Posts Tagged ‘Jane Kohut-Bartels’

“Kimono” Chapter 47…..

November 12, 2017

 

images (8)

I have been writing this novel for 10 years.  It is finally finished, except for the final edit.  Nick Nicholson, in Canberra, Australia has helped tremendously with some of the later chapters.  Nick designed and produced my last 3 books, “Pitcher of Moon”,  “Song of the Nightingale” and the second edition of “A Seasoning of Lust”.  If we both survive the final edit, this will be the fourth book Nick has been involved in.  His unflagging interest in  the story has helped spur me on.

This short chapter is mostly about battle:  In the 17th century there were set patterns for battle, but the time was generally a peaceful time under the Tokugawa regime.  This lasted for almost 250 years.  And a population of man samurai without battle makes for unhappy and contentious warriors.  Mari is a 21st century woman who has been zapped back into 17th Japan, to be confronted by a daimyo, Lord Mori, of the region of Akito, north of just about everything.

Lady Nyo

 

Kimono, Chapter 47

Lord Mori thought perhaps he was possessed by some frightful kami. His sleep had been disturbed, before battle, and that was to be expected.  But the sleeplessness had continued.  One could expect satisfaction, a fulfillment after a victory.  And that attack on Kiyama’s castle was successful. But he could not shake the fear he felt when going through the fire with his men and Mari. Was this fear unworthy of a samurai?  His whole life had been one in service to samurais and daimyos.  First, to his swordmaster, later to his uncle the daimyo. Even his uncle’s retainers, daimyo in their own right, with much small fiefs, dominated his life.  Some of them even now were sitting in the Council of Elders, asleep during most attendances.

 

Except for becoming an excellent swordsman and archer, he had not known really what he wanted.  It was never a question to consider.  The code of bushido, the control of tradition was his air and bread.

 

The death of Lord Yoki struck him hard.  He had lost many warriors over his life, but the tengu Yoki was different.  Both he and Ekei had planned the force against the castle, and though their luck held for various reasons, he knew it was just some planning and a twist of fate he survived.  He had lost men, some he knew, and more he didn’t.  This wasn’t the first skirmish.  But times had been relatively peaceful, and only the aggression of Kiyama had violated that.  He wondered at his reaction to Mari being kidnapped.  She was just a woman, but of course he knew better. He was a daimyo in the man’s world and women were minor elements.  But still.  When he heard she was abducted by what had to be Kiyama’s men, he almost lost control of himself.  It was with great concentration and resolve that he didn’t betray his emotions like a woman.

All this had taken a toll on him. It was not the first time he had wanted to give up the position of daimyo and disappear into the mists. The thought of this was new to him, and he had never verbally voiced this thought except to Lord Ekei.  He was not an old man yet, only in his fifties, but life had closed around his throat and was strangling him.  Perhaps the woman had opened his eyes too much.

One night Mari asked how battles were organized and fought.  He was surprised at her interest, as these things were not discussed with women. Women were the ones to wash the heads and present them to the generals.  War was the territory of samurai and daimyos, warriors, not women. The fact that there had only been skirmishes during his time didn’t help, but he did relate stories of some famous battles to Mari.  Also how a daimyo goes to war, the responsibilities of his retainers to procure soldiers and weapons, (mostly peasants from the fields) and how a battle might go.  Some battles they just taunted each other from the battle field, shouted the worst insults they could come up with and then everyone went home, declaring a draw and the ministers of both sides would meet and iron out issues.   That practice didn’t last long, just a footnote in history.  A daimyo would direct it from behind lines but this was hard because once a battle began it became a general melee where everyone was trying maim and kill the other.  In his grandfather’s time, it was the practice just to send two small opposing forces out to do battle, while everyone else watched from the hillsides.  But blood lust is lust for battle, for the smell of blood and the noise of combat, where one man strains to survive the blood lust of another.  What was the point of carrying two swords if you didn’t intend to kill?  To kill the enemy was honorable and loyalty to your lord was the first commandment.  Perhaps he had become soured by the traditional ways.  Perhaps he should have shaved his head and become a Buddhist priest.  He might find peace in that way.  But he also knew how political the priests were. They lined up for one side or another and fought bitter battles on the temple grounds.  Many were samurai, and though they didn’t carry the swords openly, they plotted and controlled much wealth and power in the land.

Later that morning, Lord Mori was met by forty of his personal guard, escorting him to  the Council of Elders . It was to last three days. He knew his life hung in the balance.  These men could smell weakness and being as loyal as a pack of wolves, they would fall on him if they could.  He long knew of alliances between daimyos, and it was just a luck of the draw he had kept his head this long.  As he told Mari, treachery was the fashion of the day.

 

—-

 

“So, there are rumors he wants to abdicate. Good. But you can bet he won’t lay down his swords.  He will not become a priest.  Not him.”

 

Lord Shumi, one of the  retainers and a member of the Council of Elders, had little patience with a constantly shifting chess board.  He was old and wanted some peace. He preferred the sun in his garden to anything. Right now he had to empty his bladder.

“Bah.  It’s treasonous. He leads when there is relative peace and now?”  Lord Mifune spat on the ground.

“There is sure to be a counter attack by some daimyo of Lord Kiyama’s when the dust and ashes settle.”

“Yes, always in alliance with others.  It will take time for them to decide on a new leader and rebuild the castle.  I understand the burning was only on one quarter.”

“They got in and out fast, I hear.  They used the Amida Tong for the night attack.”

“How did they do that?”  Lord Shumi’s surprise spread across his ugly face.   “Yes, there are monasteries, temples where the priests consort with these fanatics, but it takes a load of silver.”

“Then he had made payment well in advance.  He must have secured their services before any of this debacle happened.”

The two were walking in the gardens of the castle, both shaking their heads at the enormity of how their lives were to change.

“He’s growing old and he thinks there is more to this life and he is missing it.”

“Between you and me?  He has always been a little off.  This skirmish on Lord Kiyama’s lands and the burning of his castle will have him on his knees explaining to the Shogun.  If he maintains his head I will be surprised.”

 

Hai.  It’s that witch of a woman he has squired away.  She is a strange one.  Hardly Japanese.”

“He certainly moved his ass and the asses of the gods to get her back from Kiyama.  You would think she possessed the only place for his illustrious sword.”

Lord Mifune laughed.  “She certainly is ugly.  And I would bet my katana she has big feet.  Hardly an acceptable consort for a daimyo.”

“Love is blind and makes jackasses out of all of us.  You remember, my lord.  When you are young the whiff of woman would make you do shameful stuff.  We all did.”

“Yes, yes. I remember my misspent youth.”  Lord Shumi walked with the usual samurai pigeon toed gait. His legs were much bowled.

“Did you hear the rumor this Lady Mari might be from Hokkaido?  She has a strange caste to her face. Not quite….us.”

“Well, I hear she has his royal cucumber leased to her obi.”

Both old men laughed.  Though sex was something they rarely could rarely rise to they took great joy in these affairs of other men.  It was only human.

Lord Mori

Perhaps Lord Mori?…..

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Samhain, A Celtic Winter Song”

October 31, 2017

 

Kohut-Bartels-LS-3

(Watercolor, “Dawn Ducks”, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2004)

Posted for Open Link Night over at Dversepoets.com.  Come and read some great, non themed poetry!

Dark mysterious season,

when the light doesn’t

quite reach the ground,

the trees shadow puppets

moving against the gray of day.

 

I think over the past year

praying there has been a

kindling in my soul,

the heart opened, warmed

and the juiciness of life is

more than the loins–

a stream of forgiveness

slow flowing through the tough fibers

not stopper’d with an underlying

bitterness

but softened with compassion.

 

This season of constrictions,

unusual emptiness,

brittle like dried twigs

desiccated by hoar frost

just to be endured.

 

I wrap myself in wool and

watch the migrations–

first tender song birds which harken

back to summer,

then Sandhill cranes,

legs thin black banners

streaming behind white bodies,

lost against a gunmetal sky.

 

They lift off to a middling cosmos,

while I, earth-bound,

can only flap the wings of my shawl,

poor plumage for such a flight,

and wonder about my own destination.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

“The Devil in Paris”, Chapter 3

October 26, 2017

Mlle. Margot Lucern, Devil in Paris

 

A week later, John Garrett was shown into Madame’s apartment by an old servant. He glanced at the dark, wizened man and smelled brimstone.  Madame was known to choose her servants carefully. Life could be a subterranean maze in Paris. He knew other demons in the city and all were not friendly devils.

 

“Ah, John!  Bonjour!”  Madame was drinking tea with a young woman, one Garrett did not immediately recognize.

 

“You remember Mlle. Luciern?  What changes we have wrought! Such an elegant young woman!  What man in his right mind could resist her! Could you, John?”

 

Ah, thought Garrett.  Madame is up to her old tricks.  She insists in making me part of her plans.

 

Madame’s eyes glittered as she turned to look at the young woman sitting across the tea table. Garrett bowed over the hand of Louise, and then stood back to look at Mlle. Luciern.

 

Madame had indeed worked her magic.  Mlle. was coifed and gowned like a young, elegant Parisian matron. He admired her hair, piled high on her head, with many curls and loops and one long thick sausage over her shoulder. At least Madame’s hairdresser had forgone the powder and her natural color was preserved. Mlle’s complexion was good but now she had some bloom in her cheeks.  He knew this was all art, for Louise was an expert with faces and makeup.  He saw Mlle. had only two black satin patches on her face, one near the left eye, and one near the mouth, to draw attention to her painted lips. Her lips did look alluring. Looked like they were stung by an amorous bee.

 

Garrett cocked his head to the side, his gaze traveling down her figure.  Her morning dress was light blue silk.  Ruffles framed her breast.  Garrett let his eyes linger only a second, but Mlle. did present a lovely bosom to onlookers.  He knew this was due to more of Madame’s magic – this time with pads in the corset.  Round, delicate mounds above and the merest of rouged nipples appeared like little mouse noses peeking over the tops of the corset.  Such was the fashion for seduction.  He wondered how far Madame had corrupted her student.

 

“No, Madame Gormosy, no man could resist such a beautiful young woman.”

 

Garrett was surprised to see Margot blush so deeply.  At least Madame’s instructions had not destroyed this vestige of virtue in the girl.

 

“Mlle. is a good student, John.  She learns fast and takes an interest in her future.  Her mother will be proud of her.  We will get her matched up with the proper husband soon enough.  But as I have told Mlle. Margot, there is plenty time for an engagement.  Now is to be given to sharpening her feminine skills. That way she will attract the best prospect for her future happiness. Mais bon Dieu!   She is still so young and innocent.  We must hone her wit and deportment.  Nothing like the polish upon an apple to attract the proper bites.”

 

Garrett stared at Madame Gormosy.  He could easily see through her designs, but of course, the young woman was too naïve to understand what was happening right under her nose. She was a pretty morsel, and it was hard to take his eyes from parts of her.  The swell of her breast, how gently they rose with an almost imperceptible movement. He could feast his eyes on those two tender pieces of flesh all morning. How much more alluring they would be if she were panting, he thought.  A sly smile appeared on his face.

 

Ah, Madame Gormosy was full of devilry this morning.

French Court Woman for Devil in Paris

Perhaps “Madame” Gormosy ? (from gestalta.net)

Louise Gormosy spoke with a tone of excitement.  “Today we will work on the great science of “coquetry”.  Non, M. Garrett, do not laugh, for women have their own science.  Let the men work with fire and chemicals.  We women have our own fire and it is called “Les Passions!”

 

Garrett winced and hoped Mlle. Margot would forgive the bad prose of her patroness.  But Madame would press her case.

 

“Surely Mlle. Margot has higher aspirations than to be a housewife to her husband. It is a most contemptible and unfashionable position for any women of breeding, and has no social standing except for a parson’s wife or a lowly farmer’s.  Ah Dieu!  Mlle. is made by nature for much finer things!”

 

Garrett wondered if the word “God” did not burn the inside of Madame’s mouth, but since she was an old devil, he imagined she would have a mouth immune to heat.  Still, he had heard this speech before, but he could not remember when.  Perhaps it was another time in another century, while attending Madame under similar circumstances, that she had used these same words.  They seemed familiar to him in any case. He heard her drone on.

 

“Now, Mlle. Margot, advice today is seen as ridiculous to be given, and even more ridiculous to be taken, but your dear maman would want you to listen to me very closely. Alors!  She has given you into my hands for more than to fluff your beautiful hair and plump your fine bosom.  It is her choicest desire to prepare you for entrance into the best of society and this is the path to catch the eyes of a husband.  Have you read Madame d’Effine’s letters? Non?  Pity.  But I can supply you a copy of her book.  Or better yet, I can give you the benefit of my long experience.”

 

Garrett could not stop a smile creeping across his face.  Mlle Margot would have no idea just how long that experience really was.  Yes, Mlle Luciern, it goes back a long way.  Whether Madame could read his mind, which was standard fare amongst devils, or she caught a glimpse of his sly smile, she turned around suddenly and gave Garrett a jaundiced look.  His face went neutral and he closed his eyes in compliance.  He would not interrupt her behavior.  Besides, it was an entertaining morning’s visit.

 

“Now, Mlle.Margot.  Virtue is all very fine and good, but to get a husband, or any admirer, a woman must use what attributes she has and more.  A fine voice, the ability to cut to the heart of a man’s desire just with the cast of your eyes, the flutter of your fan, ah!  There is so much to learn, but we will persist.  Now, M.Garrett, please attend to Mlle. and lead her around the room, s’il vous plait.

 

Garrett stood and offered his arm to Mlle. Margot.  They walked around the large salon, Mlle. Margot only standing as high as his chest.  He was a tall and well- built man, with broad shoulders, and Mlle. of course  petite next to him.  He observed her blush as she placed her hand on his and looked up into his face.

 

Entertaining as Madame was, he was beginning to have his doubts about her plans.  He believed this young woman to be innocent.  He rarely, now that he thought of it, came across a woman so – uncorrupted, and certainly not in Paris. The thought crossed his mind: Quel dommage, as Madame liked to say.  Perhaps he would have his own plan for Mlle. Luciern.  What was a little competition between devils?  They had shared tender morsels before in their long history.

 

Eh bien! Attendezmoi!  John, give me the advantage of your eyes.  Tell me what you think are the best points of Mlle.’s figure.  Does that style of dress, the color suit her the best, mon ami?  Speak what her beau would say, and let us see how Mlle. reacts to such praise!”

 

Ah, it was clear what Madame’s plan was now! Madame was a terrible devil this morning, and she would have her fun at the expense of the painful blushes of Mlle. He decided to turn the game to his own advantage, and perhaps spare Mlle some pain.

 

At that very moment, the old devil servant of Madame Gormosy slipped into the room and approaching quickly, whispered into the ear of his mistress.  Madame cocked her head towards his mouth, and though she did not take her eyes from John Garrett and Mlle. Luciern, Garrett saw they grew dark with concern. Muttering some curses low under her breath, she rose and went with her servant from the room, forgetting her two guests.

 

Garrett took the time of Madame’s absence to lead Mlle. Luciern to a chair and to sit down across from her.  He observed Mlle. sink gratefully into her seat, and with a motion beneath her skirts, kick off one shoe.

 

“Ah, Mlle, does your foot hurt?”

 

“M.Garrett, I can not get used to these narrow shoes Madame makes me wear.  I am not used to this fashion.  And if you would know further, I am not used to these headaches. They are from my hair pulled from my head and pinned so tightly. And I can breathe only a little. Madame demands my corset be laced tight.”  Mlle. blushed, but Garrett could hear in the distress in her voice.

 

“Ah! I sympathize.  Perhaps you think what Madame does here is far off the mark?”

 

“I don’t understand what you mean, Monsieur.” Another sharp kick under her skirts and off came the other shoe.

 

“Mlle Luciern.  Forgive my blunt words, but Madame is an “old fogey” as we say in England.  She means well, but she is generations behind in her thinking.”

 

How many generations Mlle could never guess.

 

Tears formed in Mlle. Luciern’s eyes, and she shook her head. Garrett could only sympathize.

 

“Here, Mlle. Let me do something for your comfort.  I will take all the blame, but tant pis!  I am an old friend of Madame’s and used to her ways.”

 

He stood and moved behind Mlle’s chair.  With practiced movements, he removed the pins from her hair and spread them from their high peaks down her back.  With gentle hands he massaged her temples and she groaned in relief.

 

“Ah! Bon Dieu, Monsieur.  That feels so good.  My poor head was about to explode. Madame means well, but she does not seem to suffer pain like the rest of us. I saw her put on a hat the other day and plunge a pin into her head. Mon Dieu!  She said she did not hit her skin but her hair, but to me, ah goodness!  To my eyes, it seemed to go through her head!”

 

Garrett smiled from behind Mlle’s chair. In fact, he had seen Madame do this before and other such things and had warned her if observed her game would be over.  Madame had laughed, she had been doing such tricks for centuries. Besides, the winds of Paris were strong and her hat would blow off if she didn’t get a good layer of skin beneath her long pin.

 

“Madame has a thick skull, Mlle. Luciern”, Garrett said drolly. “She is used to all sorts of torture for fashion.”

 

Garrett looked down Mlle. Luciern’s bosom and watch the gentle curves rise and fall with her breathing.  Too bad his plans for Mlle. did not include a seduction.  He would like to savor those two young mounds in his mouth.  But it would be a passing fancy and his plans for Mlle. Luciern’s future did not include this fleeting pleasure.  He had a more lasting pleasure to savor.

 

And his good friend Louis would be the poorer for it.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

“The Devil in Paris” is included in the short story section in the 2nd. Edition of “A Seasoning of Lust”, 2016, Amazon.com.

11_18_3    The author.

 

 

“Coppermine Road”, posted for Open Link Night, dversepoets.com

September 7, 2017

 

917ce-pitcher

Coppermine Road

 

When I was a child

Sitting on a hill

In south-central Jersey,

I would watch the roiling thunderstorms

Shoot daggers of lightning

Across hills of the Sourland Mountains

Setting fires to forests,

Pastures–

Torching the barns.

 

The hand-cranked siren would yowl

And all men over 21

Would answer the call.

To lurk under jacked-up cars,

To pitch hay,

Run the combine

Or start the evening milking

Would get you the cold shoulder

Or worse…

In the local gin mill.

 

Coppermine Road had

A ton of fires,

This gateway to the Sourlands

Stretching miles into Dutch-elmed darkness

As we watched

First the lightning

Then smoke rise into the air,

And heard the howl of the siren

In the valley below.

 

Mined out, this Coppermine

Emptied before the Revolution

The sturdy Dutch taking their

Share from the earth,

Leaving little of worth, just the name,

The scars of digging plastered over in time.

 

Perhaps a grand conspiracy

Between storm clouds and copper deep down

A particular cosmic revenge,

Enough to torch the barns

Scare the milk out of cows

And bedevil the men.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017  (from “Pitcher of Moon”, Amazon.com 2015)

 

‘Samhain, a Celtic Winter Song….

July 19, 2017

Kohut-Bartels-LS-3

(“Geese at Dawn”, watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2003)

 

Dark mysterious season,

when the light doesn’t

quite reach the ground,

the trees shadow puppets

moving against the gray of day.

 

I think over the past year

praying there has been a

kindling in my soul,

the heart opened, warmed

and the juiciness of life is

more than the loins–

a stream of forgiveness

slow flowing through the tough fibers

not stopper’d with an underlying

bitterness

but softened with compassion.

 

This season of constrictions,

unusual emptiness,

brittle like dried twigs

desiccated by hoar frost

just to be endured.

 

I wrap myself in wool and

watch the migrations–

first tender song birds which harken

back to summer,

then Sandhill cranes,

legs thin black banners

streaming behind white bodies,

lost against a gunmetal sky.

 

They lift off to a middling cosmos,

while I, earth-bound,

can only flap the wings of my shawl,

poor plumage for such a flight,

and wonder about my own destination.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

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

July 14, 2017

Song_of_the_Nightingale_COVER

To outside appearances, it would seem  Lady Nyo has a lover.  But appearances are deceiving.  She is tormented by poems left for her by an unknown admirer.  With an introduction to her situation.

Not that Lady Nyo….

Does he know?

Does he know?

Does he know about the letters?

 

The court of Lord Mori

Was a small one

Where the men,

Lord Nyo included

Sat and discussed business:

The pleasurable business of hunting,

Archery, drinking

And on occasion,

Just for form’s sake,

Wrote bad poetry.

 

The women of course

Were positioned behind carved screens,

Where the eagle-eyed Lady Mori,

An old and rice-powdered dragon

Conducted her own court of

Writing more bad poetry, finger games

And layering sleeves and hems for the

Best effects…unseen by anyone else–

Except the other women.

 

There was a break in this

Unending monotony one day;

Lady Nyo received poems

From some unknown admirer

Stuffed in different places where

She would find them:

Her screen at court,

On her silk, embroidered cushion,

And even penned on her fan.

She never knew who was so bold,

Never saw even a glimmer of the culprit.

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.

 

1.

Yesterday I found a fan with a poem

Stuck in the screen.

Today I found another one placed

On my cushion at court.

Do you have a death wish?

Do you desire the death of me?

You know my husband is known for his temper.

Would I end my life so dishonored?

 

2.

I see you are as persistent

As the rain in Spring.

Have you no fear?

What is your interest?

Surely I am just another painted face.

 

3.

I read your poem.

I could do nothing else.

This time it was inked upon

MY fan.

 

4.

“The wind blows from the north

Chilling my heart.

Only the thought of a touch of your sleeve

Warms me.”

Very nice, but my sleeves are not interested.

 

5.

“I throw acorns

To the darting carp.

With each nut I say a

Prayer for your health.”

Lovely sentiment, and I am

Always grateful for prayers.

But do you think of my reputation

And what you risk?

 

6.

I see no poetry this morning

Though I searched for your usual offering.

I knew your interest was as capricious

As a flight of moths.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011, 2017 (The complete book can be bought at Amazon.com)

 

 

“The Kimono”, Chapter 17

June 30, 2017

0403whe-r01-002

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

 

images (8)

 

For my friend, Kanzen Sakura.

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

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

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

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

Lady Nyo

 

CHAPTER 17, THE KIMONO  

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“As I stay here yearning

While I wait for you, my lord,

The autumn wind blows,

Swaying the bamboo blinds

Of my lodging.”

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Tonight, too,

Does my woman’s pitch-black hair

Trail upon the floor

Where she sleeps without me?”

 

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

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

 

“Read more.”

 

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

“Though I sleep with

A single thin rush mat

For my bedding,

I am not cold at all,

When I sleep with you, my lord.”

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

 

“Though I sleep beneath

soft, warm bedding,

how cold my skin is,

for I do not share my bed

with you, my woman.”

 

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

 

Lady Nyo read another.

 

“Brave man like the catalpa bow

That, once drawn,

Does not slacken—

Can it be that he is unable to bear

The vicissitudes of love?”

 

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

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

Lady Nyo’s face went sad.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Songs of Summer”….poem.

June 27, 2017
My beautiful picture

Watercolor, Early Spring, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2011

dversepoets pub is OLN…Open Link Night!  A wonderful time to post ONE poem and visit other poets……And…they will be on break until July 17th.  Our Norseman Bjorn is presiding over OLN so be good.

Lady Nyo

 

SONGS OF SUMMER

 

Summer cartwheels through the sky!

The fertility of months

Expressed from field to orchard,

Above in  sky, and deep below,

Where earth gathers green energy

And transforms by magic

Fruits for the mouth and eye.

 

Fledglings tipped out of nests

Try new-feathered wings on warm currents,

Calves butt heads and race in calf-tumble

Climbing rocks and playing king-of-the-hill,

Spring lambs past the date

For the tenderest of slaughter

Coated in white curls,

Smell of lanolin sweet in their wake.

 

There is fresh life in the pastures,

Now  steady legs and bawling lungs,

They graze upon the bounty

And grow fat for the future culling.

 

Tender shoots of wheat and corn,

Waist-high, defy devious crows,

Paint once-fallow fields in saffron and

A multitude of hues-

Golden tassels forming,

Waving under an oppressive sun,

And when the sky bursts open

In random welcomed rains,

Heaven meets Earth-

The cycle complete.

 

These are the songs of Summer.

The bleat of lambs,

The cymbals of colliding clouds,

The noise of fierce, sharpened light,

The plaints of cows with taunt udders,

The loud quarreling of a swollen brook,

The scream of a hunting hawk

Calling for its mate,

The pelt of an unheralded storm

Upon a tin roof,

And the quiet sighing of

An unexpected wind-

Brings a benediction to the day.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011-2017

 

0403Whe-R01-012

Young RedTail Hawk, Jane Kohut-Bartels, watercolor

Watercolor, janekohut-bartels, 2007, "Garden Shed"

kohut-Bartels-LS-9

Kohut-Bartels-LS-17

Rose Garden April 2017

Our new Rose Garden this Spring/Summer.  Looks small, and probably is but we stuffed 30 roses in this area.  Mostly English (David Austen) and Knock Out roses that really need to be trimmed every two weeks.  Some Mister Lincoln (on pedestals) and O.L. Weeks roses,  and those gorgeous “New Dawn” (2) of them that cover the arbor.  And lots of mosquitoes which curtail our using the garden.

All paintings by Jane Kohut-Bartels, various dates and various mediums

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

‘Lady Nyo’s Torment’, from “Song of the Nightingale” an episode.

June 19, 2017

Song_of_the_Nightingale_COVER

(This  is a watercolor of mine called “Savannah Birds”.  I gave it to a person who apparently didn’t care for it. I found it under a bed with frame and glazing broken. I brought it home.  A few years later it became the cover of “Song of the Nightingale”.  One can never account for another’s taste.)

 

Two years ago, I published “Song of the Nightingale”, a book containing 13 episodes of poetry describing the life of a 16th century Samurai couple in Japan.  People who had read excerpts of this book loved it, but I didn’t give it enough attention when I published it in 2015. (I went on to publish another book, “Seasoning of Lust” 2sd edition in 2016 and have recently almost finished “Kimono” a long time-warp novel.) Having been a reader of the “Man’yoshu”, a 8th century document of over 4500 poems, I was taken by the beautiful and very modern verse in this great document.  I had the story already in my mind for a few years, but the Man’yoshu gave me a very human element to  understand how people don’t really change over a 1000 years ago.  Human nature, and emotions remain mostly the same. Both of these books, “Song of the Nightingale” and “Seasoning of Lust” can be bought on Amazon.com.

 

“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.”

—verse of Lady Nyo, 16th century

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 she was,
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.”

And:

“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, 2015-2016, (Song of the Nightingale” a tale in 13 episodes can be obtained at Amazon.com)

 

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

May 16, 2017

images (9)

 

Lord Nyo’s Lament

 

Oh my wife!

My feet take me over mountains

In the service to our lord

But my heart stays tucked in the bosom

Of your robe.

Lady Nyo, circa 2015

 

 

The song of the arrow

As it arced into the sea

Was as tuneless

As a badly strung samisen.

 

Gun- metal clouds

Stretched across a dull horizon

The sun still asleep

As he should be

His quiver empty

His heart, too.

 

When had the callousness of life and death

Become as comfortable as breath to him?

He had become too much the warrior

And too little the man.

 

His distance from his wife,

From most of life

Was as if some unseen object

Kept them ten paces apart.

Perhaps it was the cloud-barrier

Of earthly lusts which obscured

The Sun of Buddha?

 

 

Perhaps he should pray.

What God would listen?

Then it came to him

That joker of a Buddha, Fudo

With his rope to pull him from Hell

And his sword to cut through foolishness-

Fudo would listen.

Fudo knew the quaking hearts

The illusions embraced

To stomach the battlefield

The fog of drink,

To face life

In the service of Death.

Fudo would save him from

The yellow waters of Hell.

 

He remembered those years

When she could bring him to his knees

With the promise of dark mystery

Between silken thighs,

And the glimpse of her white wrist-

A river of passion

Just beneath the surface.

How he had steeled his heart

Believing himself unmanned

For the love she induced!

 

Three cranes flew low to the shore,

Legs streaming like black ribbons behind.

Three cranes, three prayers, three chances

To find his way back

Bound up in Fudo’s ropes,

Prodded in the ass by Fudo’s sword.

 

He would write a poem

On a bone-white fan

To leave on her cushion.

She would know his love

She would know his sorrow.

 

The sea took his arrows

Beyond the breakers,

The glint of sleek feathers

Catching thin rays of light.

An unexpected peace came over him

As they journeyed far from his hands.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

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

 

 

 

 


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