Posts Tagged ‘Lord Nyo’s Continuing Lament’

‘Lord Nyo’s Continuing Lament’ Part 5, from “The Nightingale’s Song”

August 2, 2013

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

Ome  is Plum in Japanese…as in Plum Tree. 

Kami  is a spirit, or demon…sort of.

Uguisu is one name for the Bush Warbler, or what stands in for the Nightingale.


Lady Nyo

Lord Nyo’s  Continuing Lament, Part 5


Lord Nyo was known

For three things:




He was attempting a fourth:


It wasn’t going well.


Leaving orders not to be disturbed

(He would have only tea and rice)

The servants thought their master possessed:

Possessed by a demon!

Possessed by an uncaring kami.

Who didn’t know sake was

The life-blood of their master?

What was next?

Would he throw aside his two swords

And take the tonsure– become a monk?


By the pale light of a moon

Too thin to fatten the road,

Lord Nyo applied himself

To brush and paper

His face a terrible scowl,

His tongue gripped between his teeth,

The air peppered with grunts and soft curses.


The bullfrogs outside called to him.

He remembered this same effort

Decades ago when his Priest-tutor

Attempted to refine his calligraphy

When all he wanted was a sharp stick

To gig frogs.  Ah!


Through the night

Lady Nyo and her old nurse

Watched from across the hall,

Watched the candle flare up and die

As Lord Nyo burned each poem,

Knowing his words inelegant

Sensing his mind too dull to enflame

The love, forgiveness, passion of his wife.


Towards dawn the cry of an uguisu

Pierced the dark,

Singing against the light

Of that watery moon,

The ‘poem-reading-bird’!

In a blossoming ome

Outside his window.


Her song went deep,

Rendering him helpless,

Stilling his whirling head,

Refreshing his heart.

It was such a simple thing.


Being of the world

He missed what was important.

Nature, in the form of a simple bird,

In the form of a tone-poem,

Was offering an answer:

A path to redemption

If only he would listen.


Lord Nyo picked up his brush,

Stroked it across the stone

Into the puddle of watery ink,

And with his wrist bent properly,

Wrote this character:



(Emptiness, a void, forgetting the forms of the material world.)



It was a start.

It was what the little bird sang:

Of emptiness, the void,

The return to his nature, to Nature,

That  finer nature,

Before the grizzled warrior–

The void where hope was possible,

Where his life could begin.


He slept that night

Listening to the frogs of his childhood

And the nightingale in the plum,

Both bathed in the watery moonlight.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011, 2013

‘Lord Nyo’s Continuing Lament’

November 15, 2011

Marge Chester 1947-2011

It is with a heavy heart I write of the death of Marge Chester. Marge was my best friend for many, many years.  Marge and I were born and raised in New Jersey and she was the partner of my deceased cousin, Bobby, for years. I called her “Coz” though we were not blood relations, but it didn’t matter.  Margie was a constant in my life and I am in a state of shock right now.  Margie was a long time reader and commentator on this blog, in fact in all my writing and she was a guiding light in so much of my life.  She died suddenly yesterday, and Roger, her partner for many years is also in shock.  Monday I sent her the end poem of this series, just for her, because I knew how enthusiastic she was about this tale and she was elated.  I called her and had a short talk, and then I find out this morning she has died without warning. Margie, we will miss you so much. You are so beloved.


Continuing this short series…. 

Lord Nyo galloped away-

He did not go far.

Armed with two swords,

His bow and falcon,

He halted at the edge of a grizzled field,

Autumn rain mixing with tufts of chaff

This harvested field

Forlorn, abandoned.

The scene fit his mood.

Sitting under an old gingko,

Only a few yellowed, fan-shaped leaves

Tiredly holding on

He pulled the bone-white fan

From his breast

And thought of poems

He vaguely remembered

From his youth.

What had seemed so right

The night before,

When he had taken his brush

To the task of reforming a life

Now in the cold rain

Under cover of gray morning,

Was more like folly–

The desperate hopes of an old fool.

What good was this brushed fan

When between man and wife

Was a sea filled with misery?

When hidden by bamboo blinds

He spied his wife quietly sitting,

Mending a gown,

Quilting a warm tunic,

While around her

Her women tittered like birds,

Laughing and playing finger games

While she,

Pale face serene,

Sat peacefully at work.

He remembered the early years

When entering her quarters,

He picked his way carefully across tatami

Larded with colorful lumps of sleeping women

And pillowed her in the dark

Unmindful of the snores

And nightmare-groans of her women.

He remembered her reading

Poems to him,

And shyly reading some of her own.

He marveled at her fertile mind.

She never carried a child.

He could have put her aside,

Taken another wife for heirs–

Yet he didn’t.

One old poem kept turning his brain.

A poem a thousand years old,

One that spoke deeply:

“This body of mine

has crossed the mountain barrier

and is here indeed!

But this heart of mine remains

drawing closer to my wife”

Lord Nyo reached inside his breast

And uncurled a paper

Plain, rough in texture,

And read what he had

Written,  one 

He did not burn.

Her voice sings

Like a bird beneath the leaves

Of a fall mountain.

If she’d only speak to me

What would we have to grieve?


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011

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