Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

“Call and Answer to Ono no Komachi”

May 1, 2017

kohut-bartels-bop-6

(J Kohut-Bartels,  1995, ‘Birds’, watercolor)

Tonight is OLN (Open Link Night) at dversepoets pub.  I don’t know who is tending the bar tonight because I am posting this early, but they are sure to give a good reading of poems there and a stiff drink to boot.

“Call and Answer” is a work in progress…my attempt to riff in verse with Ono no Komachi.  One of my very favorite poets of any age.  She was a fascinating person and poet.  I included an essay on her in the ‘essay section’ of “Song of the Nightingale”, published 2015.  She is slippery, though.  Different translations of the same poem can give a variation in message.  I have found, for her, the best translations are done by Hirshfield and Aratani.  Jane Hirshfield became a mentor to me, of sorts, when I first started writing tanka.  From her it was: “Good start. Still not tanka yet.”  This was helpful.

Lady Nyo

=–=

 

 

Did he appear

Because I fell asleep

Thinking of him?

If only I’d known I was dreaming

I’d never have awakened.

…..Komachi

 

How long will it last?

I know not his hidden heart.

This morning my thoughts

Are as tangled as my hair.

My blushes turn my face dark.”

……Lady Nyo (from “Kimono”, work in progress…)

 

When my desire

Grows too fierce

I wear my bed clothes

Inside out,

Dark as the night’s rough husk.

……Komachi

No moon tonight

Only a cold wind visits.

Murasaki robe

Stained the color of grass

Invisible on this earth.

……Lady Nyo   (Murasaki is the color purple.  it is also a grass that has dark lavender tops.  It was used as a dye.)

 

At least no one can blame me

When I go to you at night

Along the road of dreams.

……Komachi

Come to me, my man,

Part the blinds, come into my arms,

Snuggle against my warm breast

Let my belly

Warm your dreams.

…..Lady Nyo

 

One of her most famous poems:

 

No way to see him

On this moonless night—

I lie awake longing, burning,

Breasts racing fire,

Heart in flames.

…..Komachi

 

When my need denied

Burns my breasts-torments me

I tear open robes

To lie naked in moonlight

The wind your hands, caressing

……Lady Nyo

 

 

Night deepens

With the sound of calling deer,

And I hear

My own one-sided love.’

…..Komachi

 

Autumn wind startles–

Lowered to an ominous

     Key—Ah! Mournful sounds!

     The fat mountain deer listen-

   Add their bellowing sorrow.

…..Lady Nyo

 

The cicadas sing

In the twilight

Of my mountain village—

Tonight, no one

Will visit save the wind.

…..Komachi

 

Tonight, foxes scream

Cued by a howling wind.

Maple leaves quilting

A lonely time of season

No one to share the moonlight.

……Lady Nyo

 

 

 

A diver does not abandon

A seaweed-filled bay.

Will you then turn away

From this floating, sea-foam body

That waits for your gathering hands?

…..Komachi

 

So lonely am I

My soul like a floating weed

Severed at the roots

Drifting upon cold waters

No pillow for further dreams.

…..Lady Nyo

 

 

Is this love reality

Or a dream?

I cannot know,

When both reality and dreams

Exist without truly existing.

…..Komachi

 

Dreams, reality

How can one truly know?

I stumble through dreams

I stagger through the lost days

Tell me: what has more substance?

…..Lady Nyo

Ono no Komachi just begs for a call and answer.  Her poetry is sublime.  I just had to take this opportunity.  She inspires on the deepest level.

All Komachi poems were compiled from the Man’yoshu and the book, “The Ink Dark Moon”, by Hirshfield and Aratani.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

“I Remember…” Albert Kohut, 1915-1989.

April 26, 2017
My beautiful picture

My beautiful picture

Dusk from the East, taken by my phone.

Today is my father’s birthday.  Had he lived, he would have been 102.  He didn’t, dying at the young age of 74.  Today I read poems at Sevananda here in Atlanta for the Earth Day Celebration, between 6-9pm.  Though is poem isn’t exactly a Nature Themed poem, my love of Nature was formed by my father’s great love of it.  He had marvelous gardens, the best tomatoes, explored the gorges of New Jersey and other places, was a long distance runner, and restored a 200 year old house in rural New Jersey.  He was so loved by everyone who knew him. It’s been almost 3 decades since he died, but I love him so much.  I just wish I could have told him, shown him more of this.

Jane

I Remember….

 

I remember the scream

In the middle of the night

Of something dying

Down by the river,

Killed by an owl

Or possibly a fox.

 

 

I remember bolting awake

In my parent’s bed,

My heart in my throat

My father just died

The funeral over

Sleeping in

His bed,

Afraid to move from this reality

To the next,

No comfort to be had

Even with the scent of

His tobacco in the sheets.

 

I wandered the house,

Touched the walls,

Looked through windows

To a landscape not

Changed over years,

Ran my hands down the

Black walnut banister,

Smooth, smooth

As if the days would turn back

Just by this touch

And he would be here.

 

That scream somewhere on the banks

In the middle of the night,

When I jerked from sleep to

Awake, knowing, he was dead-

The father who loved me

Was gone forever.

I knew then

I was unmoored from life

floating out of reach of love.

 

A scream that challenged dreams

He would come back,

He wasn’t awaiting the fire

He would wake up,

Much as I did,

In a cold-sweat fear

And slowly, slowly

resume his place in the living.

 

There are unseen things

That happen in the night,

Down on the river bank,

Where life is challenged by death

Where a rabbit screams his mighty last

Where the heart leaps to the throat,

Where the most we can hope

Is a silent ghost

Who walks out of the river’s fog,

Extends his arms

And embraces the sorrowing.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

“The Fox”

April 19, 2017

Image result for foxes

(Huffington Post.com)

 

I am to be one of the ‘featured’ poets at the Earth Day Celebration April 26, 2017 at Sevananda Foods, here in Atlanta, Ga.   Poetry readings are to be of a Nature theme, which is proper for the event.  The poetry is from 6-9 pm with open mic after.  In trying to select appropriate poems for this event, I had a hard time culling out poems.  I selected 15 poems.  It should be interesting.  I don’t read well in public so I will have to work on this. Already my vocals are scaring the cats and making the dogs howl.  Posting this early for dversepoets pub Open Link Night on Thursday.

Lady Nyo

PS: I LOVE foxes.  I would have one here if it wasn’t so illegal.  No fox was hurt or injured in the writing of this poem.

The Fox

Yanked from sleep

By a scream

Wrapping around the belly,

Fueled by some instinct,

Long buried thread of ancestors.

Bolting upright

Knowing without knowing

A terrible slaughter was tearing

The soft night apart.

I had heard that sound before.

Coming fully awake,

heart pounding through my chest

I listened again, and there!

The vocals of a hen attacked

By something stealing through

The soft night, waiting beyond

The edge of sleep.

 

Three dogs have I

City dogs, though with

The blood of once-fierce hounds.

Not one of them would

Run out to do battle.

Grabbing the collar of the

Biggest, he turned and bit me-

He was no fool.

There was danger

In that dark night-

He was doing his best

To avoid it.

 

Stupid hounds!

I’ll face the monsters

Out there myself!

And switching on the porch light

I saw the dark flight of something

Fly across my yard and vision,

Take a sharp left and disappear

Into the night where porch light met

A dismal darkness.

 

Running to the chicken coop,

Found a young hen, a pile of feathers

Mounded around her, still alive

Clucking mournfully.

 

How do you comfort a tail- less hen

At dawn, with a crescent moon

Throwing feeble light upon the ground of slaughter?

I’ve raised hens for enough years

To know they are merciless to the injured.

But the events of the night

Had stunned their own instincts

And she burrowed amongst them,

They crowding around, covering with feathers and warmth,

Rocked out of their slumber

Clucking out warnings to further attackers:

Let the night and its beasts hear their rage!

 

In the morning I asked my neighbor

Once a south-Georgia farm boy what to do.

His answer was bloodier than

The attack of this young fox,

For young he must be,

Not to kill his prey on first strike.

 

“Spread poison in the kudzu,

Here, I’ll lend you a shotgun-

Fox be vermin and bred for no good.”

 

There is something mystical

In a fox who dares to live in a city.

Or desperate.

 

Birthed in the kudzu growing

From the leveling of a small forest

Sheltered in one-foot wide drainpipes,

Feeding on rats and rabbits

With a taste for chicken from time to time.

 

No.

I’ll lock up my chickens

Let a dog prowl the fence,

And leave off the

Modern methods of slaughter.

 

There must be a balance in nature

As it struggles to right itself

To bypass concrete and the destruction

Of habitat by mankind.

There will be a balance

And I will stand with the foxes.

 

Oh, it is a marvel and a mystery!

For every species is the center of its universe,

If only for him.

 

We are connected by a fine thread to all else,

Our survival depends upon this,

Yet our eyes are blinded to the truth

And something in the proclamation

Of “Inheriting the Earth”

Lies and trips us up,

And we are no more shepherds

Of these species than wolves

In human skin.

 

The world is what it is,

With its own rules of hunger, survival,

We just a cog in this great Mandala,

And most of us attempt to bypass

These laws of nature, still clothed with

Dead dreams of conquerors.

 

And some of us know this deep in our bones.

 

We are blind to the beauty of life

That we are not alone.

The tragedy would be if we were,

And we deny our connection to what we now proclaim “vermin”,

Believing for some bad reason this makes us more human.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

Happy Easter and the Awesomeness of Spring!

April 14, 2017

 

 

Neighbor called …found 4 baby kittens and a momma in a outside vent.  Mother ran when we got her babies…about 4 weeks old, but perhaps we can entice her to our house. Beautiful babies, the essence of Spring rebirth, Easter.  but that is now 13 cats here.  Yikes!  But perhaps I can get them adopted in a few months.  Who can ignore such babies?  Three black babies and one grey stripped. Already slurping formula.  Always room for one more.  For four.

Image result for dogwood blossoms

(williamneill.com)

A Haiku….

Dogwoods are blooming
The crucifixion appears
White moths in the night.

(Dogwoods are a Southern tree here in the South.  White blooms
having the form of the Christian Cross, with nail heads.  They bloom in the spring  right before Easter. They are a symbol of Christianity in Nature.)

A Spring Tanka….

 

Thin, silken breezes

Float upon a green-ribbon

Of spring—pale season.

Scent of lilies, myrtle, plum

Arouse bees from slumber.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

 

“Metamorphosis IV

April 6, 2017

 Image result for fruit bats

 “Mine, mine, mine”.

For those not following (and you are legion…) this is part of a series of basically 200 word episodes.  There are 8 in all.  I’ve never published these, nor have I posted them on this blog.  As far as I can remember and that is getting harder. The earlier episodes are on this blog if you scroll backwards.

Dversepoets is having an open link night (OLN) where you can post a piece of your choice.  I am posting this because it is funny and we need comedy desperately in the world.  Y’all too glum out there.

Lady Nyo

Laura twisted in the wind. Well, rotated in the air conditioning. Bart had a new kick, called ‘Shibari’. An ancient Japanese practice of wrapping things. Precisely. With hidden knots. She should have thought twice when he insisted she strip.

Arms wrapped behind her back, more cloth holding her legs together, she sighed. She didn’t mind hanging upside down, was even getting used to the headaches.

Bart, however, was having a bit of his own transformation, and Laura didn’t know if she liked this one bit. He was becoming ‘weirder’, taking up hobbies. Piercing was one, this shibari another. Laura was seeing Bart in a different light, helped along with her new, nighttime vision.

*Goddamn Japanese! Why can’t they stick to wrapping small packages?*

Bart told her ‘shibari’ was the ancient art of “wrapping the heart.” She bought it, didn’t even mind the bananas, mangos and kiwi he stuck between the bindings. He was, after all, a common fruit bat.

Up on the roof, Bart had other plans. From under his wings, he drew out a new black, leather- riding crop. He slapped it on his palm, laughing with glee.

Laura was about to obey.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010-2017

“Contrary to reports…..

March 29, 2017
My beautiful picture

My beautiful picture

My doctor leans in close

Steel stethoscope coursing my chest

Like a sucker from an octopus,

Though that would be warmer.

 

“Not good, not good”

He holds out the instrument a foot,

Two feet from his ears and makes faces.

My heart murmur is annoying him.

Again.

 

He’s from Nicaragua and I guess

That’s doctor humor where he comes from

But still I am uneasy.

 

Another pronouncement: “Terrible, terrible”

As he looks at some notes.

When did I get to be terrible, (two times over) ?

I look down at my hands folded in my lap.

Is this what my mother has been saying forever:

“Such a disappointing child.”

Are these the predictions of teachers, ex-inlaws

And assorted strangers that have come true?

 

“Go home and walk.”

What? No meds this time?

Nothing to irritate my gut,

My conscience, and ultimately

My soul?

 

So I do, and listen for

That ‘not good’ heart

And notice it is dusk,

And the spring trees in the distance

Stand as sentinels just brushed with

A phantom greenery

And the swallows and bats

Play chicken in the darkening sky

And I go crazy in the looming dusk and yell:

“Joy! Joy! Joy! Joy!”

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted. 2017

 

 

 

“The Darkness Was Deep”

March 24, 2017

0403whe-r01-002

(European Eagle Owl, watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, in a private collection)

 

William Stafford wrote poetry every day, including the day he died in 1993.  When people asked him if he thought a particular poem of the day was weak, he would say “Then I will lower my standards.”  I think this is good advice for any poet. Don’t doubt, reject but keep the flow going.  We learn day by day.

Lady Nyo

 

The Darkness was deep

My father was too

And I craved any lamp

To get myself gone.

 

He wasn’t much with language,

But if I watched quietly

I could see a world

Shaping under his hands

As he carved, planed, sanded

Nothing much into something.

 

This was the beginning of poetry

Though I never knew it for half a century.

The quiet observation of things outside myself

That tumbled into stanzas

With peacock feathers and bird of paradise colors.

 

I wondered what world he was fermenting

With hands colored  by  wood stains,

Toughened with labor

Cracked with the mechanics of cold and old age.

 

He with his turnings, me with my words

Silently observing what each other was made of

What would come out of that darkness

And be led into the light.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017 (poem for the day)

“The Thaw”

March 23, 2017

0403Whe-R01-009

(Watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2003, “Spring Thaw”

Over at dversepoets pub it is Open Link Night where you can post a poem of your choice. Go see what poems are fermenting there…

For some reason, a small poetry group objected to this short poem.  They thought the last two lines  redundant. I disagreed.   I think that is the natural ending to this short poem.  You have to trust your own vision on these things.  After all, you are the writer.  The haiku was added later.

The Thaw

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 my 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.

 

 

Fallen leaves crackle.

Sparrows add the treble notes.

Season’s musical.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

 

 

A Sacred Universe….and an Introduction.

March 22, 2017

 

 

Song_of_the_Nightingale_COVER

(Watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, for the book cover above, 2015.)

 

The world can become a sacred universe for poets when we become such.  That ‘golden thread’ William Blake and William Stafford wrote about can bring us to the gates of Heaven but I envision a very different Heaven than what has been spoken about by the religious.  That golden tread  leads through, or encompasses the sights, sounds, chaos and experience that makes up our poems and our dreams can be easily broken. We must not grab it so tightly.  We, and it, must have room to breath. 

Perhaps that is why we compose our poetry in silence, roll it around our mouths, recite it to the cats, and, when we are lucky, recite to other poets. But it is by necessity a solitary pursuit.  There can be no demand to ‘let me into your artistry’ when it is forming.  It must complete itself before seeing the light of day.  It is our contract with ourselves, sacred universe in its being.

Lady Nyo

Introduction to “The Nightingale’s Song”

In Old Japan there was an even older daimyo called Lord Mori who lived in the shadow of Moon Mountain, (Mt. Gassan)  far up in the Northwest of Japan.  Lord Mori ran a court that did little except keep his men (and himself) entertained with drinking, hawking and hunting.  Affairs of state were loosely examined and paperwork generally lost, misplaced under a writing table or under a pile of something more entertaining to his Lordship.  Sometimes even under the robes of a young courtesan.

Every other year the Emperor in Edo would demand all the daimyos travel to his court for a year. This was a clever idea of the honorable Emperor. It kept them from each other’s throats, plundering each other’s land, and made them all accountable to Edo and the throne.

Lord Mori was fortunate in his exemption of having to travel the months to sit in attendance on the Emperor. He was awarded this exemption with pitiful letters to the court complaining of age, ill health and general infirmities. He sent his eldest, rather stupid son to comply with the Emperor’s wishes. He agreed to have this disappointing young man stay in Edo to attend the Emperor. Probably forever.

Lord Mori, however, continued to hunt, hawk and generally enjoy life in the hinterlands.

True, his realm, his fiefdom, was tucked away in mountains hard to cross. To travel to Edo took months because of bad roads, fast rivers and mountain passages. A daimyo was expected to assemble a large entourage for this trip: vassals, brass polishers, flag carriers, outriders, a train of horses and mules to carry all the supplies, litters for the women, litters for advisors and fortune tellers, and then of course, his samurai. His train of honor could be four thousand men or more!

But this tale isn’t about Lord Mori. It’s about one of his generals, his vassal, Lord Nyo and his wife, Lady Nyo, who was born from a branch of a powerful clan, though a clan who had lost standing at the court in Edo.

Now, just for the curious, Lord Nyo is an old samurai, scarred in battle, ugly as most warriors are, and at a lost when it comes to the refinement and elegance of life– especially poetry. His Lady Nyo is fully half his age, a delicate and thoughtful woman, though without issue.

But Lord and Lady Nyo don’t fill these pages alone. There are other characters; priests, magical events, samurai and a particularly tricky Tengu who will entertain any reader of this tale.

A full moon, as in many Japanese tales, figures in the mix. As do poetry, some historic and some bad. War and battles, love and hate. But this is like life. There is no getting one without the other.

 

The present Lady Nyo, descended from generations past.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017 (“Song of the Nightingale” can be purchased at Amazon.com, published in 2015)

 

 

“Seasons Change”

March 21, 2017

Kohut-Bartels-LS-3

(Watercolor, Dawn Breaks, jane kohut-bartels, 2000)

Over at dverse, Paul Dear is giving a prompt of “River” meaning many things to different poets. This is my interpretation.

Jane

I took a walk this morning.

The seasons have 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 stripped from the birches and maples.

They fell like rain on a fallow ground one day

and I didn’t see them go.

 

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

the smooth bark like white skin with a faint pulse of the river beneath.

 

Do you remember that river, when 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 imploring me 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’s all that is left.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016


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