Posts Tagged ‘ 2011’

November 11, 2012

Autumn colors from my bathroom window today

Working in the backyard all day, I’m dog tired. But the property looks better, with hens corralled and rye grass sown in expectation of that beautiful Irish green come early spring.

What sustained me was what was around….the full blown beauty of the fall, still color dripping on this canvas, the heavy rains of last week merciful to the trees and their jewel-like glory. I took this picture from my upstairs bathroom window. The light was good and though almost dusk, the colors stood out. A flock of Sandhill cranes were high above, honking mournfully and it looked like their GPS was broken as they circled repeatedly in formation. The winds were carassing my tired bones and for once, the three hounds were laying around sunning themselves and not underfoot.

Much to be thankful for, especially the good advice of dear friends.

Lady Nyo


Stuttering winds blow across
Clouds tinted by the failing sun.
Brittle air softens,
Now a faded blue–
Shade of an old man’s watery eyes.

A late flock of Sandhill cranes lift off,
Pale bodies blending in the
Twilight with legs
Flowing dark streamers,
Their celestial cries fall to
A harsh, chiding rain.

The trees in the valley
Are massed in darkness
As waning light leaches
Color from nature,
Creeps from field to hillock
And all below prepares for the
Rising of the Corn Moon.

Even frogs in the pond
Listen between croaks
For the intention of the night.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2010
From: White Cranes of Heaven, 2011

Samhain, A Celtic Winter poem

November 4, 2012

Samhain is the Winter Quarter season of the Celtic Calendar. The months from 1st of November to the 31st of January, it is the period of reflection, of remembrance of ancestors and wise old elders in our lives; it is the hallow-tide of all souls passing, the releaser of pain, the hollow of the winter twilight. It is the contemplative season of silence and stillness.

Lady Nyo

Dark mysterious season,
when the light doesn’t
quite reach the ground,
the trees shadow puppets
moving against the gray of day.

I think over the past year
praying there has been a
kindling in my soul,
the heart opened, warmed
and the juiciness of life is
more than in the loins–
a stream of forgiveness
slow flowing through the tough fibers
not stopper’d with an underlying
but softened with compassion.

This season of constrictions,
unusual emptiness,
brittle like dried twigs
desiccated by hoar frost
just to be endured.

I wrap myself in wool and
watch the migrations–
first tender song birds which harken
back to summer,
then Sandhill cranes,
legs thin banners
streaming behind white bodies,
lost against a snowy sky.

They lift off to a middling cosmos,
while I, earth-bound,
can only flap the wings of my shawl,
poor plumage for such a flight,
and wonder about my own destination.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2012
from “White Cranes of Heaven”,, 2011

“Mirror For The Moon”….a little poetry of Saigyo…and a very little of mine.

April 12, 2012


This is a very  little of Saigyo, the Heian-era priest and poet.  Reading, studying Saigyo is like falling into the rim of the Universe: you have no idea where you will land nor what you will learn.  But the trip will  profoundly change you.

In “Mirror For the Moon”, a collection of translations by William LaFleur of Saigyo, one gets the idea that Saigyo transcended the usual route, the accepted and comfortable route of poet/priests of that era.

There were tons of poetry written by many poets, officials, etc. about the moon, nature, flowers, etc.  But Saigyo’s poetry had an ‘edge’, a difference:  his view of blossoms, moon, nature, was not just the usual symbol of evanescence and youthful beauty:  his view of blossoms, nature, were more a path into the inner depth of this relationship between humanity and nature.   He spent 50 years walking the mountains, road, forests, fields all over Japan and his poetry (waka) reflected his deep understanding of the physicality of nature:  all seasons were felt and experienced not from the safety and comfort of a court, surrounded by other silk-clad courtier/poets,  but out there in the trenches of nature.  His poetry is formented in the cold and penetrating fall and spring rains, the slippery paths upon mountain trails, the ‘grass pillows’ (the term which stands in for journey) and a thin cloak, the deep chill of winter snows upon a mountain, the rising  mists that befuddle orientation,  and especially, the loneliness of traveling without companionship. He had companionship at times. Sometimes other priests, sometimes poets, and sometimes travelling prostitutes, women who went on the road from town to town, generally dancers and singers.

Saigyo became a poet/priest, but before that he was and came from a minor samurai family.  He was, at the age of 22, a warrior.  He always struggled with his past in his long years of travel, wondering how this  former life impacted on his religious vows.  His poetry reflects this issue.

I have begun to re-acquaint myself with Saigyo and his poetry, having first come across his poems in 1990. There is something so profound, different, that calls down the centuries to the heart.  His poetry awakens my awe and wonder of not only nature-in-the-flesh, but in the commonality of the human experience.

Lady Nyo

Not a hint of shadow

On the moon’s face….but now

A silhouette passes–

Not the cloud I take it for,

But a flock of flying geese.

Thought I was free

Of passions, so  this melancholy

Comes as surprise:

A woodcock shoots up from marsh

Where autumn’s twilight falls.

Someone who has learned

How to manage life in loneliness:

Would there were one more!

He could winter here on this mountain

With his hut right next to mine.

Winter has withered

Everything in this mountain place:

Dignity is in

Its desolation now, and beauty

In the cold clarity of its moon.

When the fallen snow

Buried the twigs bent by me

To mark a return trail,

Unplanned, in strange mountains

I was holed up all winter.

Snow has fallen on

Field paths and mountain paths,

Burying them all

And I can’t tell here from there:

My journey in the midst of sky.

Here I huddle, alone,

In the mountain’s shadow, needing

Some companion somehow:

The cold, biting rains pass off

And give me the winter moon.

(I love this one especially: Saigyo makes the vow to be unattached to seasons, to expectations, but fails and embraces his very human limitations)

It was bound to be!

My vow to be unattached

To seasons and such….

I, who by a frozen bamboo pipe

Now watch and wait for spring.

(Love like cut reeds:)

Not so confused

As to lean only one way:

My love-life!

A sheaf of field reeds also bends

Before each wind which moves it.

(And Love like fallen leaves….)

Each morning the wind

Dies down and the rustling leaves

Go silent: Was this

The passion of all-night lovers

Now talked out and parting?

And in this reading of Saigyo, one can not help but try their own hand at  tanka.

Like the lithe bowing

Of a red maple sapling

My heart turns to you,

Yearns for those nights long ago

When pale skin challenged the moon.


The full moon above
Floats on blackened velvet seas,
Poet’s perfection!
But who does not yearn for a
Crescent in lavender sky?

The sound of frog-cries
In the pond floats a pale moon
Fresh life is stirring
An early owl goes hunting
Wise mice scatter for cover.

Cranes wheel in the sky

Their chiding cries fall to hard earth

Warm mid winter day

A pale half moon calls the birds

To stroke her face with soft wings.

I am sitting outside and have just heard this dove, with it’s mournful cry. There is nothing quite so beautiful, nor quite so sad that comes at dusk.

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.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2012


two of these tanka above from “White Cranes of Heaven”, 2011,

Saigyo’s from:

 “Mirror For the Moon”,  A Selection of Poems by Saigyo (1118-1190)




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