Posts Tagged ‘Japanese tale of marriage in the 17th century’

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

June 6, 2013

samurai women 2

A while ago, I started to write about the marriage between this mythological Lord and Lady Nyo in 17th century Japan. It started as a few short pieces, and grew into a 14 part story. Magic, Tengus, good and bad people, deceit and love, the usual things of relationships.

Nick Nicholson is a great and long term friend. He is coming from Canberra, Australia to visit us in October. We are going to work together on this book, “The Nightingale’s Song”, Nick to do all the graphics and cover, and me to tighten up the writing.

I have posted pieces of this book-to-be on this blog, and will again. It’s wonderful working with someone you love and respect, and Nick is one great friend.
Two heads on this will be better than just mine.

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 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
Except the other women.

There was a break in this
Unending monotony one day;
Lady Nyo received notes
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 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 letters 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, 2013

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