Posts Tagged ‘Lord Nyo’

“Lord Nyo’s Return”, from “Song of the Nightingale”, Episode 12.

May 24, 2018

images (9)

This is only a part of Episode 12 as it is long.

Perhaps a strong man
Should not offer love without
Having love returned
But this grieving ugly warrior
Still finds his love is growing


Lord Nyo stunk with the blood of battle
As his bow and swords cut a swath
Through men in service to another.
When the battle horns went silent,
With tattered banners like defeated clouds
Limp over the field,
Acrid smoke stained everything
And the piteous cries of the dying
Echoed in his ears.
He wondered if his life would end here.

But the gods that he didn’t believe in
Were merciful, he lived
And his thoughts turned from fierce, ugly warriors
Towards home and a baby.

It took a month
For Lord Nyo to lead his remaining men,
Battle-weary and maimed
Some in body, all in spirit
Some not destined for further life,
But to die in the arms of women and temple priests,
In the shade of Gassan mountain.
No shame in this,
They had fought like devils
And only their daimyos
Could claim ‘victory’.

Lord Nyo pushed himself,
His aging war horse,
His men,
Only stopping to bathe
Once in a cold mountain stream,
To wash the dust of battle
From his eyes,
The soot of many fires from his face.
He still looked like a ghoul,
would frighten any baby.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016

Song Book cover

“Song of the Nightingale” can be obtained at

‘Lord Nyo Meets His Son’, from “The Nightingale’s Song”, Part 12

September 29, 2013

fullmoon mystery moon

Two years ago this November  Marge Chester died.  The night before she did, she called  to discuss this last episode of  what was to become “The Nightingale’s Song”.  She said these words of Lord Nyo, ‘this grieving ugly warrior’, had made her cry. She  followed the series of poems and had ‘become close’ to Lord Nyo and his transformation, his struggle to change in thinking and behavior.  Marge was a friend for over 24 years, the mate of my cousin Bobby who also died.  I couldn’t have had a better and kinder friend.  She was the strongest woman I have known. This end espisode is dedicated to Marge.

Lady Nyo

Perhaps a strong man

Should not offer love without

Having love returned

But this grieving ugly warrior

Still finds his love is growing


Lord Nyo stunk with the blood of battle

As his bow and swords cut a swath

Through men in service to another,

When the battle horns went silent,

With tattered banners like defeated clouds

Limp over the field,

Acrid smoke stained everything

And the piteous cries of the dying

Echoed in his ears.

He wondered if his life would end here.

But the gods he didn’t believe in

Were mercifulHe lived,

And his thoughts turned from fierce, ugly warriors

Towards home and a baby.

It took   a month

For Lord Nyo to lead his remaining men,

Battle-weary and maimed

Some in  body, all in spirit

Some not destined for further life,

But to die in the arms of women

In the shade of Gassan mountain.

No shame in this,

They had fought like devils

And only their daimyos

Could claim ‘victory’.

Lord Nyo pushed himself,

His aging war horse,

His men,

Only stopping to bathe

Once in a cold mountain stream,

To wash the dust of battle

From his eyes,

The soot of many fires from his face.

He still looked like a ghoul,

would frighten any baby.

Finally he came through the wicket gate

Of his house,

Saw the assembly of servants, women

And Lady Nyo on the veranda,

All bowing to the ground

In honor of their lord,

Though Lady Nyo held his new son

Like a Madonna before her,

And Lord Nyo, ugly, old warrior that he was,

Felt the sting of a woman’s tears fill his eyes.

He bowed to his wife,

A deep, respectful bow,

And went to view his son

In the arms of his lady.

His son was blowing bubbles,

Cooing like a turtle dove

But when he saw his father,

His leather armor and helmet still on his head,

His eyes widened in fright

Then shut tight

As he howled like a dog

Greeting the full Moon!

The women all shuddered!

What a greeting to a new father,

And what would their lord do?

Lord Nyo narrowed his eyes,

Threw back his head

And gave a great howl of his own.

Tsuki stopping in mid-yowl,

Staring at this leather-clad stranger

Who would dare howl louder than he!

It was not seemly

For a great warrior,

Just back from a long battle

To show such interest in a child,

But Lord Nyo put all that aside.

A tender nature came forth

And no one would laugh or smirk,

For he was a new father,

Though an aged one,

And would by rights,

Enjoy his only son.

He fashioned leather balls

To roll under bamboo blinds

To entice Tsuki

Like a kitten to chase,

even poked a small hole in the shoji

Of his lady’s rooms so he could watch

Unknown (he thought)

Of the servants and even his wife,

But all knew and whispered

Behind their sleeves

And noted his curious love.

No one thought the lesser of him for doing this.

Lord Nyo made

By his own hand

A tiny catalpa-wood bow,

With tinier arrows,

Fitted with feathers from a hummingbird

And arrow heads of small bone,

Something to shoot at birds,

Or perhaps cats,

But Tsuki only gnawed on the gleaming wood,

His teeth coming in,

And all he could reach

Was his personal chew-toy.

One day soon after his return,

Lord Nyo peered through the shoji,

Watched the old nurse bathe his son

When Tsuki climbed from his bath

And started to cross the tatami mat.

Lord Nyo saw the tail,

And almost tearing the shoji off its tracks,

Stormed into the room.

“Wife, Wife!

What little devil have your spawned!

What malevolent kami have you lain with!”

Lady Nyo, writing a poem in her journal

Rose quickly from her low table

And rushed into the room.

“My Lord!

I am told this little tail

Will disappear in time.

It marks our son for now

As a gift of the gods.

This little vestigial tail

Portends great deeds to be done

By our Tsuki.”

The old nurse shrunk back,

Well familiar with the temper

Of her lord,

Praying at this moment

For the kindness of a stray kami

To turn her into a bar of soap.

Tsuki, for his part

Saw his father

And with a great squeal of joy

Crawled as fast as his fat little legs could carry him,

His tail a propeller going round and round

Not at all helping the situation.

Lord Nyo staggered back against the shoji

Ripping even more of the delicate rice paper

And the frame asunder.

Lady Nyo rushed to pick Tsuki up,

Wrapping him and his offending tail

In the long sleeve of her kimono,

Holding him to her breast


But Tsuki wanted his father

And cried, “Baba, Baba!”

With a piteous tone,

Not knowing the proper name for Father,

As the nurse rolled her eyes

Cowering behind her lady,

Wondering if this ugly, old warrior

Had lost his wits in battle.

We know Tsuki was a gift of the gods,

Or at least Tsukiyomi,

The god of the Moon.

When Tsuki was in his basket

And the moon was full,

Lady Nyo and her old nurse

Placed small lanterns around his cradle,

To lessen the glow of her son,

As he slept in the moonlight.

It was unearthly how much Tsuki gleamed at night

But how pale tofu-colored he appeared during the day.

One night of the full Moon,

Lord Nyo lay besides his wife

And was awakened by Tsuki gurgling

From his basket.

His son talking to the

Moonbeams which danced into the room

From the high window above his cradle.

The small-wicked lanterns had burned out

And the moon and the moon child

Brightened the room.

Lord Nyo watched his son weave strands of moonbeam

With his feet, cooing and laughing,

Clear crystal ribbons of light floating

Around him

Out the window

And up to the moon.

He saw the benevolent face of Tsukiyomi above,

Looking with obvious love at his son.

Lord Nyo felt the weariness of years fall away;

Felt tender love for this Moon-child,

And yes, both of them blessed by the changeable gods,

A gift for an ugly, old warrior

A gift of life in the midst of such death,

A gift for the remaining years of his life.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2012, 2013

“The Battlefield”, from “The Nightingale’s Song”, Part 11

September 22, 2013

Samurai in Battle on Horse


 ” The Battlefield”

There’s no gap or break
in the ranks of those marching
under the hill:
an endless line of dying men,
coming on and on and on….



When the news of Lady Nyo

Birthing a son

Reached Lord Nyo

He was far from home,

To the east,

Over mountains

In dangerous, alien territory.

A general in the service

Of his lord,

The gore of battle,

The issue of ‘dying with honor’

Began at first light,

The air soon filled with sounds of battle-

Dying horses, dying men

Drawing their last gasps of life,

Churned into the mud of immeasurable violence.

The river of death
is swollen with bodies
fallen into it;
in the end of the bridge
of horses cannot help.




Death, not new life

Was before his eyes at dawn,

And death, not life

Pillowed his head at night.


A battle rages around me,

But inside this old warrior

A battle rages inside my heart.

It is heavy with sorrow,

So tired beyond my old bones.


What good have we done

In watering the soil

With blood and offal

of sons?


He stunk with the blood of battle

As his bow and swords cut a swath

Through men in service to another

And when the battle horns went silent,

With tattered banners like defeated clouds

 Hanging limp over the field,

Acrid smoke stained everything

And the piteous cries of the dying

Echoed in his ears.

He wondered if his life would end here.

But the gods that he didn’t believe in

Were merciful

And his thoughts turned from fierce, ugly warriors

Towards home and a baby.

Still, he could not leave.

He was caught by status

The prestige of his clan

And could not desert the

Fate set out for him from his birth.

Ah! This was fate of a man in servitude

To his Lord Daimyo.

This was the fate

Of a man chained to Honor.


Still, in the darkest hours of the night

The soft and perfumed shape of his wife

Floated down to him from the fleeting clouds,

Came to him through the smoke of battlefield fires,

And he turned on his pallet

To embrace this haunting comfort.


Off in the distance

There I see my loved one’s home

On the horizon.

How I long to be there soon

Get along black steed of mine!



Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2012 (October 17th, 2012)  2013



‘Moon Baby’, from “The Nightingale’s Song”, Part 10

September 16, 2013


"Moon Child" from "The Nightingale's Song", Part II


There are three more episodes in “The Nightingale’s Song”. This is the first one.

Lady Nyo 



“Moon! Glorious Moon!

Shine on my empty belly

Give me a sweet child.

—Lady Nyo


Lady Nyo was barren.

Once there was hope of heirs,

Babies to raise and coddle.

But fate provided nothing

Not even a stillborn to mourn,

Buried under the snow

With the fog of incense rising

To a leaden sky.


Many times Lady Nyo

Passed the temple of the humble Lord Jizo,

Riding in her palm-leaf carriage

Drawn by white oxen adorned with ribbons, bells.

Many times she peeked through curtains

At his simple, stone statue,

Bedecked with babies’ bids, knitted hats,

The offering of a grateful mother, or

A mournful one.


Ah! To be as much a woman

As her lowest servant with a swelling belly!

How she wanted to leave her own offering

Of her child’s garment at his feet!



Lady Nyo decided to make a pilgrimage.

She would walk barefoot through the fragrant murasaki grass,

She would wear a humble hemp gown,

She would seek advice from temple priests.


Lady Nyo and her old nurse set out one morning,

And though her old nurse grumbled and groaned,

Lady Nyo was the vision of piety walking

Through the delicate morning mists –

Two  frail ghosts of nothingness.


The priest had a long, red nose,

Wore a robe none too clean,

And he scratched at lice

Under the folds of his gown.

He had feathers growing in his ears

And feet like a large bird.


A Tengu!

A trifler of men and women!

But they were staring at his nose,

And missed his feet.


“When the Moon grows full,

Row out in the bay,

Directly under the Moon

And climb up a long ladder.

You will be pulled by the Moon’s tides

To its surface,

And there you will find what you want.”


When the Moon blossomed into a large

Bright lantern in the sky,

They rowed out in the bay,

Two trusted ladies to steady the ladder

And one to spare.

Lady Nyo kicked off her geta,

Tucked her gown into the obi

(exposing her lady-parts),

And ignoring the remarks of her old nurse,

Climbed directly under the Moon.


So powerful

Was the pull of the Moon

That fish and crabs,

Seahorses and seaweed,

Octopi, too

Rose straight up from the waters

Into the night’s air!

Lady Nyo’s hair and sleeves

Were also pulled by the Moon

And her kimono almost came over her head!


With a summersault

She flipped onto the surface

And found her bare feet

Sinking into the yellow-tofu of the Moon.


She heard a gurgling

And gurgling meant babies,

So she searched on spongy ground

Followed by a few seahorses who were curious

And a few fish who weren’t.


Past prominent craters

One could see from the Earth,

Lady Nyo found a baby tucked in the Moon’s soil.


Ah! A fat little boy blowing bubbles,

Sucking on toes,

Bright black eyes like pebbles

Black hair as thick as brocade!


Lady Nyo bent down,

And lifting him

She heard a sucking noise.

He was attached to the Moon

By a longish tail

That thrashed around like a little snake

As she pulled him free.


She placed him at her milk-less breast

But soon he grimaced and started to howl,

 So she tucked him in her robe,

Aimed for the ladder,

Somersaulted back into the night,

Where she and her ladies rowed for shore.


The baby, now named Tsuki,

Was put to a wet nurse

His tail mostly disappearing,

Shriveling up like a proper umbilical cord–

Though there remained a little vestigial tail

That wagged with anticipation when placed at the breast,

Or when the full Moon appeared

In the black bowl of night.


The Tengu had flown the coop,

Never to be seen again.

But Lady Nyo no longer envied ladies

With swelling bellies,

For her own arms were full and heavy

With this yellow Moon-child.


Through fragrant fields

Of murasaki grass,

Lady Nyo and Tsuki

Would walk alone,

Where they would lay

Offerings of knitted bibs,

Strings of money, toys

And a feather

At the feet of Lord Jizo,

When the Moon was fullest

In a promising sky.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2012, 2013





Lady Nyo’s Torment, Part II, from “The Nightingale’s Song”

August 13, 2013
Samurai Woman

Samurai Woman

… The poetry in this part of “The Nightingale’s Song” is from the Man’yoshu and my own original poetry.

Lady Nyo


 “The cicada cries

Everyday at the same hour

But I’m a woman much in love and very weak

And can cry anytime”


The rain cleared, the sun came out

And all was polished bronze.

Leaves sparkled, the air shining.

Lady Nyo would visit a shrine,

Had her palm-leaf carriage

With the white ox made ready.

There on the carriage cushion

Was a bone-white fan.

“How strange. And here

In my carriage!”

Lady Nyo opened the fan,

Saw the character

And her face went from

Pale to red,

Changing with the speed of a squid.

Oh! How elegant!

How sublime this character!

Of an excellent hand,

Surely a noble one,

Of great depth and emotion.

Then she recovered herself.

How fickle she was!

How shallow,

How low her nature

That it would allow her to be

Swayed by a stranger’s painted fan!

She would  not  answer this

She would end it.

She would remain

A virtuous wife,

Would not sully these long years

Of marriage with a trifler.

Let her dreams be enough passion,

Let her unbidden dreams keep her warm.

But could she live like that?

Better to be a shave- headed nun

Take up the staff with iron rings–

Hold a begging bowl!

At dusk,

Lady Nyo took to her inkstone,

And in her journal

Wrote poems,

Verse she hoped would

Cleanse her soul,

Rest her mind–

Calm her heart.

“While I wait for you

With longing in my breast

Back here at home

My bamboo blinds are fluttered

By the blowing autumn breeze.”

“The moon has risen

To that predetermined point

And I am thinking:

The time has come to go outside

And wait for his arrival.”


“Even the breeze

Increases painful longing

Even the breeze

But I know he will come

So why feel grief in waiting?”

So lonely am I

My soul like a floating weed

Severed at the roots

Drifting upon cold waters

No pillow for further dreams.

The autumn air floated

Down from nearby Moon Mountain,

A holy place where no woman

Could tread the path.

The darkening dusk

Fused the color of leaves, pines

And a Corn Moon mounted the sky.


The morning wren sings

I kneel in the moonlit dawn

Kimono wrapped tight

Last night I made my peace

Now free from all attachments


Lady Nyo knelt on the veranda

A paper lantern behind her–

Monstrous shadows in the night-gloom.

She would wait for her husband

She would wait until the winds

Of dawn blew down from Moon Mountain

And brought with them

The return of her mate.

“From the high mountain

The sound of a crying stag

Carries down valleys

How inspiring is his voice

Like yours, my loving lord.”


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011, 2013


Lady Nyo’s Torment, from “The Nightingale’s Song”, Part 6

August 6, 2013

Man'yoshu image II

Lady Nyo’s Torment, from “The Nightingale’s Song”, Part 6


“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.”


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,

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.”




“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, 2011, 2013


The Stillness of Death, from “The Nightingale’s Song”

July 22, 2013

japanese ghosts

I am going to post one poem of this (work in progress) book each week.  I am working on revisions so hopefully I can continue on this schedule. Readers might notice changes in these pieces, the ones I have posted on this blog before, but that is to be expected.  Thank you all who read this work.

Lady Nyo

THE STILLNESS OF DEATH, from Nightingale



“My heart, like my clothing

Is saturated with your fragrance.

Your vows of fidelity

Were made to our pillow and not to me.”

—-12th century

Kneeling before her tea

Lady Nyo did not move.

She barely breathed-

Tomorrow depended

Upon her action today.

Lord Nyo was drunk again.

When in his cups

The household scattered.

Beneath the kitchen

Was the crawl space

Where three servants

Where hiding.

A fourth wore an iron pot.

Lord Nyo was known

For three things:



And drink.

Tonight he strung

His seven foot bow,

Donned his quiver

High on his back.

He looked at the pale face

Of his aging wife,

His eyes blurry, unfocused.

He remembered the first time

pillowing her.

She was fifteen,

Her body powdered petals,

Bones like butter,

Black hair  trailing bo silk.

The blush of shy passion

Had coursed through veins

A tinted stream.

Still beautiful 

Now too fragile for his taste.

Better a plump whore,

Than this delicate, saddened beauty.

He drew back the bow

In quick succession

Let five arrows pierce

The shoji.

Each grazed the shell ear

Of his wife.

Life hung on her stillness.

She willed herself dead.

Death after all these years

Would have been welcome.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted , 2013

“The Kimono”, Chapter 15, and a new tanka.

April 12, 2013
Samurai Woman

Samurai Woman

A mourning dove cries
It is such a mournful sound
Perhaps a fierce owl
Has made it a widower?
Oh! It breaks my heart, his cry.

…a new tanka.

People who read this blog have read some of the chapters of this very long novel. It’s been incubating for 6 years. Other projects, including 3 published books and one more ” Pitcher of Moon”, have come it front of “The Kimono”.

Recently, I have gone back to reading this work. What you wrote six years before isn’t what you would write now perhaps…so there is some tinkering to be done. However, I am very close to the end of this book and that means a long rewrite. But it’s almost finished. It’s always a case of living long enough to finish something.

This is a middle of the book chapter. For those readers who aren’t familiar with this story, it’s a time-warp tale, where this Japanese/American woman Mari from the 21st century, with all the education and some knowledge of past history, buys an antique kimono and is zapped back into 17th century Japan. She literally falls at the feet of this daimyo, (feudal war lord) Lord Mori. He has been commanding the kimono for a while, toying with what it brings, and now has lost control of it. A different master commands the kami (spirit) of the kimono and Mari is now stuck in the 17th century. Before she could go back and now she can’t.

This era of Japan is particularly interesting to me. The Shogun demanded all daimyo (I believe there were 27 at the time, war lords who ruled over particular regions) travel to Edo every two years to pay tribute to him. Actually, this was a very smart idea to keep the daimyos from each others throats. It disrupted most battles between these warlords and if they did there was hell to pay from the capital.

Lord Yoki is actually a Tengu, a shapeshifter but also well known to Lord Mori and Lord Ekei. Lady Nyo is in ‘charge’ of the education of Mari and has her own thoughts about this favorite of Lord Mori. She doesn’t know about the kimono’s power and where Mari has come from, but she is more than curious. Actually, Mari, being half Caucasian, looks like the peoples from Hokkaido, which is at the top of Japan. These people have Caucasian features until the early 20th century, because they probably migrated from Russia. So Mari is supposed to be from this region.

This Lady Nyo, not the other in the chapter.

Chapter 15, The Kimono

On the first day of the month called Uzuki, or u-no-hana (flower), Lord Mori called a council of his closest advisors, minus his trusted carp. Fierce spring winds were whipping the cherry trees and petals filled the air, falling like late spring snow.

His advisers were Lords Ekei, Yoki and Nyo, with the requested attendance of the Lady Nyo.

Lady Nyo knelt behind her husband. She was not comfortable in the presence of these lords. She was not amongst Lord Mori’s advisors, and as a woman, of course was out of place. What could be her purpose for being here? She arranged her kimono hems and sleeves with little movement, and settled in to listen.

The morning was chilly –an early spring day. The fog had disappeared and she could hear the ducks and geese on the water near the castle.

She noticed an unraveling thread on top of the shoulder of her Lord Nyo. She would have to mend it before it got worse. Ah, men. They were like children without women around.

She bowed her head, as a proper wife should, but watched the men carefully. The movements of Lord Yoki caught her attention. This was a strange bird! He even looked a bit like a bird with a large, red beak. She thought he probably drank more than his share of sake. A red nose was a tell-tale sign of that. His kimono, though of a good quality, was filthy, splattered with stains. He had a disgusting way of hacking, spitting on the floor besides him. Lady Nyo shuddered. At least he could carry some paper handkerchiefs and use them.

The men’s voices droned on. She thought she should listen more closely, but by the Gods! These men were talking of how many soldiers they could gather, who was a vassal to depend upon and who would have to be nudged, bribed or threatened depending on their status. All of them were in obeisance to Lord Mori, but some had to be reminded of their obligations.

Lord Mori was a powerful lord, but these years had been peaceful. Lord Kiyami threatening Lord Mori would be a terrible thing. Lord Mori would have to wage war against Lord Kiyami.

Ah! There were so many obstacles to a quiet life!

Lady Nyo felt her head would crack. All this talking of war! By the Shogun’s decree, no daimyo could wage war against another. That was common knowledge. Exile or death would be the end for any foolhardy daimyo who dared to breech the edict of Heaven.
But the region was so far from the capitol! Akita faced the Ou and Dewa mountain ranges to the east, and the Sea to the west. Sometimes it took months before important travelers even came to the castle. If Lord Kiyami ringed the mountain passes with his vassals, well, there would be battles and hardships aplenty for all of them.

Ah, there were many obstacles to a peaceful life. It was quite the maneuver for Lord Mori to gather his vassals and men to make the trek to the capitol every two years. But it was demanded of the Shogun. It kept the daimyos from each other’s throats, but with Lord Kiyami, it might now not be working. She had gone on a number of occasions and her eyes had been dazzled by the splendor of the Shogun’s court. The silks and colors and sumptuous robes and elegant manners were enough to fill her head with dreams! She would admit, though, to be glad to go home to her more humble house back in the mountains of Akita. One could take just so much pomp and splendor.

She was descended from a powerful samurai family who was close to the Heian court centuries ago. Her family had suffered the swings of fortune and though she was from a minor wing of the Fujiwara clan, she could hold up her head. Her father had been a court official and her marriage to her Lord considered a good one. Though she had no children, she was still within the breeding age. She prayed and left small offerings at shrines.

Ah! Fate would rule, and the meek Lady Nyo knew she was a pawn in the larger game of life. Fate was on the side of men.

The men’s voices droned on. Lord Yori was still hawking and spitting. He looked like an unwashed goblin!

She fixed a small smile on her face. She had too much breeding to reveal her sentiments. She wondered though, about the Lady Mari. What kind of breeding did she have? Where did that woman come from? Her husband told her not to ask questions of the Lady Mari, but to serve with total devotion. She understood that. She had been given a great task and responsibility. Her Lord Mori had honored her with his confidence in her humble abilities. She still had her private, most inner thoughts, and no lord could stop her from thinking.

There were many things about Lady Mari that were a mystery. Lady Nyo could admit she was a bit envious of Lady Mari. How did she happen to capture the eye of Lord Mori? There were many other women who would be proper concubines, even a wife for this desirable lord. Why the rather plain Lady Mari? She was not educated as a court woman. No, she would embarrass the plainest court in the land. Only just in the last short amount of time had the Lady Mari even been able to kneel properly!

Where did she come from? Who were her family? She never talked about that, and that was of the most importance under heaven!

And she was rather….strange looking. Too tall and thin for a proper woman, of course she had been sick with the breeding and the loss of the child, but there was something strange about her.

Lady Nyo smiled. She had heard the great Lord Tokugawa had even called her ugly! Of course he was drunk at the time, but this certainly was no stain on him. Most men got drunk, some every night and such a great lord as he would be above any reproach.
But he had called her ugly and she had been present! Oh, what a loss of face for the Lady Mari!

Lady Nyo’s brow furrowed. What could be the attraction of Lord Mori to this woman? Was it possible he saw something beyond her awkward, unpolished ways and had fallen in love with this creature? Was it possible the Lady Mari could cast a spell like a mountain spirit? Surely the great Lord Mori was immune to such things.

Her husband, when drunk on sake, once said Lord Mori had his own magic. Whether this was but drunken words or something else, her husband had laughed and rolled over on his back. He refused to talk further about his lord and fell asleep, snoring loudly.
Ah, there were so many mysteries in the air!

But….what is it that makes a man and a woman know that they, of all other men and women in the world, belong to each other? Is it no more than chance and meeting? No more than being alive in the world at the same time? Do clan and family, position and status mean nothing?

Suddenly she felt sad. She had a good marriage, but her lord was not of the best temper. No, he was a man, and little of the heart could be expected of them.

Year after year, it was as if she was holding her breath, waiting for something to happen, for life to change, for life to start, something she could not even recognize…to happen. The other women had children and she had none. They drew comfort from their babies, their growing children. She had none of this comfort. No, none of this comfort. And knowing how his mother was, her esteemed mother in law, well, she already knew what the baby’s name would be: Kusako, “Shit Child” if a girl, and Akoguso, “Cute Little Shit” if a boy. Her mother, too, would nag her until they were named such names. All to keep the demons away.

Lady Nyo sighed audibly. She threw her hand to her mouth in embarrassment, glancing at Lord Mori. He was listening to another. Only her husband twitching his shoulder showed he had heard.

Men. They were strange and cruel creatures, neh? Her lord was no exception. Who knew what repelled and attracted a man?

Finally the meeting ended. She rocked back on her heels and rose, now a bit stiff, bowing to the Lord Mori. He motioned for her to come to him, and with her eyes cast down she approached.

The Lord Mori looked down on this tiny, plump woman, her hair arranged in braids pinned around her head.

“How does the Lady Mari fare, Lady Nyo?”

Ah, she thought! This is why he wanted me in the room. Well, I can tell him what I know.

“To my eyes, she is well, my Lord.”

“Does she sleep well? Is she in pain?”

“She sleeps well, my lord. The doctor gave me a potion to give to her before she sleeps, but she is now only sleeping during the night with a long nap during the day.”

“And the doctor predicts that she will fully recover?”

“He is hopeful, my Lord, the Lady Mari will regain her full strength.”

Lord Mori grunted approval, and fell silent. Lady Nyo thought he had more than a passing interest in the health of Lady Mari and she was correct.

“Since these are matters of women, I will rely upon your experience, Lady Nyo.”

Lady Nyo bowed in gratitude.

“However, …..I am thinking the Lady Mari would be bored before long and as I have these issues with my Lord Kiyami to attend, I will not be able to give her much direction. You understand?”

“Of course, my lord. I was thinking perhaps Lady Mari could compile her poetry in a book. She could ‘talk to the paper’ and perhaps that will spur her interest in life.

“Do you think she is becoming despondent, Lady Nyo?”

“Oh, my lord! I am no one to have such powers of observation! However….given a task she would enjoy would hasten her health.”
Lord Mori grunted. Whether he was expressing approval or not was hard to tell. It was always hard to tell with men.

“Has the doctor expressed why she lost the child?”

She was surprised at the directness of his question. Men usually were not interested in such things. She had her own ideas why Mari lost the baby.

“If I may venture a thought, my lord, and it is only my own.”

“Granted. Tell me your thoughts.”

Lady Nyo knew thin ice when she saw it, but she would skate on.

“Perhaps the problem lay within the fifth month of her bearing, my lord. As you know, according to the Shinto calendar, the Day of the Dog celebrates the bearing and guards the baby from harm. Since the Dog is a messenger of the Gods and chases the evil spirits away, perhaps it would have been auspicious to present the Lady Mari to the temple and for the donning of the hara-obi. As you know, this sash would have protected her baby and kept it warm.”

Lord Mori’s eyes narrowed. If Lady Nyo had looked up at his face, perhaps she would have thought to have angered him.

True, thought Lady Nyo, this presentation to the temple priests was done within the company of both grandmothers and since the Lady Mari had just appeared out of thin air with no family and no known clan…at least known to her, well, it was all rather confusing….and improper. Of course, she could not express her opinion, except to her husband and maybe not even him.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007-2013

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

February 7, 2013
Japanese Ghosts

Japanese Ghosts

This “Temptation” is part of a series of ‘long’ poems, (not choka) that will go into “The Nightingale’s Song”. Hopefully I will be able to publish this 10 part series this summer.

Lady Nyo, but not the same one tempted…..

Haiku for today:

Fallen leaves crackle.
Sparrows add the treble notes.
Season’s musical.


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 else
Except the other ladies.

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

“Lady Nyo Forgives Her Husband”….and a continuation of National Haiku Month.

February 4, 2013

Haiku Crane

This is National Haiku Month: Write a haiku a day.

Fallen leaves crackle.
Sparrows add the treble notes.
Season’s musical.

Dogwoods are blooming
The crucifixion appears
White moths in the night.

I will not shed tears
Let the tall murasaki
wet my silken sleeves.

Outside the window
there is a world of chaos
Inside, warm fire.

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

The north wind blows hard
Chills both man and animal
Life is not certain.

Haiku (classical form) is done as 5-7-5. There are many who creatively write ‘outside the box’. I still count on my fingers, and squeeze the ‘haiku’ into the box.

The poems (Lady Nyo Forgives Her Husband) were written a few years ago in answer to “Bad Quarrel”. And extended version of both are in “A Seasoning of Lust”, published by, 2009, plus more stories of Lady Nyo. I am trying to fit them in the upcoming book “The Nightingale’s Song”. Right now I haven’t a clue what to do with them, but they should be in there. Perhaps I will just stick them in the middle of the book and leave it at that.

Lady Nyo (not the one of the poems but sometimes too close for comfort)



Stop tickling me!
Yes, I forgive you,
but you take such liberties!
Your hands are not clean from
previous crimes.
Go wash them in the snow of
last year’s falling.
Then I will reconsider your request.


Look! There is a cardinal,
red as blood and as cocky
as a lord.
See his mate?
She is dull, but has her lipstick
on this morning.


Last night I thought of you
My face still bears the blushes.
You thought it was good health?
No, just reflects the liberty
of dreams.


(My mind is still shattered
My heart still sore)
But I put on a fresh face
full of smiles and polite manner.
It would shock our friends if
they knew the turmoil of
my heart.


You came with a mouthful of ‘sorry’
and leave now with other parts eased.
Never mind.
Your coming and going has served a dual purpose.


The spring is so tender.
My heart blooms like the white plums.
Do you think our happiness will last
til apple time?


Off you go,
and don’t look back.
If you turn, you will see serenity.
But behind this mask,
is a well of longing.


Last night
I tied my kimono tightly,
bound it with a red silk rope
like an impassioned lover’s hands
around a wasp waist,
and kneeling upon a cushion,
awaited the rising of the moon.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2013

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