Posts Tagged ‘love and marriage’

“End Poem: Lord Nyo’s Resolve”, from “The Nightingale’s Song”

August 18, 2013

"The Nightingale's Song", End Poem in this series.

“End Poem: from Nightingale Part 9 

Strong man as I am,

Who force my way even through the rocks,

In love I rue in misery.



The rain ceased,

A cold light appeared

Dappling the ground beneath the gingko-

Like an indigo yukata.

Lord Nyo tiredly

Watched the morning grow,

His old bones stiff

As the autumn chill crawled up his spine-

Slow-moving, gait-crippling snakes.

Geese flew through peach clouds,

Their cries falling like chiding rain.

Paired for life these geese–

Like a man and woman should be.

His falcon,

Sitting in a bamboo cage,

Head tucked under a wing,

Feathers plumped against the

Raw morning breeze

Would want to hunt.

Lord Nyo preferred his warm bed.

Un-hooding the falcon,

Placing the bird on glove,

He launched her in air,

Watched her circle the firmament,

Soar in wide circles.

How beautiful!  How free!

Glossy feathers, sharp eyed,

Giving a shrill hunting cry

As she scanned earth.

She would come to his call,

This loyal bird–

She would not fly away.

Why did his wife not fly away?

As beautiful as this falcon,

As desirable by beauty,

Wit and breeding as any–

Yet she remained with him,

If not on his glove.

Once I did believe

Myself to be a warrior

Though I have found

Love has caused me to grow thin

Since my love was not returned.


The problem was not his wife.

The problem was this:

He could not bend,

Tightly laced in the armor,

In service to his own lord.

Ah, if she were here

We could listen together

To the sound of passing geese

Crying in the rising sun.


All day Lord Nyo cast his falcon

Into the air.

She brought down birds,

While he flushed out rabbits,

The voice of his bow sang

Until his saddle bags

Were full, heavy.


His mind did not turn

From poems flowing

From the river of his heart.

Although a warrior

I am lying and weeping here

While I make for you

A comb of willow branch-

Let it adorn your hair.




My longing for her

Is a thousand waves that roll

From the sea each day

Why is it so difficult

To clasp that jewel to my wrist?


If from her mouth

There hung a hundred-year-old tongue

And she would babble

I still would not cease to care

But indeed my love would grow.



All day Lord Nyo

And falcon hunted,

Until darkness fell

And still he loathed

Returning home.

He struggled so hard.

What was of stone?

What was of flesh?

He remembered an old

Verse from the Man’yoshu:

Instead of suffering

This longing for my loved one

I would rather choose

To become a stone or tree

Without feelings or sad thoughts



He was neither stone nor tree

He was a man

In sore need of the comfort

Of hearth and home,

And especially a loving wife!

Near dawn,

When birds awoke-

Began their morning chatter,

Lord Nyo turned towards home

Came through the wicket gate

Standing open, expecting him.

A bright cup of moon

Was low in the eastern sky,

Grinning like a demented god,

Through the morning fog.

Banji wa yume.

All things are merely dreams.


His  wife on the veranda,

Quilted robe thrown over her head,

And only a small- wicked lantern

Did light her.

Lord Nyo slid off his horse

And bowed deeply to Lady Nyo,

A gesture without words

A gesture not needing them.

Lord Nyo mounted the steps

Pulled his wife to him and

Arm in arm,

They entered the house

To pillow in each other

While the uguisu–

The ‘poem-singing’ bird

Welcomed them from her

Branch in the plum tree.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011, 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


Lord Nyo’s Continuing Lament, Part 7, from “The Nightingale’s Song”

August 9, 2013

Samurai Lovers, #2


Lord Nyo’s Continuing Lament, from “The Nightingale’s Song” Part 7


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 to life,

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 he would enter her quarters,

Pick his way carefully across the mats

Larded with colorful lumps of sleeping women

And pillow 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,  the 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, 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


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