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Spring, Roses, Wind and lots of thorns….

April 18, 2011

10 Year Old Cecile Brunner, Almost Gone with the Wind

We were planning an assault on the landscape this weekend, but we didn’t figure on violent rain and fiercer winds.  The picture above is of a very cut back “Cecile Brunner”, one of the best of climbing roses we have planted.  We awoke after a night of pounding winds and rain and upon wandering downstairs, something was different.  The front room was flooded with light.  Looking out of the windows along the fireplace, I saw the reason:  this huge rose bush had completely slipped its moorings and  fallen in a clump on the patio.  I was concerned the chimney had gone with it, but no, it was still up there, looking very naked.  My husband said he could salvage all, but after breakfast and coffee. I  didn’t believe he could bring it back to place of honor on the chimney.  I got out clippers and cut as much blooming rose as I could, thinking it would be easier for him to push and secure back in place.

Nothing doing.  That rose bush probably weighed 100 lbs with all the  blossoms.  He decided  a ‘block and tackle’ would be the answer  and throwing open the two long casement windows upstairs on either side of the chimney he got lots of  rope. He made some interesting knots and slowly we pulled it back into place….sans half  the blossoms.

Then he had to get UNDER the rose bush and secure it with wire and concrete nails to the brick.  This wasn’t easy, and the thorns made it even more difficult.  We have been picking  thorns from hands, arms, and in one case, his back.  Cecile Brunner got his pound of flesh.

Spring has sprung with a vengeance.  It is a remarkably beautiful spring, with that particular clarity of light that only lasts for one or two months at best in Atlanta.  It is now past daffodil and tulip time, azaleas are peeking and iris  in full bloom.  This year I planted “Dutch Iris”, different from the usual Bearded Iris, and the colors are remarkable.  They seem to be much more reliable bloomers than my old iris, but perhaps I haven’t given the bone meal dressings, etc. that iris desire?   I love the gray-green leaves, with or without a purple bloom at the top, and each year they seem to multiply…still without many blossoms. But I am impressed with the Dutch Iris, and though they look delicate, they bloom altogether for quite a show in a bed.

A few Dutch Iris in iron wash pot

More Dutch Iris, almost in bloom....

What fueled the assault on the property were a few plantings I bought from a local nursery.  At least twenty years ago we planted a “Blue Girl” rose, a delicate lavender rose that died quickly.  I swore I would never plant another one, but there was one in bloom with the promise of more blossoms on the rack. It was so lovely and delicate and the scent was so delightful I couldn’t resist. Plus, it was next to some god awful screaming red shrub roses and orange ones, too. “Blue Girl”  towered above these like royalty.  Paired with Mainacht salvia (deep blue) and Pink Salvia with white mugwort, it scratched a particular itch.  It was an answer for a very raw spot in the garden foundation.

Rose "Blue Girl" and Salvia

I’ve lost the rest of my post twice now, so I guess that’s a warning. I did put in about 15 new roses, but the jury is still out on these.  “Michelangelo”, “April in Paris”, “Fragrant Cloud”, “Pink Promise”, and am awaiting the luscious bare root: “Graham Thomas”.  This last rose is a remarkable yellow climber, never without butterscotch blooms.  They are of the old cabbage rose form and one of the most fragrant of the English roses. I’ll end with a picture of the Bonicas to bloom (from last year) and a poem.

I can wait.  Spring is a short season here, but the beauty is worth the waiting.

Lady Nyo

Bonica Rose on Gate


Spring comes drumming through

Breaking up ice in the creek

Destroying a beaver dam

And with the unexpected noise-

The un-damming of my heart

A softening of my bones

A juiciness of loins

A waving of budding branches

In a new born wind-

Encircling tender arms-

A phantom will o’ wisp lover.

Spring comes drumming through,

Cracking open where winter nailed me shut.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010, from “White Cranes of Heaven”, published by, 2011

Three Poems Upon Viewing the Moon Last Night

March 20, 2011

A dear friend, Bren, issued a challenge yesterday: to write a poem about the moon last night.  No poetry of mine can capture the beauty of that particular moon.  It filled the eyes and sky as nothing I can remember.

The great tragedy in Japan was not far from my thoughts as I watched, riveted to the eastern early night sky.  I was sitting under two plum trees and gentle breezes cascaded white petals  into my lap.  Time of sorrow, time also of hope.

Lady Nyo


The moon tonight

Blood orange orb

Duenna of the cosmos

Looms in a velvet sky.

Slipping her moorings

She floats closer to earth

A commanding  presence

Creating wonderment beneath

And pulling our eyes to Heaven.


Is there a moon viewing party

In Japan tonight?

Destruction, sorrow

Covers the land,

Despair, loss

Regulates the heart.

Perhaps the moon presence

Is of little interest

And less comfort.

Perhaps sorrow goes too deep

To raise our eyes above the grave.


Her gleam falls upon all

A compassionate blanketing

Of the Earth,

Softening the soiled,

Ravaged landscape,

A beacon of promise

Of the return to life-

Beauty to nature.


Two weeks and the cherry trees

Would have opened in Sendai.

Beautiful clouds of scented prayers

Falling upon upturned faces,

An eternal promise of hope for the earth

Swept out to sea

With a good part of humanity.

I will sit beneath the moon tonight

I will sit beneath a cherry tree

Feeling the kiss of bridal blossom

Fall upon my sorrowful face.

I will count falling petals,

And offer each up as a prayer.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011

Tsunami of Prayers…..

March 14, 2011

A very good article from the New York Times explains this issue of troubling design which complicated the Japanese reactor situation.

“Experts Criticize Design of Japanese Reactors”

I encourage people to read this article.  Sheds light on the present situation.
Lady Nyo

“Tsunani of Prayers”,  didn’t originate here. It was a small sign held up by a child.  But it seems this is the movement of the world to, in part, address this tragedy in Japan.

Someone said  they had become numb to it all; there was so much tragedy recently in the world, with New Zealand, etc. and I understand.  It’s very hard to not be overwhelmed by each tragedy as it presents itself.

The enormity of the tragedy in Japan just keeps unfolding: the death toll, the devastation, the pictures of the landscape and the people, and now the nuclear issues.  It IS overwhelming.

I also know that right now…I am feeling anger, and it has little to do with what people are suffering right now.

My anger is this: Japan is a small island with 55 nuclear reactors.  Now we read there is a possibility of another reactor emitting radiation, and a possibility of a real meltdown in the first damaged reactor.  And this isn’t an isolated situation given the amount of damage to the sites where many of these reactors stand.

Over 1500 Japanese people have had to be checked for radiation exposure.  This is surely a short list.  The USS Ronald Reagan just passed through a radioactive cloud and shipmates are being given treatment for possible radiation exposure.  Perhaps I am sensitive to this because my son is in the Navy, chasing pirates near Somalia.  I don’t know if his destroyer will be deployed anywhere near Japan, but I pray it won’t.

Perhaps I can express my anger in a better form:  With the obvious issues of nuclear power, and the inability of this writer to believe those who push this particular kind of power as it being ‘safe’, why would we continue to believe that nuclear power is a ‘safe’ response to the needs for the world?  There are other forms of power, solar and wind come to mind, that are lagging in interest and development.  These, to my mind, have less potential for such enormous destruction and impact upon life forms of  all kinds.  And why aren’t these power forms considered over nuclear reactors?

Japan could be swamped by these 55 reactors. The rest of the world certainly will be impacted by what happens in Japan, in the short term and in the long term.

I didn’t start out this morning to write this in such a way. We have a saying here in the South: “Speak truth to Power”….and I guess I slipped into this in my thoughts and anger.  I am going to try to turn my thoughts and actions to something more appropriate, to offer up a tsunami of prayers,  to remember the suffering of the Japanese people is constant and to offer up prayers for their well being.  I feel so lost right now, and that scares me.

Lady Nyo


I move my chair

to observe Mt. Fuji-

monstrous  perfection

topped with the cooling crust

of spring snows.

Languid movement

of a branch,

like a geisha

unfurling her arm

from a gray kimono,

makes petals fall,

a scented, pink snow

covering my upturned face

with careless kisses.

Timid winds caress

my limbs,

a fleeting relief

to tired bones

brittle now with

a sullen defeat of life.

Raked sand of garden

waves barely disturbed

by feet like two gray stones

as grains  flow

round ankles.

I realize once again

I am no obstacle to

the sands of time.

My heart is quieted

by the passage of nothing

for in this nothing

is revealed the fullness of life.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011, from “White Cranes of Heaven”, published by

“Winter Into Spring”

March 8, 2011

Mysterious,  muted season,

where life and reason are suspended

upon a cold metal wire,

wind razored clipper glass

sailing through glassine air

slicing the pallid sun’s rays–

the attempt to warm a frigid earth

to a remembered fertility.

Solemn seasonal palette,

white, gray, black,

cut with a flash of blood-red–

Kamikaze cardinal!

The demon wind bearing its name,

dares the thin, pale air

to brighten for a flashing moment–

A witness to recurring life.

Season of bountiful snow

brings a thirst to the land

where hoar-frost leaches

moisture  with a crystallized withering-

hands to crack, bark to shatter,

and all dries and curls about

in a perverse furnace of freeze.

One unexpected day,

a southern breeze

breaks through the bonds of Winter

brushes up, slides up

upon the ice

a thump is felt in the gut

and a slow drip-drip of water

signals the end of this harsh season,

as icicles emit a hesitant stream,

and then the ice dam down in the brook

cracks like thunder

and the rush to Spring

is heralded with earthy groans.

A blind movement

felt deep in the soil-

a careful stirring,

barely a rumble in the gut of the Earth

as birth beneath replaces death above

pushing through the Great Womb

to a feeble sun above–

The tyranny of Winter finally broken.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011

“The Stillness of Death”, posted for OneShotPoetry

February 1, 2011

Samurai woman defeating a man

Lady Nyo is a character I developed for a novel about 17th century Japan (“The Kimono”, still working on it).  She is a samurai wife, something not at all uncommon from the 13th to the 17th century.  These women were trained in martial arts, and especially skilled in the naginata, a long shafted weapon with a blade on the end.  They had much status in feudal society. Today in Japan the training of young women in the naginata is still popular and a form of extreme exercise.

A lot of our concepts about Asian women are skewed by history and culture.  Samurai women were called upon to defend castles, villages, and were organized into fighting units.  They generally did not march with troops, but were more local in fighting. (One gruesome fact to our modern eyes:  samurai wives were generally the ones who were called upon to wash and prepare the severed heads of important enemies to be presented to the victorious generals. These heads were usually severed by a trusted member after a defeat and whisked away for burial. This was also a way to prevent humiliation by an enemy, as in Head-On-A-Pike).


Samurai wives were sometimes the only defense of a home front, the men being off fighting for a daimyo (war lord).  Things changed around the 17th century when the status of the samurai changed.  The gun, originally introduced by the Portuguese, made their weapons and fighting styles almost obsolete.

The influence of neo-Confucian philosophy and the practice of using daughters as pawns for power marriages combined to reduce the status of female samurai.  The ideal of fearless devotion was replaced by one of passive obedience.  This social trend was reflected in the new words for wife: Kani and okusan (meaning a person who resides in the house and rarely goes out of the courtyard). A surprising contrast to this is sometimes the life of a samurai wife who becomes a widow.  Many became Buddhist nuns, and  actually were able to impact upon the local politics of their towns and villages.

Though this poem might seem to portray Lady Nyo as passive, this view is deceptive.  In my novel, Lady Nyo is fully in command of herself and her husband, Lord Nyo.  The only one she bows her will to is the local daimyo, but that comes from the structure of ‘giri’.

The other Lady Nyo


Kneeling before her tea,

Lady Nyo did not move.

She barely breathed,

Knowing tomorrow depended

Upon her actions today.

Lord Nyo was drunk again.

When in his cups

The household scattered.

Beneath the kitchen

Was the crawl space

Where two servants hid their heads-

A third 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

And remembered the first time

He pillowed her.

She was fifteen.

Her body powdered petals,

Bones like butter,

Black hair like bo silk.

The blush of shy passion

Coursed through her veins

Like a tinted stream.

Still beautiful  was she,

Too fragile for his tastes now.

Better a plump courtesan,

Not all delicate and saddened beauty.

He drew back the bow

In quick succession-

Let five arrows pierce

The shoji.

Each grazed the shell ear

Of his wife.

Lady Nyo’s life hung on her stillness.

She willed herself dead.

Death after all these years

Would have been welcome.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted , 2011

Original poem from “A Seasoning of Lust” available at

This is a revised edition.

Haiku for OneShotPoetry, Shashi’s Challenge!

January 12, 2011

Some Haiku

A pale half moon drifts
Across a wintry sky.
Trees become monsters.

Over us the stars
Glitter-  laughing witnesses~
Reach up and hang there!

Autumn winds compel
Apples to tumble from trees.
Worms make the journey.

Ice blocks the river.
Look! A duck is frozen there.
Nature– no mercy.

The garden spiders
Fold their black spindly legs,
Die, all work now done.

Come kiss my warm lips
Cup my breast in your rough hand,
Growl into my mouth.

I chase one red leaf
Across dry and brittle grass
Juice of summer gone.

I come to the end
My life being no different.
It was as is now.

This is challenging!  I’m adding some more…..

Autumn Haiku

Under the dark moon

I awaited your return.

Only shadows came.

The light falling snow

Envelops the heart and earth

Better to forget.

Tips of trees bursting

Into the sun, while the dark

Earth claims the bottom.

There is nothing there

Except the scream of the wind.

Even dogs don’t howl.

Skeleton-trees wave

While the wind whips dead leaves

Wood smoke scents the air.

The moon, a ghostly

Sliver, rides on a jet sea

While dogs howl beneath.

A pendulum heart

Beats the cadence of a life,

Trips, sputters, brings death.

Pale lavender sky

Balances the moon and sun

The scale shifts to night.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008-2011

“The Geisha”, Posted for OneShotPoetry….

December 14, 2010


Geisha Exit Ritual,

I wrote this short poem listening to Shakuhachi artists. The sound of their intertwining flutes, poignant, heartbreaking, set this poem in motion.  The raw, alien nature of their music was transporting.

There are a few issues to explain.  This is a ritual suicide, (for women, called jigai) not uncommon in feudal and even modern Japan. A geisha, an entertainer, could take lovers, and even become a favored member of a family.  This geisha has decided to follow her disgraced lover into death.  However, she is wearing a kimono that is not ‘proper’ for a ritual suicide.  I think she does this to embarrass the officials. Perhaps it is a personal protest. The tea ceremony is imbued with its own ritual and I link these two together.

Depending on the original offense of her lover, his death and the death of part of his family would restore the honor of the family.  She chose to sacrifice her life for his honor.

A tanto is a short knife.  A woman would not cut her abdomen (seppuku), but would open the main vein in her neck. She would have tied together her legs at the knees, over her kimono, so she would have some modesty in death.

Lady Nyo

The Geisha

Moon sits low

above solemn pines;

the night is cold.

As dawn breaks

the geisha kneels, waiting.

Plum tea kimono wraps

her tightly-

white would be right

color of mourning,

color of death.

Her lover, disgraced,

has embraced


blood the sacrifice

to wipe clean a

particular stain.

She to follow

Honor fulfilled,

death follows death

rigid path of decree-

a life mostly of sorrow.

She opens her gown,

exposes white skin,

her maid, quietly weeps

opens the shoji

exposing a winter landscape-

white snow on rocks

white snow like her skin

soft, soon to disappear,

one to melt,

one to white ash.

Yes, life mostly of sorrow.


winter is silent,

no wind at all,

snow falling like silken petals

Ah! She will never see spring

or cherry blossom time!

Floating over muted,

glassine air

comes the sound-

two monks

playing flutes

to welcome the day.

Shakuhachi artists,

mournful sound,

sound that brings

peace to an anxious heart.

She bows her head,

picks up the tanto-

and opens the vein.

Blood of her line

answers to that

of another.


So full of sorrow.


Copyrighted, 2008,2010

“Night Fire Road” for OneShotPoetry

November 16, 2010

"Night Fire Road", janekohut-bartels, watercolor, 2010

This is my submission for this week  OneShotPoetry.  I was putting myself to sleep with all the pastoral poems so I thought I would try something a bit…..sharper.

This poem was recently written during a trip to the North Georgia mountains, an escape from the gulag that Atlanta can so become.

“Night Fire Road” will be included in “White Cranes of Heaven”, soon to be published.

The painting was of this year, but not done for the poem.  It just seemed to fit.

Lady Nyo


Sharp right into mystery,

Down cracked macadam

Churning the guts,

Pot-holed surface falling

Either side to waterlogged ditches.

Hurtling towards a tunnel

Of dark, smothering trees,

Deep in the mountain.

This is Night Fire Road

Spiraling down and up

Like the dark flames of its name.

Tires dumped in the tar of night

Maybe a car or two

Stolen, torched,

Liquor bottles christening the

Games of drunken fools.

Maybe it was meant

To be named for foxfire—

Bioluminescence come down from

The borders of Heaven

A gleaming fool’s gold

Only appearing at night

To tease greed and imagination.

Or perhaps it was named

For the illicit meetings

Of furtive lovers

Who shun daylight

And go inflame passion on

Night Fire Road.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010

“Seasons Change”, posted for OneShotWednesdays and Potluck poets…

November 9, 2010

"North Carolina Moutain Stream", janekohut-bartels, watercolor, 2006


I took a walk this morning.

The season has changed here

Though where you are they don’t.

The dried, brittle grass beneath my feet

Made a consistent crackle,

Echoed by the gossip of sparrows above.

The leaves are gone now from the birches and maples.

They fell like rain on fallow ground one day

And I didn’t see them go.

I think of your rounded arms when I see the shedding birches,

smooth bark like white skin with a faint pulse

of the river beneath.

Do you remember that river,

where it scared you to stand close to the bank?

You thought the earth would slip inward,

Take you on a wild ride downstream where

I couldn’t retrieve you,

And I saw for an instant

your raised arms to me,

imploring  silently to save you,

though it never happened

and you never slipped down the bank

and I never could save you.

But imagination plays with your mind

when it is all you have left.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010

Poetry Challenge! (especially to OneShot Poets…)

November 4, 2010


"Sea Eagle", jane kohut-bartels, watercolor, 2000


Well, not exactly a challenge….but I’ve been thinking.

I’ve been reading some tremendous poetry on the OneShotWednesday site for the past few weeks.

Brilliant, evocative and masterful pieces and I know there has to be a method behind them.

For a while now, I have held that poetry, good poetry….is a product of some deeper study into the things that make up poetry.

It’s not something unknowable….it’s  an investigation into meter, rhythm, rhyme, etc.  And so much more.

For a while I was in a group of writers, a couple of groups, actually…and we threw around this issue of ‘where does poetry develop from and is it a totally subjective issue?’

Or something like that.  Some felt that good poetry sprung from the forehead of a poet, sort of like Adonis from Zeus?  I can’t remember which God did what, but I think this doesn’t apply to poetry at all.  It’s not mostly a spontaneous  combustion of words and rhythm.  It’s something worked over and refined.

It’s knowable but it’s a complex study.  I only say this because I have been reading some essays on poetry:  The Paris Review Interviews of very famous poets from the 20’s to the 60’s.  They seem to all push the idea that you don’t get far without some academic study of the forms and structure of this medium.

So…I casually propose this:  That this blog be open to any comment from any poet who wants to shed some light on how She/He writes their poetry.  I’ll post any comment in this blog entry and see what kind of collection of ideas and practice come from our poets out there.  Use illustrations of your own poetry, to be posted here (with copyrights, etc…) to lay clarity and thought to your own methods.

Lady Nyo

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