Posts Tagged ‘kimono’

“Plum Blossom Snow”

February 22, 2018


My beautiful picture

Peach blossoms in the back yard. Spring

OLN (Open Link Night) over at dversepoets where you can post one poem of your choosing.  Come read some wonderful poetry there.

Lady Nyo

Plum Blossom Snow

The present snowstorm of
White plum blossoms
Blinds me to sorrow.

They cascade over cheeks
Like perfumed, satin tears
Too warm with the promise of life
To chill flesh.


This week I finally finished “Kimono”, a novel I have been writing for eleven years. This above poem comes from that novel.  “Kimono” will be published in a few months on

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2018

“Kimono”, Chapter 28, Earthquake.

February 21, 2018

Samurai Lovers, #2

After ten years I have finally finished writing “Kimono” a novel that flies between 21st century  and 17th century Japan.  My dear editor, Nick Nicholson in Australia wrote to me this morning.  It took him three days to read the entire novel from start to finish but he was ecstatic with the results. I am too close to this work so I have lost perspective. But I trust Nick, a friend for twelve years and an excellent writer.  I thought that it would take months perhaps nine months to revise/edit this long novel, but I have been careful in the writing…and Nick’s eagle eye has kept things on track.  Along the way I learned to read Japanese (somewhat), learned about Japanese culture,  learned medieval Japanese literature and so much more about a mostly alien culture.  Now we have the task, or I do….of designing a cover for this novel…or perhaps Nick can work his computer magic.  I need a vacation.

Lady Nyo

 Plum Blossom Snow

The present snowstorm of
White plum blossoms
Blinds me to sorrow.

They cascade over cheeks
Like perfumed, satin tears
Too warm with the promise of life
To chill flesh.

Lady Nyo, circa 2018

Mari was dreaming of snow falling on her face, but somewhere in her mind she knew it was spring, now too far from winter. She woke up, cold, as Lord Mori had turned in the night and taken all the quilts.

She sat up, pulling her thin kimonos around her. The dawn’s light hardly infused the bay before them, only thin tendrils of light skimmed the sky above the distant mountains.

Something was wrong. It wasn’t snow, but cherry blossoms. They covered the ground. There was a humming beneath the soil and Mari placed her hands firmly on the ground, feeling the vibrations. She wondered why Lord Mori did not awake up.

Mari stood to get a better look at the bay, but even standing was difficult. She felt drunk, unstable on her feet. Something was wrong, and the water before her looked as if something was punching beneath with a million fists, causing it to roil and churn.

Lord Mori woke up with a start, sat up and for the first time, Mari saw fear on his face.

“Do not try to stand, throw off your geta and run”, he whispered.


He grabbed her hand and at a crouch, they ran up the hill towards the others, Mari gathering her robes above her knees. They were knocked to the ground with the tremors of the earthquake a number of times, and each time Lord Mori covered her with his body.

They could hear screams and shouts in the distance. Nothing seemed real to Mari, and those beautiful cherry trees were uprooted and fallen in a jumble against each other. Lord Mori saw Lord Nyo scrambling towards him and shouted for him to try to get back to town and get their horses.

They must ride to Gassan or get as high as possible. They were in the lowlands and following an earthquake could come the feared tsunami.
A small fire had started with a brazier turning over on some quilts. Lord Mori stamped it out, and then looked for survivors. Lady Nyo and her servants were lying under some branches of a fallen cherry tree, and Lord Mori and some of the men lifted the tree to pull them out. Lady Nyo had blood streaming down her face mixed with soil, but other than a flesh wound, she would survive. Others were not so lucky. A few servants from the inn were buried by a fallen trees, or laid out like they were asleep on the soil. Lord Mori’s men dragged them out and laid them together on the ground. Someone covered them with the half-burnt quilts.

Mari scrambled to where Lady Nyo was sitting against a half-fallen tree and with her kimono sleeve, wiped the blood from her face. Why didn’t Lord Nyo free his wife first before he obeyed orders from Lord Mori to bring their horses? Clearly the rules of this century, and this country were very different than her own. She would hope that Steven would have attended to her first, but then again, this was a very different culture.

“I am fine, don’t worry about me, please”, whispered Lady Nyo. Mari could see that she had suffered shock and her pale face showed the effects of trauma.

“Is my Lord Nyo alive?” Mari nodded  and told her Lord Mori ordered him to bring the horses from the town.

Lady Nyo looked doubtful. “Surely the town has suffered what we have here. The horses might have bolted and he will not find them.”

“We can only hope he does. Lord Mori wants us all to ride to Gassan Mountain. He says the higher we are the safer we will be.”

Suddenly a man appeared over them. Startled, Mari looked at him.. It was Lord Yoki.

“Do not fear, my ladies”, he said bowing. “Lord Mori is right. The higher we get the better our chances of surviving will be.”

Another tremor, this one lasting only a few seconds, but Mari screamed in fear. Lord Yoki laid his hand on her shoulder to steady her. Mari buried her face in his robes. Either he had very hairy legs or she was feeling feathers through his clothing. In any case, she was glad he was there. Lord Mori was off directing the men, gathering what they could that would be useful for their flight to Gassan Mountain. He was not around to comfort a hysterical woman.

She continued to wipe the blood from Lady Nyo’s face, using the other sleeve of her kimono. Lady Nyo was chanting something in a low voice. Mari thought she was praying.

Suddenly, Lord Mori was bending over her as he pulled her to her feet, leading her away from the others.

He put his arm around her waist and drew her to him.

“You must leave. If you stay, you will die.”

“Yes”, said Mari. “Then I will die with you.”

Lord Mori grimaced and put his hand around her neck, close to her chin, bending her head back. He increased his hand’s pressure on either side of her jaw and the last thing Mari saw was his eyes, two black pools to drown in.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2018


“Kimono”, the rest of Chapter One….

January 22, 2018


samurai women 2

For Kanzen and Kim who expressed interest in this novel.


“Please untie me, Lord Mori Higato. I am very uncomfortable and would like to sit up.”

“Why would your comfort be of my concern? You make silly demands of a superior.”

Mari struggled not to show tears. She was uncomfortable and afraid.

“Lord Mori Higato. I have to pee badly.”

Lord Mori grunted and put down his brush. “Well, that is natural. I also have to pass water first thing in the morning. Come, girl.”

Mari wasn’t sure she wanted help, but she had little choice. He threw back the cover, pulled her to her feet, and walked her to a small alcove where a squat clay vessel was placed. He pushed her down and walked away. Mari was glad for the privacy. Of course with her hands tied she had to carefully balance herself, but at least her bladder didn’t hurt.

She padded to where he was, blushing because of her nakedness. She wasn’t sure this was a dream for she felt wide-awake. She edged towards the low brazier for warmth.

“Lord Mori. It is unnecessary for you to keep my arms tied for I am not a threat to you. I am a modern woman who is not violent and I have no intentions of grabbing your sword and using it against you.”

Lord Mori looked up from his scroll and listened, his raised eyebrows expressing his surprise.

“You could not grab my sword, as you put it, without losing your hands. I have no fear of you harming me. It is rather the other way around. However, since you are about to tip into the brazier, I will untie you.”

He drew his dagger and whipping her around, cut her ropes. Mari almost sobbed in relief. Her arms were numb. Then the pain hit her and she moaned as she tried to rub them, a pathetic, naked woman in great discomfort.

The sight of her must have moved Lord Mori for he drew her to him and rubbed her arms. Mari was grateful for she was shivering with cold. She felt exhausted and leaned her head against his chest with a sigh. Then she fainted.

When she recovered, she was buried in the quilt. He was sitting next to her and smelled of sandalwood and male sweat, real enough.

“This isn’t a dream.” Her voice sounded soft and flat where she leaned against him, her face buried in the fabric of his robes.

“So you have come back to me, little one?”

His voice had a touch of humor. “No, this is no dream, but it is time for you to answer me.”

“Please, Lord Mori. Please first give me some water?”

“I will give you some broth for these things can take strength out of a woman. Wait.”

Rising, he drew the quilt over her body. He brought a bowl of hot broth simmering on the brazier. Her hands shook as she reached for the bowl.

“Better you are fed than scald yourself.”

Mari sat next to him, wrapped in the quilt, while Lord Mori fed her the broth with a china spoon. It was hot and spicy, tasting like seaweed, but it warmed her.

“Now,” said Lord Mori when she had eaten enough to stop shivering, “tell me where you found the kimono.”

“In a shop in Kyoto on Dezu Street. It was hanging near a window and the silver decoration caught my eye. I brought it home and when I slept in it last night, well…something happened, and either this is a dream or it isn’t.”

Lord Mori grunted and exclaimed: “Kyoto! It is a long journey from where it was last.”

He was silent, thinking, then spoke. “What is your name girl, and are you maiden or wife?”

Mari almost laughed, surprised by his quaint wording.

“I am very much wife, and my name is Mari. My husband is a systems operator for a world-wide communications company.”

“What? You speak in riddles! Plainly girl, for you try my patience with your chatter.”

Mari ventured a question.

“Lord Mori, what date is it today. Where am I in history?”

“What date? Today is today and as far as this history, you are in the castle of a daimyo.”

Almost as an afterthought, he added in a whisper, almost to himself: “Who is under the protection of a most powerful shogun.”

“What is the name of this shogun, Lord Mori?”

He looked at her in surprise, his eyebrows arching.

“None other than the great Lord Tokugawa.”

This still didn’t give her any idea where she was, but the broth was good and she had stopped shivering.

“Lord Mori Higato, do you have a woman’s kimono for me to cover myself with? I am not used to walking around naked.”

“You will get used to it girl.”  He went back to his scroll.

“Lord Mori Higato, I would remind you that my name is Mari, not ‘girl’, I am an educated, married woman and well respected in my field.” This last was not true, for Mari had no field to speak of.

“Ho! You are prideful for a woman and forceful, too. Perhaps your husband does not beat you enough. That is a failing in many young husbands, and you look to be young enough. Perhaps I can help him in this.” He raised his arm as if to cuff her.

“Lord Mori, violence is the mark of a barbarian. Surely you are not such a man. You write and that shows you are civilized.”

A sly smile crossed the face of Lord Mori and he allowed it to broaden. He lowered his arm slowly.

“You think quickly for a female, Woman- Called- Mari. Does your education extend to the brush?”

Mari looked at his table and rising from the futon with the quilt wrapped tightly around her, she went to it. She looked at the finely drawn calligraphy there and shook her head.

“Lord Mori, I write with a pen, not a brush, and I also write with a keyboard, something I am beginning to think you have no knowledge of. I do write some haiku, but perhaps it would be better for me to recite one for you? You would not be able to read my script.”


“Why? Are you so bad with the brush? Then your education is very low. Perhaps you dance or play an instrument?”

Mari smiled. “No, Lord Mori. I play violin but this instrument I believe you are not familiar. I do, however, write a lot of poetry. I write tanka, choka and sonnets and much free verse. I write haiku when I am able.

“Ah! You are very boastful. Obviously your husband is a weak man.”

Mari smiled. “Perhaps, Lord Mori, perhaps, or maybe he lives by different standards.”

Lord Mori stood at his table, his arms crossed over his chest, looking curiously at the woman before him wrapped in his quilt.

“Then, if you dare, compose a poem and let’s see if your boasting has merit.”

Mari thought hard, trying to remember some she had recently written. There were a few, though they didn’t follow the classical forms. She wrote these because she was bored, but still the Kyoto landscape lent some inspiration.

“Cold rain sweeps the streets
Even ducks seek shelter
Feathers drop in haste”.

“Hah! Not very good, but a beginning. Give me another.”

Mari thought this next one would be more of the classical form, but then she wasn’t really sure.


“A glance at a wrist
There! The pulse of a river-
Tiny beat of life.”

“Better! Perhaps your husband has taught you something.”

“My husband has taught me nothing, Lord Mori. He is not interested in poetry. I have learned this myself.”

“Not interested in poetry? You have married a barbarian then, for a man who does not write poems is indeed a savage. Give me some more, Woman –Called- Mari.”

She thought of a couple of others she had written, though she could only partly remember their lines. She had little option, except to admit failure, but something in this rude man brought her mettle out. Pausing only a little between poems, she closed her eyes and recited what she could:

Snow falls on meadows
Crows pick at last harvest seeds
Spring now far away

Taking a breath, she tried to remember what she had recently written.

A swirl of blossoms
Caught in the water’s current
Begins the season.

Looking at him, she could see he was interested. He tried to put her off with a scowl.

Fall’s crispness compels
Apples to tumble from trees.
Worms make the journey.

I chase one red leaf
Across dry and brittle grass
Juice of summer gone.”


She closed her eyes, thinking back to what she had just recited. She realized her verse wasn’t that good, certainly not in the classical style. Opening one eye, she saw him contemplating her with a quizzical look.

“For a mere woman, you have a fertile mind. If you had been born a man, you might have made a name for yourself.”

Lord Mori gave a short nod of his head, a measure of respect.

“Come woman, learn how a man writes poems. You have shown yourself capable of learning at least something. Perhaps you are the rare woman who can rise above her nature.”

What a pompous ass, thought Mari. Obviously this dream is about humiliation.

For the next hour, Lord Mori composed haiku and longer poems, mostly in the honor of his Lord Shogun. Mari listened to his low monotone and the sentiments that poured out like warm sake. She was lost in the monotone of his recitation, and was not blind to his beauty. His black hair fell down his back and the vigor of this man before her was evident. Even when he rose and went to make water, it seemed the most natural of things. She was not embarrassed nor discomforted. He was an inventive poet, even when she didn’t understand most of his references.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2018



“Kimono”….a Tengu speaks.

December 8, 2017


(Not a Tengu, …European Eagle Owl, but just as fierce…Jane Kohut-Bartels, watercolor, 2005)

I have finished a 10 year project: a novel about a 21st century Japanese-American woman who is pulled back into Japan, 16th century by a possessed kimono.  Lord Yoki is a Tengu, a (supposively) mythological creature (originally from China) who has fallen in love with her.  He bemoans his karma, to be  besotted with a mortal woman, hardly a proper mate for a shape shifting bird.

“Kimono” will hopefully be published in 2018.

Lady Nyo…..who has come to love Tengus. 


Kimono, Chapter 42:  Lord Yoki speaks.


Lord Yoki perched on the window ledge.  He felt most comfortable perching.  A Tengu was just a big bird, after all.

He still dressed in an old linen kimono, badly patched and stained. It was this one or feathers.  It was harder and harder to maintain the glamour.  He had to concentrate on those parts that were reverting back.  His hair, his limbs, but he could do nothing about the feet. They would always remain clawed.

He was conflicted.  This was the first time in centuries (for he was very old) that his heart hurt.  He was racked with emotion from the time he awoke until the time he roosted.

He thought he might be in love.  And of course, his beloved would be one out of his league.  A mortal woman.

How could he have fallen to such a state?  He prided himself on being a tough old bird. He looked at the world through a cynical eye.  He only believed in the warmth of the thermals and sake. And a few pretty trinkets for he had a magpie nature.

And now he found himself in love.  How could he reveal himself to her? Would she find him distasteful, ridiculous, and insane?

He pecked at a flea amongst his breast feathers. He remembered the story of Lucifer.  He had fallen in love and knew she would be horrified if he revealed the truth of his form. He was a skinny, molting old bird, and a skinny old ‘man’. A devil cannot hide in the form of an angel for long.  The nature rebels.

He felt like Lucifer, the Great Deceiver.  Could she overlook his appearance to see into his heart?

He was fooling himself.  He was up against too powerful a force opposite him.  A mortal man, even if he didn’t have the magical advantages of a tengu. Surely the man would win in any battle between them.  And he knew that he had much more to lose than a friendship.  His rival would wear his head on his battle helmet.  The man had joked before to the woman about this, but he knew this man was  a barbarian at heart.

No, his love, his admiration for her would have to remain secreted in the bottom of his heart.  He chanced losing both of them and that would be unbearable, even for a stoic tengu.

If not love, how could he protect her?  Only the mystical gods knew what would happen and even they sometimes faked it.

Bah.  He wished he was back in San Francisco, in that park, in the form of a pigeon.  Then he could look up skirts as he strutted around and there would be no complaints.

Still, he knew why he mourned. She was the only one who knew what the world was about.  The parochial mentality of the people around him drove him nuts. Though he wasn’t affected by the diseases of humanity, (except for bird flu), they still waved their  amulets in the faces of the sick, they smoked up the room with incense until the sick couldn’t breathe, and brewed noxious potions for them to swallow.  They usually died. Or maybe, because all of this.   A little common sense and some soap and water would work miracles.

She knew this.  She also knew nostrums that could save lives.  He was sure of it.  Further, she was the only one he could talk with about history.  He couldn’t read, not many birds could, there were not schools for them, schools were for fish, but still he could ask questions.  And he did.  She told him about the world before their century, and of course, after it.  The world was a pretty big place, and though his eyes were closed as he flew by the moon, he knew something of this.

These generals!  These nobles! They thought they knew about warfare?  Hah!  They knew nothing.   As a pigeon walking around San Francisco, he had seen television in store fronts.  His hackles raised at the inhumanity of nations!  Atomic bombs, nuclear bombs, these were just some of the arsenal of these modern warlords.  These daimyos who went to war against each other?  They might have been hurling rocks and sticks at the opposition, jumping up and down like baboons considering what was to come.  His century, right now, hadn’t really seen the guns yet.  These men only had the blunderbusses of the Spanish who threw them away.

The men of this century were savages.  They killed for the sport of it.  The  samurai were the worse.  They killed commoners for anything they thought an offense,  The only laws were those that came from Edo, and most of those were ignored.  The real law lay within the two swords carried by men, and there were too many walking the streets.  He had trained the yamabushi, who trained many samurai, but things had gotten out of control.

He picked at his feathers.  Even if she could come to love him, where would he take her?  Tengus lived in mountains, in nests, where they fought other tengus for territory and tripped up arrogant Buddhist priests.  What would she think of that?

She didn’t lay eggs, and she wouldn’t know how to clean a nest properly.  And she didn’t have feathers to fluff in the cold months. She would be disgusted by the food she would have to eat.  It would be a bitter life for her.  He loved her more than that.

He knew she was a pawn in this bigger game.  Lord Mori needed her knowledge to build a bigger life for himself.  He was ambitious, he was a daimyo.  But could she deliver what he wanted?

Then he realized  if she tied her wagon to Lord Mori, he would have to secret her away from court life.  She would always live in the shadows of the castle. Was that any better than living in a warm nest in the mountains?

Perhaps there was hope.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017



“Kimono”, Chapter 13

September 28, 2016

Tengu stone

A Tengu. Mythological (???) creatures that are shape shifters. They love to trip up arrogant Buddhist priests.  They are attached to the Yamabushi clan.


Koku: is a measure of rice…like a bushel. Wages to samurai and others were paid in koku.

Samurai in Battle on Horse

At the Hour of the Dragon, Lords Mori and Ekei were drinking the first of many cups of cha.

The morning dawned with peach colored clouds over the lake and raucous honking by resident geese. It was cool this morning, though late spring, and the brazier did little to boil the water for the cha as Lord Mori poked more charcoal beneath the small fire. The brass kettle sweated with cold water filled from a jug.

“Lord Tokugawa will expect a report by the new moon.”

Lord Ekei’s voice was a sleepy whisper. Except for the distant sound of waterfowl, there was little noise outside the castle except for the nightsoil men making their rounds. The buckets clanged against the old stones as they dropped their poles to shovel in the manure left from beasts and oxen the day before.

“I know. He is expecting much detail.” Lord Mori sipped his cha, his face scowling into his cup.

“Our lord is expecting troops and provisions.” Lord Ekei blinked his eyes, trying to wake up. It was still very early and the room cold.

“He asks much to put down a peasant rebellion. It will just rise up again when the rains wash the blood from next spring’s soil.”

Lord Mori grunted into his cup, his face maintaining a scowl.

“The problem” said Lord Ekei, pushing his point, “isn’t about what the peasants do, it’s about what the daimyos don’t do.”

“And what is that, my friend?”

“The corruption from the tax collectors breeds these rebellions. Too much koku is taken from the fields and not enough left to live upon. Under heaven, there is nothing else to do but riot. Starving bellies are invitations to rebellion.”

Lord Mori grunted. “That is a big part of the problem. This is another one. Living in Edo for six months every two years. The cost of this impoverishes every region.”

Lord Mori filled both cups with more hot water, added a small amount of powdered tea to the cups and stirred with a bamboo whisk.

“Yes, yes, that is a large consideration, but until Heaven moves its bowels, nothing can be done about that.”

“A good strategy on the Emperor’s part would help. Or rather the Shogun. The Emperor has no power anymore. He and his court are like painted gourds. The effort to mobilize each daimyo in obedience to the court’s demands keeps us from each other’s throats.”

“I think we better do—“

Suddenly a large bird appeared at the window, and startled both lords. It was big like a vulture and had a long red nose and dark iridescent feathers. It was a tengu.

Shaking its feathers violently, a dust storm obscured it for a few seconds. Then both lords saw a skinny priest, dressed in a filthy kimono appear. Both lords bowed respectfully from their cushions.

“Man, those air currents! They would tear a bird’s feathers from his body. Got a cup of sake around? Travel dehydrates me.”

This tengu was a priest from the Yamabushi clan. He hopped down from the window, scratching the side of his face where a scrawny gray beard covered it.

“Lice,” he announced with a grin.

Lord Mori spooned powdered tea in a cup, poured some hot water over it, carefully stirred and handed the cup to the scratching man. He took it with a sour, disdainful glance at both lords, and drank it without ceremony, smacking his lips loudly and wiping his hand across his thin lips.

“Lord Yoki, we are honored you have come to advise us”, said Lord Ekei with another bow.

“Well, beats hanging around Haight-Ashbury. Had to appear as a pigeon to fit in, and all there was to do during the day was beg for breadcrumbs. Did look up skirts at muffs, though.” He laughed, a coarse, wheezing sound.

Lord Ekei suppressed a smile, and Lord Mori didn’t a grimace. They had dealt with Lord Yoki before. His antics were well known.

Lord Yoki lowered himself to a cushion and rubbed his hands over the brazier. “You got any sake? Spring is a bad time for travel.”

Lord Mori clapped his hands twice and within several minutes a servant appeared with three cups and a brown bottle of warmed sake, placing them on the low table between the lords. Lord Mori poured three cups and offered the first to the Lord Yoki. He drank it fast and held out his cup for a refill.

It would be a long morning with Lord Yoki and it best be spent drunk.

“My Lord Yoki, our Lord Tokugawa in Kyoto has called upon the daimyos of the western borders to send troops and supplies to put down a rebellion of peasants in Mikawa providence.”

“Yeah? Well, being a vassal is tough. The nature of the beast. Too many kits and not enough teats.” Lord Yoki burped.

“You want my advice? You got bigger problems closer to home. I hear from some other birds Lord Kiyami is looking at your southern border with a covetous eye. That’s a dicey mountain range there, and if he controls those trade passes, he can hem you in. Adding a kunu to his territory would be a feather in his cap.”

He punctuated his statement with a belch.

“If this is true, my lord Mori” said Lord Ekei with a slight bow, “then you will have to organize two campaigns at once. That would be very costly, neh?”

Lord Mori eyes narrowed and he grunted. “I am sure Lord Yoki’s information is impeccable,” he said with his own bow to the disheveled priest.

“You bet your nuts it is”, said the priest sharply.

“Is this information you have read in history books, Lord Yoki,” asked Lord Ekei?

“Can’t read, never learned” said the priest in a raspy voice. “Some things don’t make the history books. Sometimes pillow talk is more….ah…reliable.”

Both lords considered his words. It was not beyond the pale. Men talked to women, and men talked in their sleep. Either way, information was obtainable.

This news of Lord Kiyami’s interest in his territory disturbed Lord Mori. It would be a very bad position to be hemmed in at that mountain range.

“Perhaps there is a need to change plans,” suggested Lord Ekei to Lord Mori.

Lord Mori looked at both of the men sipping their sake.

“Do I dare go against the desires of Heaven to thwart the schemes of Lord Kiyami?”

Scratching his scrawny beard absentmindedly, the Yamabushi priest coughed.

“You might be looking at a new portion of Hell if you ignore him.”

“If he hems you in, Higato, you will not be able to serve the needs of Lord Tokugawa in any case,” said Lord Ekei.

“Let me suggest, my lord,” said the priest with a little bow, “that you think about a spy or two in the household of Lord Kiyami. This could glean you some important and timely information.”

“Yes, Higato, this is excellent advice. We need to know his future plans, even if he is to seize your southern territory soon. How many forces he would deploy for this. He also would be called upon by our Lord Tokugawa for his support. He will have some of the same considerations we have.”

“Good. I agree. A couple of well placed servants should do the job.”

“I would further suggest, my lord, that you place a spy in his guard. A samurai that can be trusted with such a task. Perhaps an unknown captain of your own guard.”

“Again, I agree.” Higato Mori nodded to both men.

“Now we must consider the problem of what daimyos to call upon for support. Surely we have allies, Lord Ekei?”

“Higato, without a doubt that our Lord Kiyami will be also looking with the same eyes. Perhaps a visit to one or two would set things better for us.”

“If I may be so bold,” said the priest scratching at his skin inside his kimono, “I agree a visit be made soon. One never knows the plans of another man, especially at a distance.”

Lord Mori picked up his cup and glanced at his advisor, Ekei, sitting across from him, and fell into deep thought.

This priest has much sense for an old crow. Perhaps he should be the spy in Kiyami’s household? Could he dare presume upon the favors of such a man? Well, we are all Yamabushi, so there should be something of favor there. Perhaps this has possibilities. Perhaps Lord Yoki will be able to answer to this.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016

I started this novel in 2008 and it is finished, except for the editing, rewriting.  This novel is a time warp novel, where it goes from 21st century Japan to the 16th century, and back again.  Some of the characters are fiction, but many are historic, like Tokugawa, a dynasty that spanned centuries.  I aim to publish this novel Spring, 2017.





















“Love Poems from “Kimono”…..

May 24, 2015
Japanese Lovers

Japanese Lovers


Excerpt from a chapter in “The Kimono

“So, Mari, do you have a verse in mind to start our exchange?”

Lord Mori poured a little water on the inkstone and started to rub a long-haired brush across the surface like a cat switching its tail.

Mari closed her eyes and thought for a moment.    He would write her poem  on paper and  answer with his.  She had not learned Kanji yet.

“How long will it last?

I do not know his heart.

This morning my thoughts

Are as tangled as my tangled hair.”

“Ah!  A good start, though of course you compose like a woman.”

He bent over the stone, added more water and wrote her words  with his brush.

“Let me think of a good answer.  Give me a minute.”  He picked up his pipe, relit it from an ember from the brazier, and puffed for a while.

“How can a woman

Know a warrior’s heart?

We have the sound of

War drums drowning

Out weaker sentiments.”

“Oh, very good, Lord Mori.  Perhaps I can answer this.”

“Who attends to the wounded

But women.

Our hands are soft and strong

And the best medicine after war.”

Lord Mori grunted and expelled a large puff of smoke.

“A woman only knows a man’s heart

By her silence.”

Mari thought of the inherent chauvinism of this statement.  However, this age would not embrace more progressive sentiments.  Women were still chattel, no matter how high their position.

“Wait.  I have another.  Perhaps more pleasing to your ear.”

Lord Mori let out another plume of smoke.

“Who knows the depth of my hidden heart?

Perhaps a ravine in the mountain?

No matter. A firefly of my love is flashing.”

Mari laughed and clapped her hands.  “Only a firefly?  Can it dispel the blackness of a man’s heart? Oh! Perhaps you should work that into another verse.  That could be a good beginning.”

Lord Mori’s eyes shone in the gathering darkness.  A cloud of aromatic smoke surrounded his head like a halo. He was silent.

“Let me try then”, said Mari, pursing her lips and narrowing her eyes in concentration.

“What can dispel the

Blackness of a man’s heart?

Never mind, even the insignificant

light of a firefly

Is a start.”

Lord Mori’s eyes narrowed, a  smile creasing his face.  The flame of the lamps wavered in the darkness and a nightingale sung nearby. Crickets were chirping outside the window and every once in a while the sound of carp could be heard jumping out of the lake for insects.

Mari looked at her hands in her lap.  She felt a loneliness, a yearning  she could not place.  She raised her eyes to Lord Mori, his face now cast in shadow.

He was puffing on his pipe again.  In the lamps, his hair shone like a blackbird’s wing, worn loosely down his back, except for the samurai topknot.

“Your soul is unsettled.”  A statement,  not a question.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted 2008,2015…from “The Kimono”


“The Kimono”, Chapter 25

May 18, 2015

Samurai Lovers, #2

Lord Sojobo, King of the Tengus

Lord Sojobo, King of the Tengus

I started writing “Kimono” 7 years ago, and life got in the way.  Other books, too.  But it’s a long novel, transposing from the 21st century to the early 18th. Mari is a 21st century woman flung backward (by a magic kimono) into feudal Japan. 

Lord Yoki is a former samurai, but more importantly, he is a Tengu.  Mischief making creatures who adopt the appearance of whatever species fits their needs.  This Lord Yoki is able to travel between centuries.

Lady Nyo

The Kimono, Chapter 25

The women were gathered apart from the men, under the trees. The glow from lanterns fell prettily on their faces; at least the faces Mari could see, veiled in the shadows of evening. The men were at a distance, sprawled under the trees, surrounding a brazier where brown sake bottles warmed in an endless kettle.

Mari had eaten dried bonito, roasted seaweed, and rice dumplings enough for a month. A screen had been set up between the two parties, and Mari realized the advantages of this device. They could eat, instead of picking at a small piece of fish, a teaspoon of rice. It would have been unseemly for women to eat with any gusto in front of men. Soft laughter sounded in the dusk, as women and even the two servants of Lady Nyo joined in the finger and guessing games of the girls from the inn.


Lady Nyo is called upon by Lord Ekei to play the samisen.

Though there was soft laughter from behind their screen, it was much different amongst the men. The clink of sake bottles, the laughter, and the general noise the men made as they related their stories, boastings and lies made this cherry blossom viewing more of a loud disturbance than a quiet, reflective contemplation of the beautiful blossoms. Mari wondered how long this would go on.

The blossoms only lasted three days before they fell. Surely the men could not last so long!

A servant came to the screen, knelt down and relayed a message to Lady Nyo. She was respectfully requested to entertain the men with her samisen. Lady Nyo rolled her eyes at Mari and Mari burst into laughter. But duty was duty, and Lady Nyo approached the men, bowed low and settled herself on a cushion with the instrument.

Lord Mori patted a cushion next to him and Mari could see by his face he was already drunk.

Lady Nyo quickly tuned the samisen and started a sad song.

Mari heard the strange tinny sounds of the instrument and the voice of Lady Nyo. How surprising was her voice, a low contralto, rich and not at all what Mari expected. Though Mari couldn’t understand the words, the tune apparently was well known to the men, as they fell quiet and seemed to contemplate other things than their drinking and merriment. Another song was requested by Lord Ekei after the first, and this was more upbeat than the first. Or perhaps it was just in a different key? It seemed to be less sad and her playing was faster.

Mari already knew poetry would be her part of the entertainment. She wracked her memory for some of the poems of Saigyo and Ono no Komachi. These she studied from a small book Lady Nyo had given her. She cobbled verse from words she could identify. It wasn’t easy, and it wouldn’t be the poetry of these fine poets, but it was all she had. Since there was to be a full moon tonight, Mari thought she would recite some of Saigyo’s moon poems. She didn’t trust her memory completely but thought the sake the men had already drunk would dull their own memories. She was betting on this.


Mari had to pee, excused herself and walked with a serving girl apart from the gathering. There was a narrow path leading upwards from the cherry trees and into a bamboo stand. When she came out and was making her way back, a man standing on the path bowed to her. He was dressed very elegantly, a handsome man, but there was something a bit familiar about him. Mari bowed to him, out of politeness, and supposed he was one of the many people out to admire the cherry blossoms and the rising of the moon.

She was about to pass when he spoke.

“Ho! You do not recognize me? Perhaps my robes are too fine for a mere tengu.” He smiled broadly at her and chuckled.

Mari recognized Lord Yoki, but what a difference from the first viewing! Tall, with shiny black hair arranged on his head, his robes were embroidered with silver thread on a dark plum background. Only his feet in his sandals with the claws of a bird, gave him away. Mari started to laugh when she saw his feet, but realized she would offend and threw her hand over her mouth.

“Send your girl ahead and we will stroll back and talk.”

Mari gestured to the servant and she disappeared down the path.

“So, my dear lady. Have you found why you are on pilgrimage with our Lord Mori?”

Mari considered her answer. No, she hadn’t, not really. But perhaps giving any information to Lord Yoki would be disloyal to Lord Mori.

The tengu watched her out of the side of his eye. She was playing her cards close to her bosom. Perhaps she really didn’t have a clue why she was accompanying her lord.

“What I do know, is this, my lord. Women are not allowed on Gassan, so I, with Lady Nyo and the servants, will remain in a temple at the foot of the mountain. More than that, I haven’t been told.”

This was only part right. Lord Mori had informed her, though only in a few terse words, that he was seeking counsel from someone on the mountain, that he was pushed between the actions of Lord Kiyama and the lord Tokugawa. Who this man he was to seek counsel was unknown, at least to Mari.

“Ah. I see. You are informed correctly. Women are not allowed on the mountain. The kami up there are particular about whom they choose to entertain. They are not known for their friendliness either. They are a tricky bunch of demons up there, so Lord Mori’s plans are in consideration for your safety.”

Lord Yoki didn’t reveal that Gassan was a historic home of tengu, and they classed women in the order of arrogant priests: something to bedevil and dismay upon crossing. He also did not say that the ‘man’ Lord Mori and company would be meeting with was the all-powerful Lord Sojobo. He would be the most dangerous tengu of all. He held a fan made of feathers and when he was displeased, not uncommon for him, he would casually wave the fan and all sorts of mischief could happen. One might be swept from the mountain and find themselves in a ravine somewhat bruised for the journey. Lord Yoki knew this from personal experience. He seemed to get on the nerves of his Lord Sojobo easily.

“Well, there is a journey of at least two days between here and Gassan, so you might find out more what you seek. Then again, you might not. It is hard to determine fate.”

Mari figured he knew more than he was telling, but she also knew that men of this century, even men- appearing tengu, could not be forced to give up much information. It was something about their nature.

They returned to their site, and Mari bowed to Lord Yoki, noticing that his robes had seemed to lengthen, covering his feet. If, by his appearance he surprised or confused the men assembled under the trees drinking sake, they gave no sign of it. Mori, Ekei, and Nyo bowed from their cushions and Lord Yoki was made room for amongst them. Mari returned behind the screen, accompanied by Lady Nyo.

In a low voice, Lady Nyo began to speak.

“My lady, we were concerned for your safety. When I saw you approach with a gentleman, I was most worried. But I see that it was Lord Yoki, and my mind settled. Please consider your safety when you venture out without at least a few servants. There are robbers on these trails, and Lord Mori would hold us all accountable if anything were to happen to you.”

Mari looked at her in surprise. How did she know it was Lord Yoki that stood beside her? Perhaps he appeared differently to her than to the others? Perhaps Lord Yoki threw glamour over him to befuddle her eyes? Or perhaps Lady Nyo was used to his tricks? There was more than Mari had answers, but then again, there was much more to these woods and this century than she could fathom.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008-2015


“Musings on a Closing Day”

December 30, 2008


I move my chair
to observe Mt. Fuji-
monstrous  perfection
with the cooling crust
of spring snows.

Languid movements
of branches
like a Geisha
unfurling her arm
from a silk kimono
makes petals fall,
a scented, pink snow that
covers my upturned face
with satin kisses.

Timid winds caress
my limbs,
brings soothing relief
to old and tired bones
brittle now with life’s argument
and defeat.

Raked sands of garden
waves are hardly disturbed
by feet like two gray stones.
They continue their flow
around ankles and
I realize again
I am no obstacle to
the proverbial ‘sands of time’.

My heart is quieted
by the passage of nothing
for in this nothing
is revealed life’s fullness.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2008

From “Winter Poems”

December 6, 2008


In the white, brittle splendor
Of winter’s mid growth,
You came to me,
What I thought at first
A cardinal—a flash of streaking red,
Floating between the blackened trees.

It was you in the crepe kimono
The red of your obi
A slash of vitality in that white forest.

Your skin rivaled the snow- sodded landscape
And only the crimson of your mouth
Gave knowledge you still lived—

So ghost-like were you that morning!

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2008

“Leah Lives Again”

October 20, 2008

This is a recent and true story.


Leah  walked into Big Lots, the one where her mother had thrown a shit-fit and insulted an elderly Japanese lady.  Her mother was in her mid 80’s and had done that the day before. She had flown in from Savannah and stayed only three days.  In that time she had managed to berate, insult and offend quite a number of people, local people that her daughter would perhaps see weekly. ( She didn’t spare her daughter either, and though the lumps were invisible, they, again, went deep.)

But this last assault on the unwary public was the worst.  The Japanese lady had grabbed the sleeve of her mother’s sweater and said playfully:  “Give me that pretty sweater”.  Her mother’s hackles immediately went up and she turned on the woman.

“How dare you touch me,” her mother hissed.  The Japanese lady did not back down, but backed up a bit.  She seemed to have some common sense.

“I’m only playing with you.  I don’t mean offense.”

Her mother’s eyebrow arched, the expression she used with ‘inferior folk’ when she, a little woman herself, tried to make others submit.

“Hah! You lost the war!”  As if this made sense for everything.

Her mother’s words were ridiculous, some 60 years after the fact, but to her, a fine logic.  The Japanese woman turned to her racks of clothes and her mother stormed out of the store.

The next day, Leah made the rounds, apologizing to the employee in the food store for her mother’s insults, at another thrift shop where she became irate when she wasn’t immediately served, and then the scene at Big Lots.   The Japanese lady was as gracious as her own mother outrageous, and she tried to laugh it off.  But Leah had seen the ‘look’ before; the hurt in eyes of people who were attacked by her mother.  She saw the ‘look’ since she was 15 and had been apologizing for her mother ever since.

“Your mother.  She is German?”
Leah laughed.   “Yes.” (This was a lie)
“She was the Bitch of Buchenwald.”

That was the name her family, except her husband, called her behind her back.  She was that bad.

“Oh, I see”, said the Japanese lady, but of course she didn’t really see.

Leah  had no idea how to deal with her mother’s behavior, and it took another four years to realize that it was a particular nasty brand of mental illness.  It wasn’t Leah’s  fault, nor did her mother’s behavior spring from what she, the daughter, did.   Nor was it the fault of the grocer, the employee at the thrift store , nor the Japanese lady  at Big Lots.

Four years later, Leah, now dressed in a new, hand made kimono, obi sash and a silk parasol,  had her husband drop her at the Big Lots to pick up a gift for someone.  They were going to a costume ball and she had picked this kimono to wear.  It was peach silk, with a navy blue wide thick obi, with large goldfish swimming around the background.  The final sash was a red silk rope, doubled and tied in a samurai knot in front.

She was wearing geta, and the clack, clack of the wooden bottoms sounded loud on the flooring of Big Lots.  She immediately found a silver plated picture frame, a perfect gift for the queen of the party….and there was the Japanese lady.

“Oh, you look beautiful!  But you dead!”

The daughter wondered if she was suffering a delayed insult from four years ago, but no, the Japanese lady was referring to the way she had ‘closed’ her kimono.  Right panel over left was how people were buried….Left over right was for the living.

Maichio was her name, and she was all of 80 lbs and only 4’8”.  She picked up the hem and looked at the hand stitching and marveled at the patience the daughter of the Nazi in stitching the kimono. Tiny little stitches and a lot of them.  She opened her wallet and took out two small pictures, stuck together probably from age and handling.  One was of her at 21 and the other at 32.  Both were taken when she was made up as Geisha.

She was so beautiful, as ethereal as an ageha, a butterfly.  This little wrinkled crone was once as classically endowed with great beauty as any famous Geisha.  The passage of time had taken that outward beauty but her gracious and generous heart was untouched.

Something had to be done! This girl before her couldn’t be allowed to remain ‘dead’.

So Maichio did what any woman who was concerned with humanity would do.  There, in Big Lots, in a store that was almost devoid of customers on a late Saturday afternoon,  she undressed the younger woman.  Off came the first belt, then the obi sash, then the inner belt and quickly she opened, and properly closed the kimono.  Leah was wearing a lace bra and panties and they both giggled at the ‘inappropriate’ underwear.

Maichio slapped Leah’s belly good naturedly.  “You get too fat to close the obi!

She then redressed Leah, correctly bloused the kimono so the vertebra in the neck showed (the height of sexuality in Japan!) and rewrapped the obi sash.

Success!  Leah  wasn’t  ‘dead’ anymore!  She got a quick lesson in important  Japanese words and how to bow correctly.  Maichio got two kisses and the eternal gratitude from this now alive girl.  She also was given quick instruction in how to walk with dignity in her high geta, like a geisha perhaps, or a soupcon of that.

Though Leah and Maichio thought there were no people watching, if there were, their mouths would have been wide open as Maichio demonstrated for Leah the ‘sexy’ figure- eight walk in high geta, the trademark of a professional Geisha.  The feet are dragged at a pointed angle forward, in a looping curve, wide out from the body, but with the knees together.  One slowly placed in front of the other.  To do this and still stand, a Geisha would need the support of a maid, so tiny Maichio was Leah’s walking support.  Back and forth, up and down the aisle they walked, with Leah throwing her feet out to Maichio’s direction.  It rolls the hips in a very strange but sexy way and perhaps is why an experienced Geisha will use the figure-eight:  It advertises what is under the stiff kimono.

Leah left Maichio that evening with a heart overflowing. Maichio’s kind gestures had given Leah much room for thought.

Sometimes the borders between human hearts disappear, even when great wars are fought and there is bitterness enough to go around.   There will always be victors and vanquished.

The human heart is capable of great evil and greater compassion.

Maichio had come from Hiroshima, had lost her family and had been burned in the fires of 1945.  From this land of death there was always life to be honored, and she would fine a way, even in repairing a badly closed kimono.

Lady Nyo

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