Posts Tagged ‘memories’

All The Old Men Are Gone…..a new poem

April 7, 2014


Dusk, jkohut-bartels, 2006?, watercolor

Dusk, jkohut-bartels, 2006?, watercolor


Thinking of my father who is gone, and the intriguing men of his era.


All The Old Men Are Gone


All the old men with beautiful manners are gone,

All the old men with courtly manners

who brush their lips or moustache over your hand

and look up the white pillar of your arm

and meet your eyes with sweet kindness or desire

Are gone.

The Hungarians, Italians and Russians who murmur into your eyes

with their own twinkling spheres gestures they find

‘deep in their hearts’ or perhaps like a well-oiled

Casanova, who glides across

the room and anchors your vanity to his side,

and you are glad for the flirtation

for it makes the stomach flip,

Life Suddenly Worth Living

If even for the evening

you feel young and desirable once more-

They are all gone, replaced with new manners that

drink down like flat champagne, a dullness behind the eyes

capturing nothing and inspiring less-

These have replaced all the old men with beautiful manners

for they are gone and mostly forgotten

except by those who remember and damn well know

what is  missing.


 Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

“The Token Rose”, a plea for compassion and tolerance.

January 23, 2014

The Token Rose

Outside it is cold,

No leaves flutter

In bitter winds,

No birdsong to

Sweeten the air,

Just the Token rose

Trembling in fierce gusts

Howling round the eaves.

Right before Xmas,

This rose started to bloom,

A miracle of Winter,

A miracle of mercy.

Named for a woman

Who died by her own hand,

A hand forced by ignorance


Isolation, and

No Mercy.

Ah, we are so hard on those

We say we love,

We are lacking in compassion

To those who march out of step,

Those who don’t believe as we do,

And then we hide from

What we have wrought,

Uneasy but still righteous.

If there is any hint of shame

We bury it deep as deep as the grave

She now lies in.

The Token Rose flutters in the cold.

Pearly white tinged with pink

Catches the feeble sunlight

And waves a forgiveness

That we, hardened of heart,

Do not deserve.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

– Many years ago, Token killed herself, a victim of religious intolerance.  I have planted a rose, called The Token Rose, to remind me of her and her spirit.  Most of all to call me to kindness and compassion.

Autumn Tanka…..

October 16, 2013
"North Carolina Stream", watercolor, janekohut-bartels, 2008

“North Carolina Stream”, watercolor, janekohut-bartels, 2008

Autumn colors from my bathroom window today

Autumn colors from my bathroom window today

My beautiful picture


Barn Owl, J. Kohut-Bartels, 1999, watercolor

Barn Owl, J. Kohut-Bartels, 1999, watercolor

It’s just beginning to be Autumn here in the southern US, and I can’t resist the season.  It’s one of my favorite and there is something different in the air, the smell of wood smoke already, though the temps don’t make sense for this.  Perhaps some homeowner is clearing a plot of land, but the smell makes me dizzy with anticipation.  The wind chimes have been ajangle over the past few nights, and the north winds are becoming more active.  Every so often, there are whirlpools of leaves, gathered up in the street and dancing like dervishes.  The real fall will come, with soggy rains and denuded trees but perhaps this season makes us feel alive: there is so much natural activity after a slow and sullen summer.  The miracle of the trees changing, the clouds overhead, gray leaden expanses that turn golden underneath at dusk, the cast of light so different from the season before. Yesterday I  saw two  low flying Canada geeze go honking right over my head and they startled me.  Soon we will see the formations of Sandhill Cranes as they migrate south.  You hear them a long time before you see them far up in the moddled sky.

In the midst of posting chapters from “Tin Hinan” I came across some fall tankas I had included in “White Cranes of Heaven”.  This, with what was going on outside, was enough to change course on this blog right now.  I’ll get back to the next chapter of “Tin Hinan” but right now there is a squirrel in the bird feeder and I saw a yellow fox in the dying kudzu out back.  Last night I heard two very mournful owls in the trees behind the house.  Enough to turn my thoughts to a favorite season.

Lady Nyo

I look up at blue

Sky this morning, watch leaves fall-

Whirling, colored tears.

Clip my face like dull razors,

The strokings of memory.

Is the whistling

Of the wind- a train, a plane?

Nature plays fiddle

And our senses are confused,

We dwell in chicanery!

Shooting star crosses

Upended bowl of blue night


Fires up with excited gaze!

A moment– and all is gone.

This grim November,

The month of my father’s death

Always bittersweet.

My memories float, weak ghosts-

Haunting in the fog of life.


So lonely am I

My soul like a floating weed

Severed at the roots

Drifting upon cold waters

No pillow for further dreams.


A late Summer moon

Floats above the conifers.

Autumn is coming.

Do pines know the season turns?

Their leaves don’t fall; do they care?


Come into my arms.

Bury under the warm quilt.

Your scent makes me drunk

Like the wine we gulped last night.

Too much lust and drink to think.

When Autumn enters

Inexplicable sadness.

Season fades to death.

Hunter’s moon sits in Heaven–

Garden spiders finish, die.

Autumn wind startles–

Lowered to an ominous

Key—Ah! Mournful sounds!

The fat mountain deer listen-

Add their bellowing sorrow.

Out with the gold fish,

The bullfrogs croak their sorrow.

Summer is passing

Autumn brings sharp, brittle winds

But Winter is the cruelest.

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.

Overhead, the cranes,

Sandhills, swirl in board circles.

Broken GPS?

No matter, their cries fall down

Celestial chiding rain.


To end this  with a simple poem, not a tanka.


Autumn night winds

Hiss over the land

Round corners

And pulse under eaves.

Clashing wind chimes add sharp discord

As bare branches answer with a grating groan.

Above all,

The moon casts a feeble light

Too thin to fatten the road. 

(this poem from “White Cranes of Heaven”, published by, 2011)

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011-2013



“Olsen’s Pond” from “White Cranes of Heaven”

January 28, 2012


Thank You, Laura Hegfield, “Shine The Divine”, for the “Where  Beauty Grows”…inspiring blogs award.


 Olsen’s Pond


I returned to the old house,

now still, vacant,

staring with unshaded eyes

upon a snowy front garden,

shrubs overgrown with the

lustiness of summer and neglect

now split to the ground,

taxed with a heavy snow.

I tried to light the parlor stove,

old cranky cast iron smoker

clanking and rattling

when heated in the best of times

now given up the ghost,

cold metal unyielding to wadded paper

and an old mouse nest.

The silence of the rooms only broken

by hissing wind whipping around  eaves

rattling old bones in the attic,

stirring the haunts sleeping in  corners.


It took a time for twigs to catch,

the water to turn coffee,

bacon and eggs brought from the city

and cooked in an old iron skillet–

tasting far better in the country air.


I looked down at hands cracked

in the brittle winter light,

moisture gone,  

hair static with electricity,

feet numbed from the chill,

that woodstove not giving up

more heat than a miser.


I walked down to Olsen’s pond,

looked through the glassine surface

remembered the boy who had fallen

through the ice while playing hockey–

slipped under the thin cover, disappearing

without a sound,

only noticed when our puck flew

Up in the air and he, the guard, missing.

We skated to the edge, threw bodies flat

trying to reach him just out of catch,

crying like babies, snot running down chins,

knowing he was floating just under the ice,

silent as the lamb he was.


Childhood ended that day for most of us.

We started to drift away to the city,

our skates and sticks put up,

Olsen’s pond deserted like a haunted minefield.


Fifty years ago I still remember that day

when stretched as far as I could

my belly freezing on treacherous ice,

grasping to reach a life just out of sight,

his muffler and stick floating to the surface–

The boy, the important part,

gone for good from a chilly winter ‘s play .


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009,2012 


“River of Babylon”, posted for OneShotPoetry

June 14, 2011

My father died 21 years ago, and I have many regrets about things I didn’t do…didn’t have the strength, courage or will to do then. I was his only daughter, his oldest child.  Of course, I couldn’t have changed his fate, I couldn’t have made any real difference, but these things  we think we ‘could have done’ continue to haunt for a long time. Perhaps poetry is a way we can make peace with the impossible.

Lady Nyo


River of Babylon

Do you remember

That visit a few scant

Months before you were gone,

When I saw the pain

Saw the end coming

But would not believe?

I wrapped you in a hospital sheet,

Hiding your face like a thief

And we wheeled down the hall,

Avoiding the eyes of nurses,

Down the elevator, down to the street.

We were laughing, elated

Making our great escape

Right under their noses.

In the mellow spring sunshine,

The scent of daffodils

Blossomed beside us,

Up and down Witherspoon,

Enjoying this tender season,

Our escape made richer

By the danger of it all.

But you had different plans,

Intentions that blossomed as you

Lay there, waiting for

The right moment,

The right weather,

The right dupe.

I was driving your Audi,

That paint-faded car with

Butter-soft seats,

And somehow you knew where it was

And though your left hand was a claw

 Held tight to your thin chest,

You casually, so casually gestured

With your right to ‘go there, turn down

This street.’

I remember how you threw

Your white shrouded arm in that direction,

And I pushed behind you,

Not knowing your intention until

Too late.

You grabbed the door handle

And I begged you to let go,

But you were fierce,

Your determination to go,

And not just for a ride.

I broke your hold,

And I broke your heart,

Just a little to me-

A mortal blow to you.

How I wish I had lifted you

into that car,

How I wish we had run away.

We could have hid on the river bank

We could have been right under their noses,

Doctors and nurses and all the authority

They took from your now-fragile life.

I could have climbed the bank to the house,

Stolen your French horn

You could have played  Mahler,

Softly, softly Father,

We don’t want them to find us-

And we could have fished for sunfish,

Listen to carp jump in the water,

We could have slept in the hollow

Of a fallen log,

Ate blackberries until our mouths, hands

Were stained purple.

We could have thumbed our noses

At the rules,

Even for a little time.

But I was afraid,

Too much the coward,

Afraid of the anger, the fury

And now I wished I had done all this,

And more,

And damn all of them! All of Them!

We could have headed West,

Unknown alien territory,

Or we could have floated down the Millstone

The river you loved so much,

Taught me to love.

We could have floated out

To the River of Babylon

And let it carry us away.

 Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011

“First Snow”, posted for OneShotPoetry

December 7, 2010

Winter Scene, from the bbc.files



Also check out Steve’s weblog:

Lady Nyo


The morning brought a first snow,

Blown by the wind over the mountain.

I watched snow turn to ice,

Invisible sleet hit the panes a’ hissin’,

And soon a crystal coat on tender branches—

Invisible hands pulling to earth,

Icy fingers anchoring them fast.

I depend upon the silence

Creating a space to remember,

Solitude, too, now to be shared

Only with ghosts,

Or perhaps a cat or two.

Inside the comfort of crackling  wood,

Well seasoned of last year’s split,

The sweet, sharp tang of pine and oak,

The groan of a log shifting its failing weight.

I remember your boot kicking it back off the hearth,

Sparks flaring upward,

Stars enfolded by a blazing sun.

Outside the pelting sting on windows,

The howl of winter racing round eaves

Looking for attic-access between clapboards,

A hambone- skeleton dance to

Shake its palsied bones warm.

Soon  fading light at twilight

Suspends the day

In a cocoon of white, unfocused mystery.

The night brings a muffled benediction

Over the land

And memory is put aside for the morrow.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010

“First Snow” , from “White Cranes of Heaven”, to be published by soon.

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY! “Bob Dylan and Me” from “Memories of a Rotten Childhood”

July 4, 2009

A couple of years ago I started writing “Rotten” and got to about 6 chapters.  This is a short one.


I was fifteen years old and not cool.

Fifteen was after dolls, during horses, and way before boys.  I was a slow learner, combined with a timid manner and a few pimples.  My parents were no help, they were off fighting the war called marriage. We three kids were on the battlefield, carrying water to each side.

At fifteen I was barely holding on to daylight.  Life was getting complicated and I was in a permanent daydream. Now, forty years later, I understand all this was the natural process of growing up.  Then it was just massive confusion with a good dose of shame to leaven it all.

On top of this there wasn’t any real guidelines for parents back then.  No Dr. Spock or if he was around, my parents certainly didn’t read him.  Most fathers back then were WWII  veterans  and had their own view on childhood trauma. Fully half the men in my father’s B-24 squadron were under twenty. Babies flying bathtubs.  “Buck up and take it like a man”, “wrap a rag around it, it’ll stop bleeding” was what most of us heard from our fathers, and the mothers just looked away and dropped another Miltown.

I’m not much of a better parent today, just with more guilt.  Genes hold like superglue.

I remember lots of rather ‘beat’ parties at our house, where my mother and father would serve white wines and people would sit on the wide plank pine floors. Each year Halloween masquerades for the adults, my mother in fishnet stockings, stiletto heels, a ballet leotard, and for some reason, cat ears on the top of her head.  I must have been pretty young, because my nursery was set up in the future upstairs bathroom.  I remember her leaning over me and the smell of Woodhue floating off her into my mouth as she kissed me good night.  Must have been some party, because I heard her complain chillingly to my father that he had ‘slipped her a Mickey.’  Apparently she had vomited in the one of the four fireplaces downstairs, and blamed my father for her drunkenness.  My mother never got drunk, so this memory remains strong of my childhood.  These things stick because they are the few times I got noticed. Maybe it’s something sensory with the perfume, but I don’t really know.

I also remember the concrete divisions between adults and children.  There was none of today’s behavior asking kids their opinions around the dinner table.  We didn’t have any. We were trying to swim through the deep waters of childhood and adult issues generally elicited a groan of having to think hard, something we only attempted in math.

High school, sometimes for all four years, was brutal.  Too big, too many stairs and too much distraction complete with cynical teachers who should have retired but were hanging on. Where else could they abuse the unworthy?  They were addicted to the power,  while we, their slaves, went under the wire.  The natural order of life back then.  The time of “squat and hug your knees”, the threat of Commies dropping bombs on our baseball fields- all good training for life.

I had a girlfriend in my sophomore year. I can’t remember her name, but except for getting two tickets to the Bob Dylan concert in McCarter Theater at Princeton University, she was unmemorable. I’ll call her Gloria for this story.

We had no idea who Bob Dylan was except for posters glued to walls calling him a  New York Folk Singer.   Both of us were in band or orchestra, depending upon the need of the teacher.  Violin and clarinet were our only forms of music back then.  Radios were tuned by my parents to classical or their big band music.  In fact, the only time I can remember listening to radio was on a Saturday night, when my brothers and I would listen to WOR in New York, and the crazy dj would try to scare us with stories about the Jersey Pine Barren Devil. Can’t remember his or the Devil’s proper names, though.

So Gloria somehow gets two tickets to a Bob Dylan concert.  We, at fifteen, decide our Sunday best would be appropriate. It’s a concert after all, and this signals dress up. On the afternoon before the event, we curled and sprayed and flipped our hair, put on white dresses with pearls and our white low heeled Sunday shoes and went to McCarter Theater.  I don’t remember much about it, except they set up the stage with chairs, right behind Dylan, for the overflow of audience.  Somebody thought it cute to put the two strange girls in matching white dresses right behind the singer.  I remember sitting there very primly, our hands crossed in our laps, trying to take it all in, watching his ass.

The stage lights of course were glaring in our eyes, and drunken frat boys yelling, “Hey! Bobby! Play Blowing in the Wind!”  “Hey, Bobby, get some singing lessons!” “Hey, Bob, …..”  A couple of cans of something were thrown on the stage, probably beer.

I remember Dylan looking mystified as he turned and looked behind him.  I didn’t know the word then, but now I would say his thoughts were clearly: “What the fuck?”  Each time he turned we would beam and clap. He would bow.  We were his own cheering section as the cans of soda and beer came hurling from the balcony.

As I write this, I am laughing but there is also embarrassment I was such a hick.  I got cooler as the 60s progressed.


Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted 2009

And that’s the way it was…..

October 16, 2008

I’ve been in an out of the hospital this whole month…and 3 times this week alone. Nothing they can find to answer to the symptons, but hell, my arms and hands look like a junkie’s. I have little energy right now…so I’m posting something I wrote last year from “Memoirs of a Rotten Childhood”…

Which actually is pretty funny. I was encouraged to write this “Memoir”, but felt it was pretty pretentious. Aren’t you mostly supposed to be dead before you write a memoir? Well, I feel pretty dead this week, so I’ll post this and maybe a few more chapters from “Rotten” this week.

Bear with me until I get my steam back….

Lady Nyo

from: “Memoirs of a Rotten Childhood”

In order to visualize how any of this happens, you must realize that 1950’s central New Jersey was pasture land and milk cows, and then, gardens, lots of gardens. Strawberry fields, pastures and meadows. It was, after all, the Garden State. What it is now, I don’t know.

Houses were placed rather far from each other, and most had much acreage. Everything was bound by the Millstone River, and only the left side had residences.

People back then were artists, and architects, and airline pilots and musicians. They produced children that were musical and artistic. No dullards were allowed, in fact, the area of River Road and the surroundings was something of a bohemian culture for the adults. I think the dull children were drowned in the Millstone River.

I remember lots of rather ‘beat’ parties at our house, where my mother and father would serve white wines and people would sit on the wide plank pine floors. I remember Halloween masquerades for the adults. My mother in fishnet stockings, stiletto heels, a ballet leotard, and for some reason, cat ears on the top of her head. I must have been pretty young, because my nursery was set up in the future upstairs bathroom. I remember her leaning over me and the smell of Woodhue floating off her into my mouth as she kissed me good night. Must have been some party, because I heard her complain chillingly to my father that he had ‘slipped her a Mickey.’ She apparently had vomited in the one of the four fireplaces downstairs, and blamed my father for her drunkenness. My mother never got drunk, so this memory remains strong of my childhood.

Neighbors were not close in the sense of friendly, for people were competing for the same jobs at Princeton. There was bonhomie amongst neighbors that broke down over the years.

There was little to do in the countryside during the 50’s, and the 60’s. Chase Duncan Campbell’s cows from the summer to the winter pasture, and he had a lot of milk cows, swim in the Raritan river and skate on the canal at winter. Play Northwest Passage in the woods. My brothers would give my dolls Viking funerals on the river, complete with matches.

Children knew each other for miles around just because we all went to the same country schools. The school bus, driven by Mr. and Mrs. Johnson from the time I was in kindergarten through high school, was the same damn bus. I can still smell that metal bar that we were supposed to hold on around corners. There are a lot of corners on Jersey roads. They also gave us kittens on a regular basis, which my mother would make us give back. She hated cats, and I grew to hate my mother just for that.

One day, when I had to be about nine years old, which would be about 3rd grade I believe, I was messing around, turning around in my seat, sitting up on my haunches, and jabbering to the kids in the seat in front of me. In the 50’s little girls wore starched dresses with a petticoat, nothing with lace, all utilitarian cotton, and cotton underpants. At that age, there is no sign of the puberty to come, so there is no decorum, just a silly, bouncy little girl, playing in her seat.

However, behind me was Kevin ____. Blond hair, green eyes, mysterious Kevin. He must have been fourteen or so, maybe fifteen. Something about my wiggling behind caught his attention, and I felt a finger pierce my butt. It was a very smooth action, and I turned and just stared at him. I think he was as shocked as I was, for no words were exchanged between us. I sat, in shock, and he sat back in his seat, probably as confused as to what he had done as I was.

Kevin came from a family that was Norwegian. Almost everyone was either Norwegian or Dutch. We were Hungarian, so we floated. Kevin was the oldest boy, and there were only boys in that family. He lived only two houses away, and I remember him working on his Morgan car, and flying his bi-plane over our fields.

I think I fell in love with Kevin ____ from that day when he dared to stick his finger in my fanny. Or maybe I felt I should love him. Either way, I had a major, irrational crush on him all through high school, even though the scoundrel never stuck his hand up my privates again and ran off with a girl named Bonnie when I was in eighth grade.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2008

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