Posts Tagged ‘Samurai’

Lord Nyo’s Lament, from “Song of the Nightingale”, Episode 3.

May 16, 2017

images (9)

 

Lord Nyo’s Lament

 

Oh my wife!

My feet take me over mountains

In the service to our lord

But my heart stays tucked in the bosom

Of your robe.

Lady Nyo, circa 2015

 

 

The song of the arrow

As it arced into the sea

Was as tuneless

As a badly strung samisen.

 

Gun- metal clouds

Stretched across a dull horizon

The sun still asleep

As he should be

His quiver empty

His heart, too.

 

When had the callousness of life and death

Become as comfortable as breath to him?

He had become too much the warrior

And too little the man.

 

His distance from his wife,

From most of life

Was as if some unseen object

Kept them ten paces apart.

Perhaps it was the cloud-barrier

Of earthly lusts which obscured

The Sun of Buddha?

 

 

Perhaps he should pray.

What God would listen?

Then it came to him

That joker of a Buddha, Fudo

With his rope to pull him from Hell

And his sword to cut through foolishness-

Fudo would listen.

Fudo knew the quaking hearts

The illusions embraced

To stomach the battlefield

The fog of drink,

To face life

In the service of Death.

Fudo would save him from

The yellow waters of Hell.

 

He remembered those years

When she could bring him to his knees

With the promise of dark mystery

Between silken thighs,

And the glimpse of her white wrist-

A river of passion

Just beneath the surface.

How he had steeled his heart

Believing himself unmanned

For the love she induced!

 

Three cranes flew low to the shore,

Legs streaming like black ribbons behind.

Three cranes, three prayers, three chances

To find his way back

Bound up in Fudo’s ropes,

Prodded in the ass by Fudo’s sword.

 

He would write a poem

On a bone-white fan

To leave on her cushion.

She would know his love

She would know his sorrow.

 

The sea took his arrows

Beyond the breakers,

The glint of sleek feathers

Catching thin rays of light.

An unexpected peace came over him

As they journeyed far from his hands.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011, 2016 (Song of the Nightingale was published on Amazon in 2015 and can be bought online)

 

 

 

 

‘Lord Nyo’s Lament’ from “Song of the Nightingale”

October 21, 2015

Song_of_the_Nightingale_COVER

http://amzn.to/1Cm8mZi

 

Oh my wife!

My feet take me over mountains

In the service to our lord

But my heart stays tucked in the bosom

Of your robe.

Lord Nyo’s Lament

The song of the arrow

As it arced into the sea

Was as tuneless

As a badly strung samisen.

Gun- metal clouds

Stretched across a dull horizon

The sun still asleep

As he should be

His quiver empty

His heart, too.

When had the callousness of life and death

Become as comfortable as breath to him?

He had become too much the warrior

And too little the man.

His distance from his wife,

From most of life

Was as if some unseen object

Kept them ten paces apart.

Perhaps it was the cloud-barrier

Of earthly lusts which obscured

The Sun of Buddha?

Perhaps he should pray.

What God would listen?

Then it came to him

That joker of a Buddha, Fudo

With his rope to pull him from Hell

And his sword to cut through foolishness-

Fudo would listen.

Fudo knew the quaking hearts

The illusions embraced

To stomach the battlefield

The fog of drink,

To face life

In the service of Death.

Fudo would save him from

The yellow waters of Hell.

He remembered those years

When she could bring him to his knees

With the promise of dark mystery

Between silken thighs,

And the glimpse of her white wrist-

A river of passion

Just beneath the surface.

How he had steeled his heart

Believing himself unmanned

For the love she induced!

Three cranes flew low to the shore,

Legs streaming like black ribbons behind.

Three cranes, three prayers, three chances

To find his way back

Bound up in Fudo’s ropes,

Prodded in the ass by Fudo’s sword.

He would write a poem

On a bone-white fan

To leave on her cushion.

She would know his love

She would know his sorrow.

The sea took his arrows

Beyond the breakers,

The glint of sleek feathers

Catching thin rays of light.

An unexpected peace came over him

As they journeyed far from his hands.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted,  2015, “Song of the Nightingale” is published by Createspace, Amazon.com, 2015

Lord Nyo’s Lament, from “Song of the Nightingale” just published.

August 2, 2015

Song_of_the_Nightingale_COVER

http://amzn.to/1Cm8mZi

Lord Nyo’s Lament

 

Oh my wife!

My feet take me over mountains

In the service to our lord

But my heart stays tucked in the bosom

Of your robe.

The song of the arrow

As it arced into the sea

Was as tuneless

As a badly strung samisen.

Gun- metal clouds

Stretched across a dull horizon

The sun still asleep

As he should be

His quiver empty

His heart, too.

When had the callousness of life and death

Become as comfortable as breath to him?

He had become too much the warrior

And too little the man

-.

His distance from his wife,

From most of life

Was as if some unseen object

Kept them ten paces apart.

Perhaps it was the cloud-barrier

Of earthly lusts which obscured

The Sun of Buddha?

Perhaps he should pray.

What God would listen?

Then it came to him

That joker of a Buddha, Fudo

With his rope to pull him from Hell

And his sword to cut through foolishness-

Fudo would listen.

Fudo knew the quaking hearts

The illusions embraced

To stomach the battlefield

The fog of drink,

To face life

In the service of Death.

Fudo would save him from

The yellow waters of Hell.

He remembered those years

When she could bring him to his knees

With the promise of dark mystery

Between silken thighs,

And the glimpse of her white wrist-

A river of passion

Just beneath the surface.

How he had steeled his heart

Believing himself unmanned

For the love she induced!

Three cranes flew low to the shore,

Legs streaming like black ribbons behind.

Three cranes, three prayers, three chances

To find his way back

Bound up in Fudo’s ropes,

Prodded in the ass by Fudo’s sword.

He would write a poem

On a bone-white fan

To leave on her cushion.

She would know his love

She would know his sorrow.

The sea took his arrows

Beyond the breakers,

The glint of sleek feathers

Catching thin rays of light.

An unexpected peace came over him

As they journeyed far from his hands.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011, 2015

Saigyo, Warrior Priest and Poet, some of his poetry and a little of mine.

May 4, 2015
was to be the cover painting for

was to be the cover painting for “Pitcher of Moon” but didn’t work out. Jane Kohut-Bartels, small watercolor.

This is a very  little of Saigyo, the Heian-era priest and poet.  Reading Saigyo is like falling into the rim of the Universe: you have no idea where you will land nor what you will learn.  But the trip will  profoundly change you.

In “Mirror For the Moon”, a collection of translations by William LaFleur of Saigyo, one gets the idea that Saigyo transcended the usual route, the accepted and comfortable route of poet/priests of that era.

There were tons of poetry written by many poets, officials, etc. about the moon, nature, flowers, etc.  But Saigyo’s poetry had an ‘edge’, a difference:  his view of blossoms, moon, nature, was not just the usual symbol of evanescence and youthful beauty:  his view of blossoms, nature, were more a path into the inner depth of this relationship between humanity and nature.   He spent 50 years walking the mountains, road, forests, fields all over Japan and his poetry (waka) reflected his deep understanding of the physicality of nature:  all seasons were felt and experienced not from the safety and comfort of a court, surrounded by other silk-clad courtier/poets,  but out there in the trenches of nature.  His poetry is fomented in the cold and penetrating fall and spring rains, the slippery paths upon mountain trails, the ‘grass pillows’ and a thin cloak, the deep chill of winter snows upon a mountain, the rising  mists that befuddle orientation,  and especially, the loneliness of traveling without companionship.

Saigyo became a poet/priest, but before that he was and came from a samurai family.  He was, at the age of 22, a warrior.  He always struggled with his past in his long years of travel, wondering how this  former life impacted on his religious vows.  His poetry reflects this issue.

I have begun to re-acquaint myself with Saigyo and his poetry, having first come across his poems in 1990. There is something so profound, different, that calls down the centuries to the heart.  His poetry awakens my awe and wonder of not only nature-in-the-flesh, but in the commonality of the human experience.

Lady Nyo

Not a hint of shadow

On the moon’s face….but now

A silhouette passes–

Not the cloud I take it for,

But a flock of flying geese.

Thought I was free

Of passions, so  this melancholy

Comes as surprise:

A woodcock shoots up from marsh

Where autumn’s twilight falls.

Someone who has learned

How to manage life in loneliness:

Would there were one more!

He could winter here on this mountain

With his hut right  next  to mine.

Winter has withered

Everything in this mountain place:

Dignity is in

Its desolation now, and  beauty

In the cold clarity of its moon.

When the fallen snow

Buried the twigs bent by me

To mark a return trail,

Unplanned, in strange mountains

I was holed up all winter.

Snow has fallen on

Field paths and mountain paths,

Burying them all

And I can’t tell here from there:

My journey in the midst of sky.

Here I huddle, alone,

In the mountain’s shadow, needing

Some companion somehow:

The cold, biting rains pass off

And give me the winter moon.

(I love this one especially: Saigyo makes the vow to be unattached to seasons, to expectations, but fails and embraces his very human limitations)

It was bound to be!

My vow to be unattached

To seasons and such….

I, who by a frozen bamboo pipe

Now watch and wait for spring.

(Love like cut reeds….)

Not so confused

As to lean only one way:

My love-life!

A sheaf of field reeds also bends

Before each wind which moves it.

(And Love like fallen leaves….)

Each morning the wind

Dies down and the rustling leaves

Go silent: Was this

The passion of all-night lovers

Now talked out and parting?

From “Mirror For the Moon”, A Selection of Poems by Saigyo (1118-1190)

Three of my own “Moon” poems….in the form of Tanka.

The moon floats on wisps

Of cloud that extend outward

Tendrils of white fire

Burn up in the universe–

Gauzy ghosts of nothingness.

——–

Shooting star crosses

Upended bowl of blue night

Imagination

Fires up with excited gaze!

A moment– and all is gone.

_______

(and one more….)

——

The full moon above

floats on blackened velvet seas,

poet’s perfection!

But who does not yearn for a

crescent in lavender sky?

———-

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015……these last three poems were from “White Cranes of Heaven”, Lulu.com, 2011, Jane Kohut-Bartels

 

‘Introduction to the Characters’, From “The Nightingale’s Song”

March 3, 2015

Samurai in Battle on Horse

Some time in late March I will publish “The Nightingale’s Song”.  Actually, Nick Nicholson and I will publish it.  Nick is travelling the US in a black Mustang convertible, having the time of his life.  Nick comes from Canberra, Australia, and in his last trip here, formatted “Pitcher of Moon” (April, 2014). 

I wrote this saga three years ago, but have added chapters to it, and some essays on the Man’yoshu, the great 8th century Japanese document of poetry that inspired so much of “Nightingale”.

It is good to have this work finished. The cover painting is done, and there are a few surprises inside in the form of graphics.  We will publish this book at Createspace, Amazon.com.

Lady Nyo

1

INTRODUCTION TO THE CHARACTERS….

 

 

In Old Japan there was an even older daimyo called Lord Mori, who lived in the shadow of Moon Mountain, 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.  A clever demand 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.  This only worked on paper for the nature of daimyos was to plunder and cut throats where they could.

Lord Mori was fortunate in having an exemption to attend 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 demands. 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 loss 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, an old nursemaid, women of the court of Lord Mori, an ‘invisible’ suitor, birds and frogs, samurai and a particularly tricky Tengu who will stand to entertain any reader of this tale.

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

The present Lady Nyo, descended from generations past.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

‘Inspired By The Great Man’yoshu’

February 19, 2014
Heian era Woman with Tengu

Heian era Woman with Tengu

 

This short work will be published in “The Nightingale’s Song”, along with other essays. 

 

Inspired By The Great Man’yoshu

 It is right and proper to draw inspiration from other poetry. This pulls your own poetic voice into the mystery of love and passion. It’s fun and also a challenge to ‘fit’ your poetic voice into existing classical poetry. I have taken the words from poems from the great 8th century Man’yoshu and either fashioned an answer…or a continuation of the top poem. What I believe to be termed “call and answer”.

The Man’yoshu’s poems are in bold type. All else are my own poetry. These poems are a small part of poems I am working in this fashion. Most of these poems, both from the Man’yoshu and my own are used to head up the 14 sections of “The Nightingale’s Song”.

“The Nightingale’s Song” will be published late this autumn or early next year.

TENGUS: Tengus are mythological creatures that originated in China but have been very popular in Japanese  literature and mythology.  They are shape shifters and forever are tripping up arrogant Buddhist priests.  They come as a large bird, but assume human dimensions when they want.  They are recognized by long red noses. In mythology (???) they were teachers of martial arts to the yamabushi (mountain (yama) dwellers).  A Tengu figures prominantly in “The Nightingale’s Song”.

“My heart, like my clothing
Is saturated with your fragrance.
Your vows of fidelity
Were made to our pillow and not to me.”
—-

Oh my wife!
My feet take me over mountains
In the service to our lord
But my heart stays tucked in the bosom
Of your robe.

Does he know?
Does he know?
Does he know about the letters?

“I stay here waiting for him
In the autumn wind, my sash untied,
Wondering, is he coming now,
Is he coming now?
And the moon is low in the sky.

The only company I have tonight,
Now near dawn, is the paling Milky Way,
And Oh, my husband!
There are not stars enough in the heavens
To equal my sorrowful tears.”

Strong man as I am,
Who force my way even through the rocks,
In love I rue in misery.
—Man’yoshu

Perhaps a strong man
Should not offer love without
Having love returned
But this grieving ugly warrior
Still finds his love is growing

–Man’yoshu

“The cicada cries
Everyday at the same hour
But I’m a woman much in love and very weak
And can cry anytime”

—Man’yoshu

My thoughts these days
Come thick like the summer grass
Which soon cut and raked
Grows wild again.

Oh, I wish these
Obsessive love-thoughts
Would disappear!
As they fill my head
They empty my sleep!

I who have counted me
For a strong man
Only a little less than heaven and earth,
How short of manliness that I love!

On this earth and even heaven
This weakness in love
Turns my sword
Into a blade of grass.

Come to me
If even only in my dreams
Where my head rests upon my arm-
not yours.
Let this veiled moon
Above and these dark, brooding pines below
Be witness to our love, my man.”

Come to me,
When the rocks have disappeared
Under sheets of snow,
The moon appears through tattered clouds.
I will be
Listening for the sound of
Your footfall in the dark.

Come to me, my man,
Part the blinds and come into my arms,
Snuggle against my warm breast
And let my belly
Warm your soul.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

 

 

“The Battlefield”, from “The Nightingale’s Song”, Part 11

September 22, 2013

Samurai in Battle on Horse

 

 ” The Battlefield”

There’s no gap or break
in the ranks of those marching
under the hill:
an endless line of dying men,
coming on and on and on….

Saigyo

 

When the news of Lady Nyo

Birthing a son

Reached Lord Nyo

He was far from home,

To the east,

Over mountains

In dangerous, alien territory.

A general in the service

Of his lord,

The gore of battle,

The issue of ‘dying with honor’

Began at first light,

The air soon filled with sounds of battle-

Dying horses, dying men

Drawing their last gasps of life,

Churned into the mud of immeasurable violence.


The river of death
is swollen with bodies
fallen into it;
in the end of the bridge
of horses cannot help.

—Saigyo

 

 

Death, not new life

Was before his eyes at dawn,

And death, not life

Pillowed his head at night.

 

A battle rages around me,

But inside this old warrior

A battle rages inside my heart.

It is heavy with sorrow,

So tired beyond my old bones.

 

What good have we done

In watering the soil

With blood and offal

of sons?

 

He stunk with the blood of battle

As his bow and swords cut a swath

Through men in service to another

And when the battle horns went silent,

With tattered banners like defeated clouds

 Hanging limp over the field,

Acrid smoke stained everything

And the piteous cries of the dying

Echoed in his ears.

He wondered if his life would end here.

But the gods that he didn’t believe in

Were merciful

And his thoughts turned from fierce, ugly warriors

Towards home and a baby.

Still, he could not leave.

He was caught by status

The prestige of his clan

And could not desert the

Fate set out for him from his birth.

Ah! This was fate of a man in servitude

To his Lord Daimyo.

This was the fate

Of a man chained to Honor.

 

Still, in the darkest hours of the night

The soft and perfumed shape of his wife

Floated down to him from the fleeting clouds,

Came to him through the smoke of battlefield fires,

And he turned on his pallet

To embrace this haunting comfort.

 

Off in the distance

There I see my loved one’s home

On the horizon.

How I long to be there soon

Get along black steed of mine!

 

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2012 (October 17th, 2012)  2013

 

 

“End Poem: Lord Nyo’s Resolve”, from “The Nightingale’s Song”

August 18, 2013

"The Nightingale's Song", End Poem in this series.

“End Poem: from Nightingale Part 9 

Strong man as I am,

Who force my way even through the rocks,

In love I rue in misery.

—Man’yoshu

 

The rain ceased,

A cold light appeared

Dappling the ground beneath the gingko-

Like an indigo yukata.

Lord Nyo tiredly

Watched the morning grow,

His old bones stiff

As the autumn chill crawled up his spine-

Slow-moving, gait-crippling snakes.

Geese flew through peach clouds,

Their cries falling like chiding rain.

Paired for life these geese–

Like a man and woman should be.

His falcon,

Sitting in a bamboo cage,

Head tucked under a wing,

Feathers plumped against the

Raw morning breeze

Would want to hunt.

Lord Nyo preferred his warm bed.

Un-hooding the falcon,

Placing the bird on glove,

He launched her in air,

Watched her circle the firmament,

Soar in wide circles.

How beautiful!  How free!

Glossy feathers, sharp eyed,

Giving a shrill hunting cry

As she scanned earth.

She would come to his call,

This loyal bird–

She would not fly away.

Why did his wife not fly away?

As beautiful as this falcon,

As desirable by beauty,

Wit and breeding as any–

Yet she remained with him,

If not on his glove.

Once I did believe

Myself to be a warrior

Though I have found

Love has caused me to grow thin

Since my love was not returned.

 –

The problem was not his wife.

The problem was this:

He could not bend,

Tightly laced in the armor,

In service to his own lord.

Ah, if she were here

We could listen together

To the sound of passing geese

Crying in the rising sun.

 

All day Lord Nyo cast his falcon

Into the air.

She brought down birds,

While he flushed out rabbits,

The voice of his bow sang

Until his saddle bags

Were full, heavy.

Still,

His mind did not turn

From poems flowing

From the river of his heart.

Although a warrior

I am lying and weeping here

While I make for you

A comb of willow branch-

Let it adorn your hair.

 

And….

 

My longing for her

Is a thousand waves that roll

From the sea each day

Why is it so difficult

To clasp that jewel to my wrist?

 

If from her mouth

There hung a hundred-year-old tongue

And she would babble

I still would not cease to care

But indeed my love would grow.

 

 

All day Lord Nyo

And falcon hunted,

Until darkness fell

And still he loathed

Returning home.

He struggled so hard.

What was of stone?

What was of flesh?

He remembered an old

Verse from the Man’yoshu:

Instead of suffering

This longing for my loved one

I would rather choose

To become a stone or tree

Without feelings or sad thoughts

 

Bah!

He was neither stone nor tree

He was a man

In sore need of the comfort

Of hearth and home,

And especially a loving wife!

Near dawn,

When birds awoke-

Began their morning chatter,

Lord Nyo turned towards home

Came through the wicket gate

Standing open, expecting him.

A bright cup of moon

Was low in the eastern sky,

Grinning like a demented god,

Through the morning fog.

Banji wa yume.

All things are merely dreams.

 –

His  wife on the veranda,

Quilted robe thrown over her head,

And only a small- wicked lantern

Did light her.

Lord Nyo slid off his horse

And bowed deeply to Lady Nyo,

A gesture without words

A gesture not needing them.

Lord Nyo mounted the steps

Pulled his wife to him and

Arm in arm,

They entered the house

To pillow in each other

While the uguisu–

The ‘poem-singing’ bird

Welcomed them from her

Branch in the plum tree.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011, 2013

 

 

‘Lord Nyo’s Continuing Lament’ Part 5, from “The Nightingale’s Song”

August 2, 2013

"Moon Child" from "The Nightingale's Song", Part II

Ome  is Plum in Japanese…as in Plum Tree. 

Kami  is a spirit, or demon…sort of.

Uguisu is one name for the Bush Warbler, or what stands in for the Nightingale.

 

Lady Nyo

Lord Nyo’s  Continuing Lament, Part 5

 –

Lord Nyo was known

For three things:

Archery,

Drink,

Temper.

He was attempting a fourth:

Poetry.

It wasn’t going well.

 –

Leaving orders not to be disturbed

(He would have only tea and rice)

The servants thought their master possessed:

Possessed by a demon!

Possessed by an uncaring kami.

Who didn’t know sake was

The life-blood of their master?

What was next?

Would he throw aside his two swords

And take the tonsure– become a monk?

 –

By the pale light of a moon

Too thin to fatten the road,

Lord Nyo applied himself

To brush and paper

His face a terrible scowl,

His tongue gripped between his teeth,

The air peppered with grunts and soft curses.

 –

The bullfrogs outside called to him.

He remembered this same effort

Decades ago when his Priest-tutor

Attempted to refine his calligraphy

When all he wanted was a sharp stick

To gig frogs.  Ah!

 –

Through the night

Lady Nyo and her old nurse

Watched from across the hall,

Watched the candle flare up and die

As Lord Nyo burned each poem,

Knowing his words inelegant

Sensing his mind too dull to enflame

The love, forgiveness, passion of his wife.

 –

Towards dawn the cry of an uguisu

Pierced the dark,

Singing against the light

Of that watery moon,

The ‘poem-reading-bird’!

In a blossoming ome

Outside his window.

– 

Her song went deep,

Rendering him helpless,

Stilling his whirling head,

Refreshing his heart.

It was such a simple thing.

– 

Being of the world

He missed what was important.

Nature, in the form of a simple bird,

In the form of a tone-poem,

Was offering an answer:

A path to redemption

If only he would listen.

 –

Lord Nyo picked up his brush,

Stroked it across the stone

Into the puddle of watery ink,

And with his wrist bent properly,

Wrote this character:

 

空

(Emptiness, a void, forgetting the forms of the material world.)

 

– 

It was a start.

It was what the little bird sang:

Of emptiness, the void,

The return to his nature, to Nature,

That  finer nature,

Before the grizzled warrior–

The void where hope was possible,

Where his life could begin.

 –

He slept that night

Listening to the frogs of his childhood

And the nightingale in the plum,

Both bathed in the watery moonlight.

 –

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011, 2013

‘Lord Nyo’s Lament’, from “The Nightingale’s Song”

July 26, 2013

Samurai in Battle on Horse

I’m going to post two pieces of “The Nightingale’s Song” per week so it doesn’t drag out so long.

Lady Nyo

Lord Nyo’s Lament, from “The Nightingale’s Song”

– 

Oh my wife!

My feet take me over mountains

In the service to our lord

But my heart stays tucked in the bosom

Of your robe.

 

The song of the arrow

As it arced into the sea

Was as tuneless

As a badly strung samisen.

Gun- metal clouds

Stretched across a dull horizon

The sun still asleep

As he should be

His quiver empty

His heart, too.

When had the callousness of life and death

Become as comfortable as breath to him?

He had become too much the warrior

And too little the man.

His distance from his wife,

From most of life

Was as if some unseen object

Kept them ten paces apart.

Perhaps it was the cloud-barrier

Of earthly lusts which obscured

The Sun of Buddha?

Perhaps he should pray.

 What God would listen?

Then it came to him

That joker of a Buddha, Fudo

With his rope to pull him from Hell

And his sword to cut through foolishness-

Fudo would listen.

Fudo knew the quaking hearts

The illusions embraced

To stomach the battlefield

The fog of drink,

To face life

In the service of Death.

Fudo would save him from

The yellow waters of Hell.

He remembered those years

When she could bring him to his knees

With the promise of dark mystery

Between silken thighs,

And the glimpse of her white wrist-

A river of passion

Just beneath the surface.

How he had steeled his heart

Believing himself unmanned

For the love she induced!

Three cranes flew low to the shore,

Legs streaming like black ribbons behind.

Three cranes, three prayers, three chances

To find his way back

Bound up in Fudo’s ropes,

Prodded in the ass by Fudo’s sword.

He would write a poem

On a bone-white fan

To leave on her cushion.

She would know his love

She would know his sorrow.

The sea took his arrows

Beyond the breakers,

The glint of sleek feathers

Catching thin rays of light.

An unexpected peace came over him

As they journeyed far from his hands.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011, 2013


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