Posts Tagged ‘Magical realism’

“Moon Child”, from “Song of the Nightingale”

April 26, 2018

Song Book cover

A few years ago I wrote and published “Song of the Nightingale”, on Amazon.  It was written in 13 episodes about a 16th century Japanese couple, married for decades and without children.  This series of poetry became part of “The Kimono”, to be published sometime this summer.

“Tsuki” is a word for moon.  Jizo is a Japanese Shinto god.

Lady Nyo was barren, a ‘stone’ woman.
Once there was hope of heirs,
Babies to raise, 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 –
These 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 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, 2011-2018

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