Posts Tagged ‘Tsuki’

“Tsuki” a sequel to “Kimono”

November 19, 2020

Sequel to Kimono…

Dusk had fallen.  Lord Yoki and Tsuki, ducked out the back entrance from the temple to the pond.  There a stand of trees shaded the pond and covered their presence.  Lord Yoki knew he would be in trouble if found, but the frogs were calling.  Plus, the taste of frog legs was in his mouth all day.

Young Tsuki, the son of Lord Tetsu, was seven years old.  Lord Yoki was much older and wiser, but he was bored with the recitation of sutras that held him captive every day.  Lord Yoki couldn’t read, plus he was a Tengu, and birds don’t favor literature.  Nor do they recite sutras.

Lord Yoki was the tutor to the young Tsuki.  Appointed by Lord Tetsu, the former daimyo who had abdicated his position to another long time friend and ally, Lord Ekei.  Now he was in exile on a western coast of upper Japan, low on the side of a mountain.

Lord Yoki’s kimono was wet from the pond. He fell in, overreaching with his gigging spear.  Tsuki followed him, excitedly thrashing the calm waters with his. Pond scum coated their clothes and Lord Yoki, once back on the bank, looked at his charge.  There would be Hell to pay if Lord Tetsu caught them.

“Come, young master. I’ll take the basket and have it delivered to the kitchen.  You go clean up and change your kimono.  Your mother will have my head if she sees you in such a state.”

Tsuki entered their house and looking for his father, saw him on the balcony.  Bowing lowly, he addressed his stern father.

“Father, I am home.”

Lord Tetsu turned and looked for a long moment at his son.

“I see. And I also see that you have been in the pond again.  What was it this time?  Carp or frogs?”

Tsuki blushed and bowed even lower.  “Father, I can’t help it.  The frogs this time were calling to me.”

“Oh Ho!  Were they looking to hear the sutras or did you read them to the frogs?”

Tsuki looked confused.  “Father, you know that these kappa relatives don’t like to hear sutras.  They only want to hear each other croak.”

Lord Tetsu started to smile broadly.  His son was full of answers this evening, but his punishment would be mild.

“If that be the case, then you, Tsuki, recite a poem on what you and the frogs were doing out there.”

“It wasn’t only me, Father.  Lord Yoki was with me.”

“So I have two to blame for this?   Lord Yoki is his own man, so he is to be excused….but you, my son are still under my thumb.”

Tsuki looked crestfallen and dropped his eyes to the floor.  He had betrayed his friend Lord Yoki.  He already knew that his tutor would never do this to him. He had covered his antics many times.

“Father, can I have some time to compose this frog poem?”

Lord Tetsu glared at his son.  “You can have dinner after you compose your poem.”

Tsuki knew he couldn’t compose in such a short time.  He was not too keen on poetry, even short ones.  They made him cross his eyes and stick out his tongue in the attempt..  Plus, he was hungry.  He bowed to his father and went to his room.  Ah, his father was a renown poet, as was his m other, Lady Mari.  He, however, strained his brains to come up with even a short one.

“Bull frogs, Bull frogs”.  Nothing came to mind.  Perhaps he could seek out his tutor, as Lord Yoki was quick of mind.

Tsuki slipped down a hall where his tutor had rooms.  When he was allowed entrance to Lord Yoki’s rooms, they always smelled strange.  This time was no different.

He bowed low at the shoji and spied his tutor laying spread eagle on his bed.  Even his bed was different and strange.  It was like the futon was a pile of sticks and twigs with a quilt thrown over it all.

Lord Yoki sat up and nodded to the boy.  He had not changed his gown and it still was stained with pond scum.

“What is it now, young master?”

“Honorable Tutor.  My father perceived that I was gigging frogs again in the north pond.”

“And is that so unusual, son?  You spend as much time in that pond as you do in the temple at your lessons.”

“Yes, that is true, my Lord.  But frogs sing a different song than those boring sutras.  Plus you can eat them where you can’t eat a sutra.”

“So! What is it this time? What is the punishment your Lord Father demands?”

“My lord, he demands a poem about bullfrogs.  I can’t think of an opening line”.

“I bet you can’t think of a middle and closing line, neither”

Tsuki put on a sad, mournful face.  “Honorable Tutor.  Will you help me?  My father has forbidden me to eat my dinner until I present a poem about frogs.”

“Well, we can’t have you starving, Tsuki. Let me think, son.”  Lord Yoki  looked up at the ceiling and then down at the floor.

“I will.  IF you think of the final line.  Then we can attest that you at least had your hand in this.”

Bullfrogs bellow a different pitch

Autumn’s fast approaching.

And though they soak in a rocky pond……

“Your turn, Tsuki.  Close out the poem.’

“They escape the sun?”

“Well, it has promise.  What are the frogs trying to escape?  Think harder.”

“Summer heat they can’t escape?”

‘Not a bad ending, son.  You are not a seasoned poet, but that should get you dinner.”

When Tsuki presented himself for dinner, his father, mother and sister were  sitting at the long, low dining table.

“Good. We await your poem as I am sure you await your dinner.”

His sister, almost four years old, was sitting there, her head barely clearing the table.  She was sticking her tongue out at him.  Lady Mari pinched her arm.

Tsuki recited his frog poem and his father looked at him with one eye closed.

“It has the scent of Lord Yoki about it, but perhaps you had a hand in composing it?”

Tsuki nodded, and blushed.

“Well, sit down.  You have earned your dinner.”

Tsuki sat down, across from his sister and tried to look in the pot as a maid made her rounds of the table. He was hoping there was something besides miso broth in it.

His sister crossed her eyes and tried to stare at him. He glared at her and tried to look fierce. Lord Tetsu rapped the table with his spoon and his mother pinched his sister again.

Miu was the name of Lord and Lady Tetsu’s daughter.  She was tiny, her round head with her skimpy hair, pulled up in a ponytail, hardly cleared the table. She glanced at her father, using her spoon to eat the broth.  She got much of it down her long bib.

She was the apple of her father’s eye, and knew it.  Even at her tender age she knew she had her father wrapped around her tiny finger.  She smiled at her father, her lips glossy with broth. He stopped eating just to watch her, such tenderness apparent on his face. He glanced at his wife, and smiled.  From a fierce warlord, the sight of his two children had turned him into a man who acted like a tender nursemaid, not able to deny them anything. Many years before, he had a younger wife with two young toddlers, a boy and a girl. He was on land, all three were off the coast,  returning from a visit to relatives, when a rogue wave dashed the ship onto rocks.  They all drowned.  After the funerals, he climbed into the mountains and trained with the yamabushi, the ‘warriors who sleep on the mountain’.  He was gone for three years.

He glanced at his wife, Lady Mari. She smiled at him and then turned to wipe the broth from her daughter’s face. She had been surprised at the sentiment her husband had shown with his children. When she was introduced to his court, she heard a shocking incident.  He had risen from his seat and cut a man in half with his katana.  The whole court witnessed this slaughter. Now an ex-daimyo, his children were the center of his life. He had tried for more, but Lady Mari was growing older and no more children were born.  She wondered if her husband would take a second wife for children. So far, there had been no discussion of doing this, but it was pretty common in noble families.

 End of Chapter 1


Lord Tetsu’s  exile seven years ago was shared by forty samurai.  These men had been in faithful service to Lord Tetsu before his necessary exile. Lord Tetsu and his wife had settled in Aomori, territory of the daimyo, Lord Ekei. 

Lord Ekei shared one of the three provinces with two other powerful daimyos.  He now assumed power of daimyo from his seat in Akita.  Aomori was his to do with what he pleased.  He was pleased to settle Lord Tetsu and his household, along with his small core of faithful samurai in this mountainous region of Aomori.

Great precautions had been taken for Lord Tetsu’s exile because of the danger from the clan of Lord Kiyami, who was defeated by Lord Tetsu and his forces.

Though Kiyami was dead, there was always the chance his kin would seek revenge. So far, there was peace.  There was no news of an army marching on Lord Tetsu’s stronghold. But war was possible far away from Kyoto.  Though the Shogun forbid it, the chance of a raid and an addition to one daimyo’s land was a temptation.  What could the Shogunate do when there were mountains to cross and thousands of miles to travel?  Generally, these far flung daimyos were left alone as long as they paid tribute to the Shogun every two years with visits to Kyoto.  They could kill each other in battle on a large pasture, or plain, but the mountains made this a hard campaign to wage.

Heavy snowfalls from early Autumn to early spring called for a different architecture in these mountains. Akita also had great snows, but the roads of this mountain terrain were impassable for a good bit of the year. There was nothing to be done, but to dig in and keep warm as possible.

Mari was struck by the difference in architecture.  In Akita, the first place she met her husband, Lord Tetsu, the houses were lower, except where the heaviest snowfalls happened.  On the mountain sides, the roofs were slanted, rather like a modern A frame.  As the prologue stated, Mari had flown in on a possessed kimono almost a decade before and landed without ceremony at the feet of Lord Tetsu.  Her life was very different back then, and the 17th century Japan was wilder and slower than anything in the 21st. Japan.  It took a lot of adjusting.


It was early autumn.  Mari took her children higher into the mountains just to get away from the smoky dwellings. By tradition, cooking, heat was on  a first floor of each dwelling  A pit of wood or charcoal was dug and above, the smoke rose to the next floor, though a cut out in the wooden ceiling.  Decades of this made the timbers black with soot.  Mari was sure that this was unhealthy for her children.  Her husband, Lord Tetsu, said this was the way of life in these mountains and didn’t seem bothered by the smoke and soot. Mari was.

One late morning, Mari took her daughter on the path that winded through the houses and higher into the mountain.  She was always accompanied by two samurai of her husband’s because who he was and who she was.  She never felt she was alone.  She did strike a bargain with the men where they would remain at least at a mild distance, but still in view,  so she felt some privacy.

Autumn came early in these mountains.  The floor of the forest and the path were quilted by colorful leaves.  Her daughter Miu laughed and chased leaves, grabbing the ones that caught her eye.  Mari would sit against a tree and watch her.   Miu would hold up the leaves for her mother to admire, and in an unintelligible language, would chortle her happiness.  She was so tiny, thought Mari, a little bird in a big forest.  They would climb the path upwards until it was time to return, and Miu would fill her outer kimono with her treasures.  Pinecones, leaves, bark, pebbles, whatever she could carry.  When they returned to their home, she would empty her gown at the porch for the maids to sweep away.

Lord Tetsu was in exile, but that didn’t mean he had abdicated total power.  It was rather like the earlier emperors who left a position of power in the court, only to become another center of influence in ‘retirement’.  Lord Tetsu had been aloof for the first few years from the local area authorities, but that didn’t last long.  There was much curiosity as to who was this powerful man who had his own small army of samurai.   Soon he was consulted by the village headman on numerous issues and slowly Lord Tetsu came back to life.  These local concerns were nothing compared to what  he had been used to after decades as the daimyo of Akita. His history was never fully known by the local authorities, but a man with two swords and a small army of samurai was a force not to be trifled with.

The changes to Lord Tetsu life couldn’t be measured only in the force of exile.  Marriage, children and an underlay of tension as to whether they all were safe.

Chapter 4, “Tsuki”

Lord Tetsu stood on the back side of his wide, stone porch, looking out at the bay that hid between the trees.  Lord Tetsu had picked this area to build his house because he wanted the water to be in view of the house.  It was an easy stroll from the rooms to the wide porch.  Seven years ago he had started the foundation, which meant a wide and high stone wall from a forest below.  It took his 40 samurai and men hired from the village by the bay to build this wall and house.  It was not big, considering he was a former daimyo, but big enough to impress.   He had made some changes because Mari had suggested them.  He thought it only fair that he do this. Mari had suffered a lot before they left Akita, but it was more than her suffering.  She also had ideas about construction and the lay of the house that intrigued him.  An inside toilet with a latrine underneath set into the ground  helped on those cold days when it was uncomfortable to travel through snow to the bathhouse and family latrine.

Lord Tetsu stood on the back porch looking out at the bay in the distance.  His palms itched.  He had joined the village men and his samurais the day before in splitting and stacking wood for the winter.  He didn’t wear gloves because no one else did.  He realized too late his hands weren’t callused like the villagemen.  Though no one would say his hands were soft, he realized his limits in this work.

Lord Tetsu smiled.  He was remembering a year ago when he felt something in the cloth of his hamana.  He drew his knife, thinking it was some creature from the forest.  Slowly parting his robe, he saw Miu curled like a young racoon in the folds of his trousers.  He thought of calling for a maid to remove her, but then decided to let the child sleep.  How brave she was, he thought, hiding herself in the robes of a former daimyo.  She was not aware of his former status.  To Miu, he was just her father, though what that consisted of, Lord Tetsu didn’t know[JB1] . For a while he had tried to get in bed with Mari, but most times the two children were clinging to each side like puppies.  He knew they would wake up and Miu would probably cry, so he was not sure what to do. He would have to ‘take her to ground’ in the afternoon.  It had been a while, but the passion was still smoldering.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2020



July 6, 2017


On the 4th, because of all the gunshot and fireworks by the Cretins around here  (4 plus hours of heavy barrage)  Tsuki (Moon in Japanese) disappeared.  We feared the worse because people were shooting guns: shotguns, pistols, automatics, semiautomatics, Blunderbusters, etc…..whatever these morons could get their hands on. Yikes!  I think this is the first year fireworks were available in Georgia and digits were lost in the fun all over.

Tsuki came back at dusk 24 hours later….and won’t go outside now.  He is a head butt-er and sleeps wherever he can find human flesh.  Glad my Creamcycle is back!

Lady Nyo

‘Lord Nyo Meets His Son’, from “The Nightingale’s Song”, Part 12

September 29, 2013

fullmoon mystery moon

Two years ago this November  Marge Chester died.  The night before she did, she called  to discuss this last episode of  what was to become “The Nightingale’s Song”.  She said these words of Lord Nyo, ‘this grieving ugly warrior’, had made her cry. She  followed the series of poems and had ‘become close’ to Lord Nyo and his transformation, his struggle to change in thinking and behavior.  Marge was a friend for over 24 years, the mate of my cousin Bobby who also died.  I couldn’t have had a better and kinder friend.  She was the strongest woman I have known. This end espisode is dedicated to Marge.

Lady Nyo

Perhaps a strong man

Should not offer love without

Having love returned

But this grieving ugly warrior

Still finds his love is growing


Lord Nyo stunk with the blood of battle

As his bow and swords cut a swath

Through men in service to another,

When the battle horns went silent,

With tattered banners like defeated clouds

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 he didn’t believe in

Were mercifulHe lived,

And his thoughts turned from fierce, ugly warriors

Towards home and a baby.

It took   a month

For Lord Nyo to lead his remaining men,

Battle-weary and maimed

Some in  body, all in spirit

Some not destined for further life,

But to die in the arms of women

In the shade of Gassan mountain.

No shame in this,

They had fought like devils

And only their daimyos

Could claim ‘victory’.

Lord Nyo pushed himself,

His aging war horse,

His men,

Only stopping to bathe

Once in a cold mountain stream,

To wash the dust of battle

From his eyes,

The soot of many fires from his face.

He still looked like a ghoul,

would frighten any baby.

Finally he came through the wicket gate

Of his house,

Saw the assembly of servants, women

And Lady Nyo on the veranda,

All bowing to the ground

In honor of their lord,

Though Lady Nyo held his new son

Like a Madonna before her,

And Lord Nyo, ugly, old warrior that he was,

Felt the sting of a woman’s tears fill his eyes.

He bowed to his wife,

A deep, respectful bow,

And went to view his son

In the arms of his lady.

His son was blowing bubbles,

Cooing like a turtle dove

But when he saw his father,

His leather armor and helmet still on his head,

His eyes widened in fright

Then shut tight

As he howled like a dog

Greeting the full Moon!

The women all shuddered!

What a greeting to a new father,

And what would their lord do?

Lord Nyo narrowed his eyes,

Threw back his head

And gave a great howl of his own.

Tsuki stopping in mid-yowl,

Staring at this leather-clad stranger

Who would dare howl louder than he!

It was not seemly

For a great warrior,

Just back from a long battle

To show such interest in a child,

But Lord Nyo put all that aside.

A tender nature came forth

And no one would laugh or smirk,

For he was a new father,

Though an aged one,

And would by rights,

Enjoy his only son.

He fashioned leather balls

To roll under bamboo blinds

To entice Tsuki

Like a kitten to chase,

even poked a small hole in the shoji

Of his lady’s rooms so he could watch

Unknown (he thought)

Of the servants and even his wife,

But all knew and whispered

Behind their sleeves

And noted his curious love.

No one thought the lesser of him for doing this.

Lord Nyo made

By his own hand

A tiny catalpa-wood bow,

With tinier arrows,

Fitted with feathers from a hummingbird

And arrow heads of small bone,

Something to shoot at birds,

Or perhaps cats,

But Tsuki only gnawed on the gleaming wood,

His teeth coming in,

And all he could reach

Was his personal chew-toy.

One day soon after his return,

Lord Nyo peered through the shoji,

Watched the old nurse bathe his son

When Tsuki climbed from his bath

And started to cross the tatami mat.

Lord Nyo saw the tail,

And almost tearing the shoji off its tracks,

Stormed into the room.

“Wife, Wife!

What little devil have your spawned!

What malevolent kami have you lain with!”

Lady Nyo, writing a poem in her journal

Rose quickly from her low table

And rushed into the room.

“My Lord!

I am told this little tail

Will disappear in time.

It marks our son for now

As a gift of the gods.

This little vestigial tail

Portends great deeds to be done

By our Tsuki.”

The old nurse shrunk back,

Well familiar with the temper

Of her lord,

Praying at this moment

For the kindness of a stray kami

To turn her into a bar of soap.

Tsuki, for his part

Saw his father

And with a great squeal of joy

Crawled as fast as his fat little legs could carry him,

His tail a propeller going round and round

Not at all helping the situation.

Lord Nyo staggered back against the shoji

Ripping even more of the delicate rice paper

And the frame asunder.

Lady Nyo rushed to pick Tsuki up,

Wrapping him and his offending tail

In the long sleeve of her kimono,

Holding him to her breast


But Tsuki wanted his father

And cried, “Baba, Baba!”

With a piteous tone,

Not knowing the proper name for Father,

As the nurse rolled her eyes

Cowering behind her lady,

Wondering if this ugly, old warrior

Had lost his wits in battle.

We know Tsuki was a gift of the gods,

Or at least Tsukiyomi,

The god of the Moon.

When Tsuki was in his basket

And the moon was full,

Lady Nyo and her old nurse

Placed small lanterns around his cradle,

To lessen the glow of her son,

As he slept in the moonlight.

It was unearthly how much Tsuki gleamed at night

But how pale tofu-colored he appeared during the day.

One night of the full Moon,

Lord Nyo lay besides his wife

And was awakened by Tsuki gurgling

From his basket.

His son talking to the

Moonbeams which danced into the room

From the high window above his cradle.

The small-wicked lanterns had burned out

And the moon and the moon child

Brightened the room.

Lord Nyo watched his son weave strands of moonbeam

With his feet, cooing and laughing,

Clear crystal ribbons of light floating

Around him

Out the window

And up to the moon.

He saw the benevolent face of Tsukiyomi above,

Looking with obvious love at his son.

Lord Nyo felt the weariness of years fall away;

Felt tender love for this Moon-child,

And yes, both of them blessed by the changeable gods,

A gift for an ugly, old warrior

A gift of life in the midst of such death,

A gift for the remaining years of his life.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2012, 2013

“Moon Child” from “The Nightingale’s Song”, Part II

February 13, 2012

Utamaro wood block print from

This poem is new and going through revision. Many  years ago I read a short story by an Italian author (I can’t remember the name) about walking on the moon.  That was the generator of this present poem, plus a dream.

Lady Nyo

Notes: Lord Jizo is the kami (saint) of pregnant women, children, stillborns, travelers.  There are many statues and simple temples along country roads where Lord Jizo is bedecked with bibs, toys and knitted clothing in gratitude for babies, and in memory of children who have died young.

Tengus are mythological (??) birds (kami) who shapeshift into humans.  They bedevil arrogant Buddhist priests and are tricksters. They also were known to teach martial arts to samurai.  They generally reside in the mountains and are associated with the Yamabushi cult.

Murasaki is a purple color and also a grass or flower

“Tsuki” means Moon


“The Nightingale’s Song”, Part II  “Moon Child”


Lady Nyo was barren.

Once there was hope of heirs,

Babies to raise, coddle.

But fate provided nothing,

Not even a stillborn to mourn,

Buried under the snow

With the fog of incense rising

To a leaden sky.


Many times Lady Nyo

Passed the temple of Lord Jizo,

Riding in her palm-leaf carriage

Drawn by white oxen adorned with ribbons and bells.

Many times she peeked through curtains

At his simple, stone statue,

Bedecked with babies’ bids, knitted hats,

The offering of a grateful mother, or

A mournful one.


Ah! To be as much a woman

As her lowest servant with a swelling belly!

How she wanted to leave her own offering

Of her child’s garment at his feet!



Lady Nyo decided on a pilgrimage.

She would walk barefoot through the fragrant murasaki grass,

She would wear a humble cotton gown,

She would seek advice from temple priests.


Lady Nyo and her old nurse set out one morning,

And though her old nurse grumbled and groaned,

Lady Nyo was the vision of piety walking

Through the delicate morning mists –

These frail ghosts of nothingness.


The priest had a long, red nose,

Wore a robe none too clean,

And he scratched at lice

Under the folds of his gown.

He had feathers growing in his ears

And feet like a large bird.


A Tengu!

A trifler of men and women!

But they were staring at his nose,

And missed his feet.


“When the Moon grows full,

Row out in the bay,

Directly under the Moon

And climb up a long ladder.

You will be pulled by the Moon’s tides

To its surface,

And there you will find what you want.”


When the Moon blossomed into a large

Bright lantern in the sky,

They rowed out in the bay,

Two trusted ladies to steady the ladder

And one to spare.

Lady Nyo kicked off her geta,

Tucked her gown into the obi

(exposing her lady-parts),

And ignoring the clucks of her old nurse,

Climbed directly under the Moon.


So powerful

Was the pull of the Moon

That fish and crabs,

Seahorses and seaweed,

Octopi, too

Rose straight up from the waters

Into the night’s air!

Lady Nyo’s hair and sleeves

Were also pulled by the Moon

And her kimono almost came over her head!


With a somersault

She flipped onto the surface

And found her bare feet

Sinking into the yellow-tofu of the Moon.


She heard a gurgling

And gurgling meant babies,

So she searched on spongy ground

Followed by a few seahorses who were curious

And a few fish who weren’t.


Past prominent craters

One could see from the Earth,

Lady Nyo found a baby tucked in the Moon’s soil.


Ah! A fat little boy blowing bubbles,

Sucking on toes,

Bright black eyes like pebbles

Black hair as thick as brocade!


Lady Nyo bent down,

And lifting him

She heard a sucking noise.

He was attached to the Moon

By a longish tail

That thrashed like a little snake

As she pulled him free.


She placed him at her milk-less breast

But soon he grimaced and started to howl,

 So she tucked him in her robe,

Aimed for the ladder,

Somersaulted back into the night,

Where she and her ladies rowed for shore.


The baby, now named Tsuki,

Was put to a wet nurse

His tail mostly disappearing,

Shriveling up like a proper umbilical cord–

Though there remained a little vestigial tail

That wagged with anticipation when placed at the breast,

Or when the full Moon appeared

In the black bowl of night.


The Tengu had flown the coop,

Never to be seen again.

But Lady Nyo no longer envied ladies

With swelling bellies,

For her own arms were full and heavy

With this yellow Moon-child.


Through fragrant fields

Of murasaki grass,

Lady Nyo and Tsuki

Would walk alone,

Where they would lay

Offerings of knitted bibs,

Strings of money, toys

And a feather

At the feet of Lord Jizo,

When the Moon was fullest

In a promising sky.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2012






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