Posts Tagged ‘waka and tanka’

Lady Nyo’s Torment, Part II, from “The Nightingale’s Song”

August 13, 2013
Samurai Woman

Samurai Woman

… The poetry in this part of “The Nightingale’s Song” is from the Man’yoshu and my own original poetry.

Lady Nyo


 “The cicada cries

Everyday at the same hour

But I’m a woman much in love and very weak

And can cry anytime”


The rain cleared, the sun came out

And all was polished bronze.

Leaves sparkled, the air shining.

Lady Nyo would visit a shrine,

Had her palm-leaf carriage

With the white ox made ready.

There on the carriage cushion

Was a bone-white fan.

“How strange. And here

In my carriage!”

Lady Nyo opened the fan,

Saw the character

And her face went from

Pale to red,

Changing with the speed of a squid.

Oh! How elegant!

How sublime this character!

Of an excellent hand,

Surely a noble one,

Of great depth and emotion.

Then she recovered herself.

How fickle she was!

How shallow,

How low her nature

That it would allow her to be

Swayed by a stranger’s painted fan!

She would  not  answer this

She would end it.

She would remain

A virtuous wife,

Would not sully these long years

Of marriage with a trifler.

Let her dreams be enough passion,

Let her unbidden dreams keep her warm.

But could she live like that?

Better to be a shave- headed nun

Take up the staff with iron rings–

Hold a begging bowl!

At dusk,

Lady Nyo took to her inkstone,

And in her journal

Wrote poems,

Verse she hoped would

Cleanse her soul,

Rest her mind–

Calm her heart.

“While I wait for you

With longing in my breast

Back here at home

My bamboo blinds are fluttered

By the blowing autumn breeze.”

“The moon has risen

To that predetermined point

And I am thinking:

The time has come to go outside

And wait for his arrival.”


“Even the breeze

Increases painful longing

Even the breeze

But I know he will come

So why feel grief in waiting?”

So lonely am I

My soul like a floating weed

Severed at the roots

Drifting upon cold waters

No pillow for further dreams.

The autumn air floated

Down from nearby Moon Mountain,

A holy place where no woman

Could tread the path.

The darkening dusk

Fused the color of leaves, pines

And a Corn Moon mounted the sky.


The morning wren sings

I kneel in the moonlit dawn

Kimono wrapped tight

Last night I made my peace

Now free from all attachments


Lady Nyo knelt on the veranda

A paper lantern behind her–

Monstrous shadows in the night-gloom.

She would wait for her husband

She would wait until the winds

Of dawn blew down from Moon Mountain

And brought with them

The return of her mate.

“From the high mountain

The sound of a crying stag

Carries down valleys

How inspiring is his voice

Like yours, my loving lord.”


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011, 2013


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