ that seemed applicable to his being that I couldn’t choose what to write and what to leave out. 

I kept thinking of the poet/priest Saigyo, one of my favorite Japanese poets: he had been a samurai, trained early in the service of a powerful family, a captain of the guard by the time he was eighteen, and then he became a Buddhist priest around the age of twenty-three.  His concern, as he expressed it in letters and poetry, was that his new Buddhist belief and practice would be scarred by his samurai past. He acknowledged the duel between his spiritual side and his warrior past and he was sensitive to what this all meant as he travelled Japan as a beggar priest-poet.

This is not exactly what Lord Nyo is facing: but there is some consciousness in there making him uncomfortable by his actions towards his wife.  Readers have expressed that he was a brute, was brutish in his behavior towards Lady Nyo, and he is now contemplating what he has done.  So am I in trying to make poetry out of this violent fellow.

This is a first pass in this attempt, and it will have to go through some changes as this theme clarifies.

Fudo is a Buddhist deity, also important to the Yamabushi (Mountain warriors/priests) cult.  He is shown with a rope to bind up passions or to pull you from Hell, and a sword for cutting through illusions.

Lady Nyo

Lord Nyo’s Lament

The song of the arrow

As it flew into the sea

Was as tuneless

As a badly strung samisen.

Gun- metal clouds

Stretched across a dull horizon,

The sun still asleep

As he should be,

His quiver empty,

His heart, too.

When had the callousness of life

Become as comfortable as breath to him?

Too much the warrior,

Too little the man.

Perhaps he should pray.

What God would listen?

And then it came to him–

That joker of a Buddha, Fudo

With his rope to pull him from Hell

And his sword to cut through foolishness-

Fudo would listen.

Fudo knew the quaking hearts

The delusions embraced

To stomach battlefield gore.

The fog of drink,

To face  life-

A samurai in the service of Death.

Lord Fudo would listen.

He remembered  years before

When being near her

Watching her white wrist

Peek from her sleeve

With that river of passion

Just below the skin

She could bring him to his knees

With the promise of dark mystery

Between silken thighs

And how he had steeled his heart

Believing himself unmanned

For the love she induced.

Three cranes flew low to the shore,

Legs streaming like black ribbons behind.

Three cranes, three prayers, three chances

To find his way back

Bound up in Fudo’s ropes,

Prodded by Fudo’s sword.

He would write a poem

On a bone-white fan

To leave on her cushion.

She would know his love

She would know his sorrow.

He would eat his shame.

The sea took his arrows

Beyond the breakers,

The glint of sleek feathers

Catching thin rays of light.

A small peace came over him

As they journeyed far from his hands.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011

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