Posts Tagged ‘New Tanka’

“Song of the Nightingale”, episode 2

August 23, 2016

Japanese Woman

It’s been a while since I wrote tanka, so this morning I attempted one.  It violates some tanka ‘rules’  (kigo word, etc.) but I offer it to my tanka-loving friends and poets anyway.  Tanka can be a gift. Since it started as song, folk song, it developed into written verse, and was given back and forth by lovers.

“Mist drifts in waves

Ribbon-ing maple branches

The rise of the moon

Make Egrets shimmer silver-

Gauzy ghosts of nothingness.”

Lady Nyo

 (actually, mentioning ‘maple branches’ would  be a kigo word:  Aki, Fall.)




“My heart, like my clothing

Is saturated with your fragrance.

Your vows of fidelity

Were made to our pillow and not to me.”

—-12th century


Kneeling before her tea

Lady Nyo did not move.

She barely breathed-

Tomorrow depended

Upon her action today.


Lord Nyo was drunk again.

When in his cups

The household scattered.

Beneath the kitchen

Was the crawl space

Where three servants

Where hiding.

A fourth wore an iron pot.


Lord Nyo was known

For three things:



And drink.


Tonight he strung

His seven foot bow,

Donned his quiver

High on his back.

He looked at the pale face

Of his aging wife,

His eyes blurry, unfocused.

He remembered the first time

pillowing her.


She was fifteen.

Her body powdered petals,

Bones like butter,

Black hair  trailing bo silk.

The blush of shy passion

Had coursed through veins

Like a tinted stream.


Still beautiful

Now too fragile for his taste.

Better a plump whore,

Than this delicate, saddened beauty.


He drew back the bow

In quick succession

Let five arrows pierce

The shoji.

Each grazed the shell ear

Of his wife.


Life hung on her stillness.

She willed herself dead.

Death after all these years

Would have been welcome.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted , 2013-2016


Some Tanka and a poem “Plum Blossom Snow”

March 15, 2014


Image from "Love Songs from the Man'yoshu"

Image from “Love Songs from the Man’yoshu”

We cut down the plum trees last fall and I miss their blossoms, usually the first blooms of spring here. And though the poem “Plum Blossom Snow” isn’t a new one, it makes me remember my trees.

I am comforted by the wild purple plum which blooms on the roadside in startling displays.

Lady Nyo

Let me not squander
The few good years I have left.
Each day the beauty,
The raw poignancy of life
Creates a desperation.

How could I forget
The beauty of the pale moon!
A face of sorrow
Growing thin upon the tide
Pulls my heart within its light.

Rain and moon tonight
Created confusion
Moon hides behind clouds
Fleeting clouds filter the rain
Moon appears– shoots silver

When I saw your head
Upon the pillow we shared
Was this forever?
I am left with a pillow-
Cold feathers holding a ghost.

Autumn wind startles–
Lowered to an ominous
Key—Ah! Mournful sounds!
The fat mountain deer listen-
Add their bellowing sorrow.

Answering echo-
One heart calls to another
A plucked string vibrates
The poetry of lovers
Kisses the roof of heaven!

Plum Blossom Snow

The present snowstorm of
White plum blossom

Blinds me to sorrow.

They cascade over cheeks
Like perfumed, satin tears
Too warm with the promise
of life to chill flesh.

Jane Kohut- Bartels
Copyrighted, 2014

Some of these tanka will go into the new book planned for later this fall, “The Nightingale’s Song”, to be published by Createspace ,

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