Posts Tagged ‘writing’

“The Demise of a Marriage”…..a poem.

March 12, 2014
Sea Eagle, Janekohutbartels, wc, 2006

Sea Eagle, Janekohutbartels, wc, 2006

For the last eight years, I have been locked in a relationship with a wonderful woman, my therapist, Liz.  I went to her back then because I realized something was wrong, and I didn’t have any answers.  It was immediately obvious to Liz what was wrong, but it would take years to convince me what it was.  I was an ACON,  an adult child of a narcissist.  This person was just the first in my life.  I went from my parent’s home into marriage with another narcissist, though I didn’t have a name for him, or understand what had happened for many years.  But Narcissists run on a continuum, and when you are unlearned as to the behaviors, you really can’t understand what is happening.  But the fallout comes sooner than later.

Narcissism is a modern evil.  You  trip over narcississts in daily life. They are prominant in tv shows, in the work place, in churches and temples,in schools, where they make up the basis of bully groups and budding sociopaths,  in families, in communities and community groups, on the internet, in politics  and amongst ‘friends’. They are abusers of others, and litter most paths of our lives.  Today there is more information as to where and what they are, but still we are taken by suprise at the prominance of these people. We watch tv and the narcissistic behavior there runs from subtle to outrageous.  We begin to think this is ‘normal’.  It is not. In many cases, as in ‘real’ life, it is pathological. Learning about Narcissism gives us some understanding and abilities to avoid them.  But not always. 

Liz encouraged me to write about my childhood, and surprisingly, I started to write poetry. I had never written poetry and for some reason, this clicked. Sonnets, freeverse, cinquains, quatrains, and later tanka, choka, haiku just tumbled out.  What was happening was therapy through verse.  I found my voice in poetry. But  I almost never  wrote about myself.  Nature, spiritual issues, politics, history, influences from Japanese medieval literature, all these formed the basis for my verse.  Except for this one document.  “Memories of a Rotten Childhood.”  Something I have been struggling to write for eight years.  There is a lot of humor in this one, but of course, there is also pain.  Life.

My dear friends who are also ACONs know I find there is no  mystery to writing poetry.  To me it is the distillation of life, of our experiences, and when we write close to the bone, it is raw, jagged, with little polish and perhaps it is then we are the most truthful.   Perhaps then the healing begins.   I find  it isn’t the ‘best’ of poetry, but healing is always messy, never in a straight line.  Just like therapy.  Our poems of  healing  reflect that liberty.

Lady Nyo




I knew the marriage was in trouble

when your mother dived under the table

to retrieve your fork.

You were 34.


I knew the marriage started off


when 3 months along a packed suitcase

stood in the closet

I never sure what to do, where to go.


That suitcase remained there

for 12 years.


You told me I was a piece of shit,

only good for bringing in money

paying the bills,

even your parents thought me dumb

in spite of maintaining a 4.0 in college

and working full time,

but that didn’t count because it was only

a community college.  I was still stupid.


I remember when you threw a kitten

off the balcony

and I told you I called the police,

and the look on your face told me

that I had you, that you were afraid.

I remember struggling with sheets of plywood

to stop a leaky roof on the second story

with high winds buffering me and the wood around,

high off the ground, my heart in my mouth

as you sat in a rocking chair in the back yard

surrounded by books,

shocking the neighbors

with your  shiftlessness.

They were glad to see the south end of you go.


But I didn’t follow the leads

and stupidly suffered while

you never worked  for the next 9 years.

You were the revolutionary,

I guess I was to be the dumb, grateful peasant.


But you left (when I had been hit by a car)

the month you graduated

(after trying to date my nurse in the hospital,

oh, what morals you had!)

and I was told by your parents

to put my education on hold

so you, as the “man” of the family, could get yours.

Of course they greased your leaving with

a sports car,

a Club Med vacation

a condo they paid for.

At middle age, you were still a boy,

had not become a man.  Have you ever?


You left me crippled, the heat turned off.

I almost starved,

neighbors put plates of food on the window ledge

and I wrapped myself in blankets with a stray puppy

that cold spring and we survived. Barely.


That was years ago, but I still remember the bad old days,

where I was nothing but disposable garbage,

something to be left behind with the bribes of your parents

and you were a ball of regrets to me.


Tomorrow my husband and I leave for Paris.

He insists I come, though it is a work trip,

for he wants me to see the Eiffel tower

see how straight it stands and how tall I’ve  grown.

He wants me to see Versailles

because I am his Queen.


Of course he is my King,

and you just a tattered memory

fading into the mists where you  always belonged.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

“Devil’s Revenge, Chapter 8

June 26, 2013


It’s summer, it’s humid and I am sick of poetry. I’m working on this novel, and trying to determine whether it deserves the energy it will take to finish and rewrite. It was my second novel, and a strange one at that. I started it in the beginning of 2007 and the plot demanded a lot of research in an area that I would rather not. But, it has a charm of its own, and I grew fond of the little devils. There is a shift coming in the plot and that is where I have some concerns. It seems to be two books, and how to marry them is a problem right now.

I do have all summer to work on it. We’ll see what happens.

Bess has been assaulted by one of the dangerous characters from her previous book, this Obadiah, and she is trying to regain her balance. Rather hard to do because she’s caught up in this world of demons and magic.

Lady Nyo


Chapter 8

Since Obadiah’s visit, I have been sickened, fallen into a malaise. Whether it was the strength of his attack or the realization I had lost control of everything, I can’t tell. But I know I am suffering.

I find myself haggard, in pain in parts of my body, with no energy. I feel buffeted by everything that is of material substance: I knock into furniture, unsteady in my gait. I feel I have been thrown under the wheels of a carriage. Even the effort of placing my arm on a table makes me weary. My arm is too solid flesh, heavy, and the wood of the table, hard.

I would prefer to spend my time in bed, but the Demon tells me I have to rally myself. I have to ‘walk it off’. I don’t know. .He could never feel this way. He looks and acts the picture of health.

“You don’t remember the knife wounds you wrote into your book? That hurt. A lot.”

Today he is here, and seems to be constantly. Actually, I was in this room for the past few days. He says I am ‘recovering’. I wonder. I seem to be falling into depression. I wonder what is happening at home in real time.

“Nothing that needs you, darling. They don’t even notice your absence.”

“Oh, like that is supposed to make me feel better?” I direct my words at him because he is sitting across from me, having arrived in ‘our’ room a few minutes ago. He thoughtfully brings me a dish of tea in the usual way, by snapping his fingers.

Pure magic.

He is dressed in the same shirt, with large, blousing sleeves, and the vest I embroidered for him. His boots are none too clean, as I see he has tracked some mud from outside into the room. The rain has been falling gently all day, and it seems that the sky will never clear. His shirt seam at the shoulder has ripped and it gapes open.

“Take off your shirt, Garrett. I’ll sew your sleeve for you.” He grins at me, and throws off his vest, and pulls his shirt over his head. It is not an invitation to mate and I tell him pointedly.

“But it’s been so long since I heard you coo in my arms, my sweetwoman.” He tosses me his shirt. It is warm and smells of his scent, which I tease is of brimstone.

“You need to think and write more original material. You’ve used that joke too much before.” He reads my mind at will. Let him read this piece of advice, I think to myself.

“Bess! I am shocked that you would ask me to do such a thing…besides, I can’t reach that part of my anatomy with–”

“Enough, Devil…even for you.” I have little tolerance for his antics today, and feel weary. I just want peace. I stitch his shirt and toss it back to him. He sits there with his chest and shoulders exposed to the cold air of the room.

“At least you have some tender thoughts for me today. I was beginning to worry you had replaced me.”

He grinned and pulled the shirt over his head. The insolent devil grinned some more as he unbuttoned his pants to tuck his shirt. I rose from the table and turned to the window. I would worry if he changed his ways. I was getting used to him, and a difference would arouse my anxiety even more.

“Let me look at your backside, Bess. I promise to be proper.” I was hurting and could only rely upon his magic to stop the boiling pain. But like all medication, his magic wore off.

“Come here, darling, and stand between my legs. I need to see you closely. Obadiah has used his own particular magic on you.”

I moved to stand with my back to him, and lowered my robe. Anything else on my skin was intolerable. If it weren’t for the laudanum he mixed in water every few hours, I would not be able to sleep. Obadiah had deeply scratched my back and my buttocks in a frenzy of hatred. He had also raped me, and had drawn blood.

“Stay still, lambkin, and I will apply this ointment where it will do good.” His hand moved across my back and I felt a warm sensation spreading across my skin. He did the same for my backside and then gently pulled my robe back across my shoulders.

“There. That should do it for a couple more hours.”

I turned around and sat down on his knee, leaning my head against his shoulder. I glanced at his face, and caught a slight smile. He was surprised at my tenderness. He enveloped me in his arms and we sat quietly for a few moments.

“Help me understand, Garrett. Help me understand the world you and Obadiah come from.”

He didn’t answer, but gave it some thought. “Obadiah and I don’t exactly come from the same worlds, sweetheart. You drew us together with your book, but I wouldn’t say he and I would necessarily be found in the same dimension.”

“Then Obadiah is from Hell and you are from Heaven?” I was hopeful that this would explain them both.

He chuckled. “You insist in making comparisons to your Heaven and Hell. There’s so much more to this universe, Bess. But if you can only think about things in this small dimension, then think of the Talmud.”

Oh Great! Jewish history! Just up my alley. Even more confusing than the Christian Bible, something I avoided in any case.

“There’s lots of good stories in that one, my dear woman, like the Songs of Solomon, and all the orgies and wars.”

“Oh, you would think of all that.” I laughed at him and slapped him on his breast.

“Well, then, explain it to me, my Demon Jewish Scholar.”

“You have heard of Lilith?” I nodded, but not sure who she was. “Have you heard of her consort, Asmodeus?” I shook my head.

“Asmodeus translated from the Hebrew as “Evil Spirit.” He thought a bit. “Or better yet, Belial. He controlled 80 legions of demons, 6,666 demons per legion…that’s a lot of devils! And he brought pain and suffering to humanity. His particular talents were lust, perversion and guilt. Think of Obadiah here.”

“I’d rather not,” I said dryly.

“Well….he delivered lust and perversion upon you last time you met, so the example is lucid.”

“Rape isn’t lust, Garrett…it is pure violence.”

“Ah, you modern women. Lust gives the stiffness to that which rapes. Think of lust as starch.”

I chuckled at his example. He had me there. “So you are saying you and Obadiah know each other but aren’t connected?”

“No, I’m saying that Obadiah and I are connected, but not in the ways you would understand.”

I was getting uncomfortable sitting on his knee, and crossed to my chair. I sat down gingerly. His magic was good, but not complete.

He smiled at me, and extended his hand across the table. This was a familiar gesture he made each visit, and it took me a while to trust him enough to join my hand with his.

This time, he opened my hand and played like he was a fortune teller, reading my palm.

“I see there is another man in your life, Bess. He has charmed you with a sweet, melodious voice, and your husband would load his shotgun if he knew your thoughts.”

I blushed and took back my hand.

“Oh, I don’t need your paw to tell me what is going on in your heart. Perhaps other places?” He grinned at me and my blush increased.

“You Devil! Do I have any privacy here?”

“Nah…not with me. I have my own interests to protect.”

I didn’t like the sound of that.

“You wouldn’t. I don’t like competition.” He grinned, but I took him seriously. There was something a bit menacing in his tone.

“ I admit it took me a bit of time to figure out some of the allusions to him in your novel, but they keep popping up before me. Like securing passage on the Mystic.

My God! I hadn’t even written that in yet. But it was a great name for the boat the two characters would use to escape.

“Ah, Devil…leave him alone. He once was a friend but it ended badly.”

“Ah, Lilith! Follow your own advice!” He laughed at my expression.

I wondered what I had been doing myself. I didn’t know he had numerous affairs for the past 15 years, and I would have been another notch on his belt. It was a sweet relationship, but as things go, it was bound to blow up in my face. He left his email open and his wife of many years read all. The last straw came when he hinted he might have done this on purpose. God! The trouble a man gets when he deceives himself! His wife demanded he break all contact, and he would not honor her request. I said hurtful things to him to end it all. Sin definitely finds you out, even if you don’t believe in it.

“I bet he would like to be a ‘very strong part’ of something else, my darling.” He laughed at his words. “All men like notches on their belts.”

“Oh, Devil! Don’t torment me now. I already told you. It ended, and ended badly. I have lost a friend here, it had started so sweetly.”

“If his cock isn’t his first concern, then he’s not much of a man. You women…you fall for such morality! He ‘appears’ sweet, because he knows a pot of honey attracts the bees. He has sucked you in and he hasn’t even waggled his finger yet! Let him waggle another part and we will see what you do.”

Oh! He was such a vulgar Demon. “You could not understand such friendship, even though it has ended. It was a false friendship, and should have ended. He was a moron and a deceiver, but I was a dupe. You can only waggle your own ‘part’ and think that women should fall on their knees before you!”

“Not a bad place for a woman, between my knees, don’t you think?” He sat back in his chair and grinned at me, a perfect false charmer.

I had to smile a bit at his banter. He had been a generous lover and was becoming a friend.

“About the opposite with your friend, wouldn’t you say? A friend about to become a generous lover?”

I sighed heavily. My friend had never been that. He was a middle aged man afraid of growing old. A vicious temper, with childlike tantrums was the last memory I had of him. An overgrown child.

“Oh, stop it! What would you know of men and women? You are nothing but air!” I snapped my fingers, and he pushed his lip out at me.

“Be careful what you assume of me, Miss Bess. I have more substance than you know.”

Well, I did know that he was flesh and blood enough when he made love to me. It felt more than real. What had grown between us was more enduring than a mere sexual act. Something was of the heart. My demon had a heart, and I was finding that I had one, too.

“Promise to leave him alone?” I asked sweetly.

He grinned at me and stretched his hand again across the table. “Oh, I’ll leave him alone, enough. But you do the same.”

There is no arguing with a Devil. This one was right from the start. I just wish I had known. I could have avoided a lot of grief.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007, 2013

“I Wonder….”, poem from “Pitcher of Moon”.

May 18, 2013
"Early Autumn Dusk", oil, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2003

“Early Autumn Dusk”, oil, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2003

The devestation of 50 tornadoes out in the Midwest, and the incredible destruction of Moore, Ok, makes poetry almost…well, there are events more important that should take our attention right now. Apparently, news is saying these storms will continue to devestate the same general area, moving eastward. My thoughts and prayers are with the people facing the destruction of their property and of lost of life. I am numb right now. The scope of this disaster is incomprehensible to me.

Lady Nyo

I Wonder…..

I wonder about myself,
The mourning, the sorrow,
A low flame inside
Flaring with memory
Burrowing deep,
Always a shadow of flame
Intruding upon my day
Throwing me back
Into a murky past
Where I am rattled by its force
Its grip–
An unwelcome visitation.

I cover the sadness
With a silk blouse,
A mask for a face,
An unsteady smile.
Order for the outside
Hiding chaos within.

My father’s death had me
Travel from hatred to love
Finally understanding this old man
Who could not say “I love you”,
But did.

When he was close to death
I washed his body
Bathed this feeble old man,
Emptied of power, rage
Returned to innocence
Now forgivably human.

When my mother is dead, finally dead
Will I travel this same path
From hatred to love?
Will I rewrite history
Me to forget anger,
Her with an ember of love,
To end the remorse
To make more of a ‘mother’
To bury her with love?

I started out from love
But it grew to hate.
Life can do these things,
And when I aged
It started to reverse
Half way back.

But it never really makes the full circle
For the wounds are deep
And memories hurt like hell.
Perhaps only time will tell
In this fugue of life.
Perhaps it will come to be
A dull blanket of forgetfulness
Thrown over the past
That segues to forgiveness –
….in time.


There is a marvelous blog at that I have been reading for a few years. The woman who writes there is incredible in her understanding of narcissism, maternal and general narcissism. I recommend this website highly. CZBZ has an extraordinary grasp of these psychological issues that plague so many families.

“Pitcher of Moon” will be published soon at I want to thank Bill Penrose for his work and digilance in formatting and bringing this manuscript to publishing, Nick Nicholson for his reading and advice and Bren Goode for her advice and friendship. These three people are the best friends a writer could have. I am deeply grateful for all of them.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2013

April Cinquins…..

May 4, 2013


It’s been a long time since I have written cinquains, but they are fun and sometimes pleasing little pieces of poetry.

Lady Nyo

APRIL Cinquains


like infant ghosts
fall mute on tender grass,
the wind rocks their woody cradles,
lulls them.

The moon,
passes quickly
through white clouds in black sky
and all around is the silence
of dreams.

The heat
of love wavers,
inconsistent sea tides.
Better the constancy of lust.

I dream
so many things.
Inarticulate lumps
grafted upon a life well worn,

Gasping for air
I surface in your lust
Swimming in this sea of desire,
I drown.

birds! I have not
metaphors for you yet.
Just awake, I shake sleep from eyes
gather thoughts and compose
poems round your
“Wake up!”

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2013

“The Temptation of Lady Nyo” from “The Nightingale’s Song”

February 7, 2013
Japanese Ghosts

Japanese Ghosts

This “Temptation” is part of a series of ‘long’ poems, (not choka) that will go into “The Nightingale’s Song”. Hopefully I will be able to publish this 10 part series this summer.

Lady Nyo, but not the same one tempted…..

Haiku for today:

Fallen leaves crackle.
Sparrows add the treble notes.
Season’s musical.


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

The court of Lord Mori
Was a small one
Where the men,
Lord Nyo included
Sat and discussed business:
The pleasurable business of hunting,
Archery, drinking
And , on occasion,
just for form’s sake,
Wrote bad poetry.

The women of course
Were positioned behind carved screens,
Where the eagle-eyed Lady Mori,
An old and powdered dragon
Conducted her own court of
Writing more bad poetry, finger games
And layering sleeves and hems for the
Best effects…unseen by anyone else
Except the other ladies.

There was a break in this
Unending monotony one day:
Lady Nyo received notes
From some unknown admirer
Stuffed in different places where
She would find them:
Her screen at court,
On her silk, embroidered cushion,
And even penned on her fan.
She never knew who was so bold,
Never saw even a glimmer of him-
He could have been a ghost.
She recorded her answers in her journal
So she could have evidence of her innocence
Yet she buried his letters in the garden under
A bed of peonies.
She could not bear to burn them.

Yesterday I found a fan with a poem
Stuck in the screen.
Today I found another one placed
On my cushion at court.
Do you have a death wish?
Do you desire the death of me?
You know my husband is known for his temper.
Would I end my life so dishonored?

I see you are as persistent
As the rain in Spring.
Have you no fear?
What is your interest?
Surely I am just another painted face.

I read your poem.
I could do nothing else.
This time it was inked upon
MY fan.

“The wind blows from the north
Chilling my heart.
Only the thought of a touch of your sleeve
Warms me.”
Very nice, but my sleeves are not interested.

“I throw acorns
To the darting carp.
With each nut I say a
Prayer for your health.”
Lovely sentiment, and I am
Always grateful for prayers.
But do you think of my reputation
And what you risk?

I see no poetry this morning
Though I searched for your usual offering.
I knew your interest was as capricious
As a flight of moths.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2013

“Tin Hinan”, Chapter 9

December 10, 2010

It’s been a while since I have worked on this wip, but it’s a favorite of Bill Penrose (“Ancestors of Star”, and other books available at and I see  there are still readers of this unfinished novel.

I am stuck doing some research, and it’s tedious at best.  Not for “Tin Hinan” but for another project. Perhaps things move slowly because of the approaching holidays and I just can’t get into it; either the holidays or the writing.

But “Tin” is a sweet story, and when I do go back and look for a finish, something stirs, and it’s not mice in the chimney.  I hope to finish this story early this next year.

Lady Nyo





When you are a Berber and about to wed, you don’t marry a man, you marry the tribe.

The approval of both families was necessary, and since mine were far away, as distant as a star in the nighttime sky, provisions had to be made.


Immel asked for his parent’s approval.  I don’t believe they were surprised, because during the past few moons, he had made clear his intentions.  They remembered his grief in losing Cherifa, and what man is at peace without a wife?


The elders were consulted, the natural course for great and small concerns. Nothing this important could be decided without the elders.



Not all went well. There were objections. Mother Leila told me I would have to appear and explain why I was alone on the distant mountain with my woman.  Gossip always filtered down but the elders wanted to hear the story from my own mouth.


Marrying Immel was bound to raise many considerations.  He was the eldest son of a prominent elder and trusted to lead raids and men.  I was no one, with no family or tribe to represent me.


If I found favor before them, there were other moons to jump. When Immel married me we would have to bring a heavy bride-price to my parents and tribe, appeasing them with much wealth.  Separated by long distances across mountains and desert, our traditions still held.  There was war enough between the different tribes residing in the mountains and deserts. Immel’s tribe did not want more. Tribute would have to be made.


Ah!  It was a necessary evil, but we would make the long trip down the mountain, across the valley, up the mountain, down again, and so forth. And of course I would go with him. In fact, because of the distance and questionable safety of our journey, Immel would lead a caravan of many men to my parents. It would be supplied with gifts to impress my tribe with the wealth of his clan and family.


First, I would have to appear before the elders.  Mother Leila planned on my heavy silver jewelry and my best robes, but I had a different idea, one that Mother Leila would not like at all.


I would appear exactly as Immel and his tribesmen found me.  I would don the robes of a man, the indigo- blue turban and the sword and dagger I had left home with when Takama and I started into the desert.  I believed this would make my case as well as any words from my mouth.  I would make these elders know I was a woman with a mission,  one given to me by the Goddesses.  Well, at least I could try to make them believe that.  Whether the Goddesses spoke to me or not wasn’t their business.


I let Takama into my plan and she thought me crazy.  “What! Do you want to tempt fate? Have you learned nothing about men?  What would Immel think to have his intended show up before the elders dressed like a man?  Some Zar must have scrambled your head!”



She had a point, but I was determined.  Perhaps I felt more power as a man.  During the journey, even though I was fully a woman, just dressed like a man and carrying a dagger and a sword, I did feel some sort of transformation in my liver.  Perhaps men are more powerful by nature, but the sword made me feel power. I was just glad I wasn’t tested in my ability.  Both Takama and I would be dead now and this story would not be told.


The morning I was to appear before the council of elders, I prayed one last time to my silent Goddesses.  Takama was lookout for Mother Leila while I dressed in my male undergarments.   I drew on the long gown men wore and my tribe’s red and white striped burnoose.  I tucked my dagger and short sword into my girdle and wrapped the indigo-dyed cloth around my head, in turban fashion.  I even secured the trailing end over my nose, and walked out to meet Takama in the front room.  The transformation was complete, and Takama, even though she had seen me dressed this way before, trembled.  Perhaps her emotion came from fear, for what I was doing was a fearful thing for a woman to do.


I was to appear before the elders in a small house used by them for tribal meetings.  I strode confidently down the winding road to the courtyard, a young Berber man, tall and thin, but inside, I was quaking.  I entered the wooden door to the house, and sitting on benches were the fifteen elders.  Before them was a rough table with their judgement stones.  Off to the side was Immel.  I expected him to be but had not been sure.


The sky outside was gray, a pale wintry day, and the council room was not well lighted except for a brazier pot in the middle of the room.  There were oil dishes providing some illumination, but still the room was dim. I stood there, the door closed behind me, and I blinked to adjust my eyes from the change outside.


“I am Tin Hinan.”


At my voice, the men looked up, confused, and I glanced over at Immel.  He sat back on his bench, his shoulders hitting the wall, and a wry grin formed on his face.


I removed the veil from my face, exposing my mouth.  “I come amongst you as Immel Uzmir and his men found me.  I dressed as a man when I left my tribe for the safety of my woman, Takama, and myself.  I made this journey to follow my destiny.”


There were some exclamations of surprise and not a few of disdain. My garb was shocking to these men.


A voice called out.  “What reasons do you give, Tin Hinan, for setting out from your parents and tribe?”


I tried to keep the waver from my voice, but my stomach betrayed me.  I felt my right leg shake and I knew fear.  My state must have been obvious to the elders.  Gazing at Immel I saw him slightly nod his head, encouraging me to go on.


“I was to be married to Hasim Azur Dhalid.  The bride-price was paid to my parents.  Gifts were exchanged between our clans. Then, less than a moon before the wedding, I was told Hasim had left for the tent of another woman.  My parent’s gifts were returned, and I knew our tribes would go to war over this insult.”


A mummer spread across the room. Immel looked grim. To any Berber, this would be a grievous insult not only to the family, but also to all the clans. Such an act would call for war.  This mountain tribe was no different in defending honor than my desert home.


“For three days and nights I purified myself and prayed to Ammon, Isis, Ayyur and Neith.  I sought council from the other Goddesses.  On the third night I had my answer.”


I looked down at my feet.  No, I did not have my answer, but these elders did not know. What they knew was what Immel told them. I glanced at him, saw him deep in thought, his eyes hooded, his expression neutral. I did not know what was in his heart, or if he would defend me.


“Is this why you cut your woman’s hair off, daughter?”  A deep voice in the gloom.


“Yes, Father.  My happiness as a new bride would never happen. I also knew my tribe was smaller than the tribe of Hasim. There would be many slaughtered clans if they went to war over this injury to our dignity.”


“You could not think of any other way except to take your woman and leave dressed as a man?  Did your father not try to stop you?  What father would let his daughter leave like that.  Are you sure you are telling us the truth?”  This voice was rough and accusing.



“I am, Father.  I have no reason to lie to you.”


I cast my eyes to the floor, and I thought my stomach would heave. Suddenly, I felt the presence of someone at my left, and glancing up, I found Immel standing next to me.  Although he did not touch me, or hold my hand, I knew he would defend me.  Then, at that point, I realized I could love this man who stood with me in spite of my turning fortunes.


“Fathers.”  I heard Immel’s voice, strong and clear, address the Elders.


“I have come to know Aicha, for that is her birth name, though she would have us call her Tin Hinan.  I have come to know her love for her family, her clan and tribe.  She would sacrifice herself in the desert to avoid the bloodshed.  When we found her in the mountain far from here, she had drawn her sword and pushed her woman behind.  I knew she was woman when I lay eyes on her.”


There was much nodding of heads at this last statement, for men, at any age, can discern a woman, even dressed in the garb of a man.  (I could not help but think Immel rather boastful.)


“And more.  She was a brave woman for she drew a sword against thirty men and stood ready to die.  We men know courage when we see it, but seeing such courage in a woman!”  Immel spat on the ground in emphasis.


“She would have not lasted much longer, for we found the grey wolf and her pack the night before.  They were hunting and it was only a matter of hours before they would have killed these two women.  It is by the grace of the Gods we found them first.”


One of the elders stood up slowly, and addressed us.


“Immel Uzmir and Tin Hinan.  The Council of Elders will meet on this matter and cast our stones together.  We will call you both back within a matter of days, and give you our decision.  May the Gods and Goddesses continue to champion your fortune.”


I looked up at Immel. H gave a weak smile and pulled his veil over his face.  Turning on his heel he walked out, stooping to get his height through the door.  I bowed to the elders, as a proper woman should and followed Immel outside into the bleak winter day.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2910

Why We Write.

November 18, 2010

Well, I can think of a lot of reasons.  Perhaps it’s different for different people, but I think there are some very strong threads that pull us together.  Perhaps our impulses here aren’t so different after all.

I have been thinking of this for a while, but very recently, in fact, during the last few days, it has come up in a sharper  sense amongst some very good writer friends.

I have a very dear friend who has received a contract to publish  in an anthology.  This anthology is of erotica.  I think I understand his  confusion and concern.  Publishing erotica can bring some problems to those who don’t kn0w  you are writing in such a genre.  In this case, my friend’s friends don’t know that he is  a writer.

I am amazed at this, because this man is one of the most wonderful and creative and polished  writers I have come across.  To know him is to be up close to real brilliance.  I would give a finger, maybe two….to be able to write with his creativity, depth and imagination.

The polish on his stories, poems is a product of a writer who is so exacting, so dedicated to the story , well, it’s awesome.

He reads this blog, and our emails back and forth haven’t yet convinced him of this good opportunity.  He is worried…well, he’s a worrier.  I want to beat him.

It’s not uncommon to begin to write as a form of self-therapy.  Diaries and extended letters to friends can be of this nature.  At some point, we stop the pity party, or a concentrated examination of our personal life, and look around.  The world brings us topics and wonder straight to our laps.

I started writing my first novel…”The Heart of the Maze” in 1990.  I started it the very week we adopted our son.  I have no idea why this happened, but I think I was in some emotional shock.  Having a toddler at 40 certainly would feed into this shock.  Never having been around children, but being handed the responsibility of another life threw me into something I still can’t understand. Thankfully my husband took over, and for maybe 5 months he and our son were inseparable.  I snapped out of it, and became the mother, but I don’t know yet what was going on there.  Perhaps this writing impulse was stronger than the new mother bond.  I really don’t know.

I do know that after those first months, I didn’t go back to that novel for 5 years.  I finally realized my son was the center of our life, and the writing could be put on hold.  I didn’t go back to writing ‘seriously’ until  the fall of 2006.  And I did finally finish that first novel.  What I will do with it is for the future.

This issue of writing as therapy is an interesting one.  A few years ago, I was coming out of a bad patch.  I had been under the influence of a man who was a writer, but  not interested or encouraging in what I was writing.  I thought that strange, because we were both writers, right?  I was very stupid.  He had a different agenda, which I bought into, and then found  it was  personally destructive.   Had I ‘stayed the course’ ,  I probably would have stopped writing altogether.

The world gives us such promise!  If we only look outward, up from our own navels, we will find more than we can handle.

I published “A Seasoning of Lust” because I  survived all that had happened.  That first book was a kitchen sink of poetry, short story, flashers.  I threw it together just to feel alive….in one of the only ways I knew.   In fact, I did more than survive.  With this first book, I regained my feet.   I wrote a lot more where before I thought I could do nothing right.  That was the net result of his ‘influence’ yet I would break through this  particular hell and find a world rich in words and imagination.  I reclaimed myself from this  cultural gulag and  went on to publish “The Zar Tales”.

Bill Penrose (the writer who formats my books) is encouraging me to finish “Tin Hinan”, after “White Cranes”.  I  found leaving  all that shit behind,  falling into writing, and especially poetry, has given me all the future work I could desire.

As we joke:  Writing is a restorative to the soul.

I believe it.  I find a sense of empowerment in writing  I can sling in the face of life’s troubles, whether they come in the form of pain, death or nasty wankers.

Writing can give you discernment in dealing with people.  Having friends like Bill Penrose, Nick Nicholson, Katie Troutman, all fine writers, is important.  They are heart bound friends who encourage and inspire.  They are serious writers who  can be depended upon to give their opinions and have been there in the darkness writers face.  They are my tribe.

I meet ( online, and in person) a lot of  writers.  I can make friends, but I am more cautious now.  I have a sense of myself and a purpose that goes far beyond what I had before.  And this is just the beginning.

I hope my dear friend forgives my fierceness, but I won’t back down.  I see such amazing promise in his abilities here, and I want him to start publishing.

It will open a world to him that will embrace and support him in ways he has yet to find.

Lady Nyo


The clouds flee the sky,

Bitter north winds push them far.

My heart follows now.

Fallen leaves crackle.

Sparrows add the treble notes.

Seasonal music.

The cold moon shines down

Upon hollow dried grasses.

Earth prepares to sleep.

The frost at morning

Makes the birds plump their feathers

Squirrels add chatter.

The air grow colder.

Soon wool will not be enough.

Come inside- stay warm!

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010

The Power of Detachment….

August 5, 2010

That sounds like a funny title.  Sometimes essays start with funny titles that don’t seem to have much resonance to the text, but perhaps they grow around it.

This issue of detachment has been on my mind lately: perhaps it’s the issue of trying to write, to finish a manuscript, to write without the attachment of friends, etc…. who are annoying.  They would not like to be labeled with such a sentiment, but they can’t help it.  Some are in the first flush of excitement over something, and they want to ‘share’ that personal excitement and drag you into their ‘ campaign du jour’.

I’ve been there…many times….I’ve instigated them over the years, so I understand the pulse of these kind of things.  But something changes over life, or perhaps you just get more impatient or tired or perhaps you become more ‘committed’ to a path you are determined to stay on.

Anyone who reads this blog knows I am trying to write full time.  That is what I try, but ‘other life’ gets in the way.  Marriage needs to be attended to, and I have the most wonderful husband in this respect:  he cuts me a lot of slack and doesn’t expect much of the wifely stuff.  He supports the writing efforts and is a dedicated reader  and when he does, is an excellent proof reader.

Over the past four years I have wasted a lot of time and energy on stupid stuff and some very stupid people, but I recovered.  I think the excitement and joy of writing saved me from a lot of crap.  It wasn’t so much the responses from other readers, or writers, but the sheer joy of words cobbled together that developed scenes, then progressed to  full blown stories.  The characters were ‘people’ who either thrilled, intrigued or disgusted me, but they were always interesting.  Terribly flawed, but aren’t we all?

I live in Atlanta, and there are always these political jackasses who demand time and attention.  Hell, our neighborhoods are so full of issues you can spend all your waking hours trying to find solutions…none that please most.  I guess I have learned something important over the past 40 years here:  you can’t change lives, nor really environment, regardless your good intentions and energy.  People will continue to do what they do.

The point of all of this is not to let it consume you.  I have a couple of friends and neighbors who let it consume them.  But then again, they aren’t writers.

And as to writing, you have to constantly read.  That’s probably 70% of writing.  It goes way beyond research for a particular story or novel.  It is something that never ends, this desire to develop your cobbling of words.  For in the end, this cobbling is what gives life and substance to it all.  Hopefully you go from a lower level to a higher level in your writing.  But that takes time.  It annoys me when people have blogs and they don’t try to develop their writing. They just think what they put down is ‘good enough’.  Well, it’s usually not, but they will either sink or float by the amount of work they put into their writing.  It’s not rocket science.  And I can spend hours cringing reading my own stuff.  That is what I think propels us forward, those of us who consider ourselves as ‘serious’ writers: we work endlessly at it.  And the improvements are incremental.  Maybe it gets easier down the road, but I’m not there yet.

I wanted to write about Lawrence Durrell’s “A Key to Modern British Poetry”, 1952 edition.  This is something I recently picked up, and thought there had to be something of resonance in there for me…since I was attempting to form my own poetry.  There was, and I was surprised at how much spoke to the issue:

(From Beyond the Ego, an essay in Durrell’s book)

To speak of reality at all is to limit and debase it; in understanding poetry it is always the words which get  in the way.  It is a great pity that we cannot inhale poems like scents–for crude as their medium is, their message, their content is something which owes little to reason.  The is why one should, if possible, allow poems to impact themselves without too much dissection of detail.  Let them be totals to experience first of all; then afterward see if your brains and reading cannot add to the first impression and support it.  The great enemy is the conceptual syntax and the dictionary meanings.  Yet used properly to supplement experience, they can become great allies.

….You should let the whole poem flow through you as a cinema film flows across your vision…..You do not think too consciously about it, you let the successive scenes flash upon you, surprising you.  Only when the film or poem ends should you begin to think about it and call up your power of judgment.  But while you are experiencing it you should be receptive–nothing more.  Do not blunt its impact by too much head-work.

There is a lot more here….especially good is Durrell’s essay “The Limits of Criticism” where he writes about accepting the poet’s word order as the clearest statement of what he means.

That doesn’t mean, which can be seen so much in modern poetry,….that the poet doesn’t work and work very hard to refine what he means to the best of his poetic ability.   He owes this work to his craft.

But perhaps in Durrell’s words above, this issue of detachment comes around more fully, or in a real sense for a poet and a reader.

Detachment is good.  It may allow for freedom and progress.

Lady Nyo


A stuttering wind blows across

Clouds tinted by the falling sun.

Brittle air is softened by colors of peach-gold

and a faded azure blue.

A late flock of Sandhill cranes flies over,

Pale bodies blending in the

White above with legs

Flowing like dark streamers,

Their celestial cries falling to

Earth like harsh, chiding rain.

The trees below in the valley

Are massed into graying darkness

As fading light steals

The color of nature,

Creeps from field to hillock

And all prepare for the

Rising of the Corn Moon.

Even the frogs in the pond

Listen between croaks

For the intention of the night.

“From “White Cranes of Heaven”, soon to be published.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009

Revision to “The Zar Tale”

November 12, 2009

Well, writing is re-writing to me…and especially now.  I’m working my way through this next book…”The Zar Tales”….a collection of stories and a novella, so I do a lot of this stuff above.

I posted a chapter recently, but I am amending it now.  It’s longer…and I’ve cut off the top…enough so I am playing around with what it seems now without it.  Sometimes that’s good to do.  Cut and paste and delete words….lots of words.  Tighten up.

Sorry for the weird formatting.  I transposed it from an email to a friend and this is the way it treats me!

Lady Nyo

Book II, Chapter 1 “The Zar Tale”

Ali was sitting on the bench early one evening when the village men gathered
outside the baker’s shop. They lit the hookah and passed the hoses around.
He was enjoying the mixture of babble and smoke rising like spirits
above their heads.  Eyes half closed against the blue haze circling his head, he basked
in the fading sunlight.

There was a lot more energy needed to be a mortal, Ali thought.  Being a
Zar was easier. That Shakira was insatiable.  Now she would grab his hand
and lead him to bed, and she would stay there, full of demands and little
shame for a woman!  On top of that, she was feeding him too much and he was
getting heavier.  She told him he needed the weight, but he thought she just
was in love.  Ah! Women acted differently in love.

This was something he had forgotten over the past thousand years.  He was
adjusting to a diet of rich foods he had not tasted before.  The foods of
his Berber clan were simpler.  The woman was making flaky walnut and honey
pastries and stuffing dates with sugared almonds and tempting him with
candied ginger, orange and lemon peel.  Also, wheat salads with golden
raisins and garlic and herbs from her garden.

And he was eating too much meat.  This goat and lamb was not stringy, as he
remembered in the desert, but stuffed with lard and fat and served with
stewed apples and apricots and more delightful than even her sweetbreads.
Ah, he was going to get fat and slow!  But he had a thousand years of
nothing on his stomach, and Shakira was sure to kill him with all these rich
dishes!  Or, he supposed, her demands in bed.  One or the other was going to
shorten his life.

So, the smoke and silence this evening was a restful time for Ali.

But it wouldn’t last long.  The murmur of men made him open his eyes.
Walking towards them was Emir and Hasan.  Ah! Two old Zar friends now as
flesh and blood– thanks to mullah kabobs!

Hasan wore the indigo blue turban. There was always a kinship between them,
and if nothing but their hooked noses and the colors of their robes and
turbans showed this, well it was enough.  Emir was Persian; his robes were
white and black.  Ali stood and embraced both men, and kissed each on both
cheeks as was custom.  He introduced Hasan as a kinsman from a village in
the mountains and Emir as an old friend.  How old, Ali didn’t reveal, but
they had been Zars together for many centuries.  Ali called for more of the
strong Turkish coffee and the baker came out with the tiny cups and the long
ladled copper coffee pots.  The village men, as in all regions of Turkey,
prided themselves in their hospitality, and welcomed the two strangers.
Besides, they might bring gossip or news and that was better than reading
weeks- old newspapers dealing with city issues and rarely those from the

Hasan and Emir were passed the piping of the hookah. They filled their lungs
with the sweet scent of dried apple tobacco.  After a while, Ali mentioned
Emir was a poet, and a wonderfully inventive one at that!  Emir beamed with
pride and delight and looked at Ali, a broad smile wreathing his sun
darkened face.

“Ah!  My Brother Ali here is a fine poet in his own right!  I cannot hold a
candle with my poor verse!  I have heard Brother Ali expound at length and
his verse is prodigious!  The angels in heaven get dizzy with the beauty of
his lyrics. They spiral almost to the ground and Allah sucks them back up
with his breath!  Ah! The Great Rumi would have treasured the verse of
Brother Ali had he but heard it!”

Ali laughed to himself.  Emir knew well Ali had been a student of the great
Rumi almost a thousand years ago.  It was not in his mortal flesh he sat as
Rumi’s student, but a time when he was condemned as a Zar,  without purpose
or a woman to possess.

When Ali was a young Berber chieftain, and still with mortal connections to
this earth, he was taken by the beauty of verse and was a very good Berber
poet.  This was unusual for his region, for the women of the tribes were
known to be the poets and the literate ones.  But Ali was a favorite amongst
the women, and they loved to have him around as a young boy, before he was
of age where he would not be welcome company with the women.  His dark eyes
shone hearing the verses the women chanted while washing at the river. He
learned how they took from the beauty of nature and the joys, sadness of
their lives and wove them into carpets of verse.  The knots and threads of
these beautiful verse-carpets were full of color and the softness of dreams,
not sheep wool.

He learned to stroke the phrases, to rise to the lushness of the Berber
language.   When he was older, he would sit on his horse in the desert and
roam the dunes until he lost himself in lyrics and sand.  His horse knew the
way home, and Ali could compose his poetry away from the chatter of wives
and children, growls of camels, the bleating of goats and the general noise
of the camp.

Ali had a hunting hawk, as had most of the Berber men, and he would put his
beautiful girl on the leather pad at his wrist, gently pull off the hood and
launch her into the desert sky.  She would wheel and soar high and turn into
the sun, and Ali would lose sight of her.  But before he did, he would
compose verses in praise of his bird.  Her wings, her grace, her sharp eyes
that saw from high on the wind.  She would fold her wings and plunge like a
daytime falling star, and stretch out her claws.  Make short work of desert

She was fast as the sandstorms that carried the wind up to the foot of the
mountains, and a fierce as any warrior on his steed.  Her coat sparkled with
a million colors, like a piece of bronze mirror, or like pearls glistening
fresh from the sea.

Ali could never stop praising his hawks.  They lifted him into the wilds of
their heaven and left his human travail behind.  Ah, his birds made his soul

Ali was as proud of his hawks as he was of his poetry. His father and most
of his kinsmen would sew shut their bird’s eyes shut and release the strong
thread before they launched them. But Ali saw many hawks blinded this way,
and what good is a blind hunting hawk?  So he patiently molded hoods of new
lambskin, sewed and decorated them with dyed feathers.

Hasan’s voice cut into his thoughts, and Ali shook his head to clear.  He
hadn’t thought about the hawks in many years, centuries actually.  Now, with
his feet again mortal, he could capture and train young tercels and hunt
again like his ancestors.  This promise brought tears to his eyes, and
opening them, saw the compassionate gazes of both Hasan and Emir.  They had
suffered as much as Ali, and now, thanks to the good mullahs, they had their
chances at life again.

“Give us a verse, Brother Ali!” said Emir, with a broad smile.

The men of the village perked up with his words, for there was nothing that
men loved more than the soft, lulling words of a poet.

Unless it was the soft moving hands of a woman.

The men had hard lives in the mountains, tilling the stony earth for their
grain crops, but they made time for any poet.  It was music to their ears
without instrumentation.  It was the fine music of human voice and colorful
words.  It gave precious beauty to their routine lives.

Ali shook his head, and said for Emir to give them a poem, but Emir insisted
Ali give them a verse of his own making.

“Ah! You ask the impossible, my dear brother.  It has been long since I
thought of any verse. Life had glued shut those pages of inspiration.”

Ali smiled to himself and took up one of the mouthpieces of the hookah,
sucking in a long plume of smoke smelling of apple.

“If marriage next month to the Sheilkha Shakira doesn’t open those pages, my
friends, then all the poets of Persia have lived for naught!”

This from one of the men in the village made them all laugh.  They were
curious how this stranger had been able to attract the affections of their
desirable Sheikha. But their eyes, even the eyes of men, could tell he was
handsome enough to attract a woman’s gaze.

Better he marry the Sheikha now.  The women would have no claim on him then.

Ali stared at Emir through half opened eyes.  They spoke volumes, were
masked by the heavy smoke he expelled from his lungs.  Ah, brother Emir
would push him, but perhaps he could think of something.  Surely the men
would want a love sonnet or a verse of the beauty of mortal life.  Make that
Paradise, for these men were jaded by their mortality.  It was new to Ali,
Emir and Hasan, and precious and confounding to them daily.  After being a
Zar for centuries, feet on the earth were heavy but strangely comforting.

*”All the carpets of Persia cannot match the softness of her hands

The roses of the Sultan’s garden have not the bloom of her cheeks

The trees blown by a gentle wind have not the sway of her delicate gait

And my heart travels with speed to lie at her feet.

Ah! She steps on my heart, invisible beneath her flowery foot,

And trots upon my senses, scrambling them like eggs for the breakfast.”*

At this last line, the men guffawed.  Even they, in their isolated village,
could discern good verse from bad. Ali was having his fun with them.

“I warned you I had nothing to say,” he said with a bemused look on his

“Ah, Friend Ali!” said one of the men loudly.  “If you think you have
nothing to say now, marriage will shut up your mouth then.”

The others laughed, for the truth of the matter was so.  Marriage changed
both men and women.  It made one side more quarrelsome and the men more
silent and fearful of the wrath of the other.  Ah! Men could not win in this

Ali had been married, with a number of wives.  His eyes glazed over as he
blew out more smoke from the hookah.  The first one was Lela, when he was 20
years old.  She was young and so shy, she wouldn’t look him in the eyes for
two months after the wedding.  She cried most of the first month.  Ali was
aware she missed her family, but a marriage is a marriage and it must be
endured.  He would take his horse and his hawk and ride out and hunt.  Only
when Lela had her first child, luckily for her a boy, did she perk up.  She
became right bossy, too.  The older men would laugh when Ali made a hasty
retreat from their tent, usually followed with a string of invective from
his young wife, and sometimes wooden stirring spoons and knives.  Ah! This
was not a good situation, and his father decided Ali had suffered enough and
gave him another wife. Sela was a cousin of Lela and at first; she was as
shy as Lela.  But she soon overcame that and became a favorite wife.  There
were two more, but one died in childbirth.  All in all, Ali had four sons
and four daughters. Sela was killed in the arms of Ali, when Ali was
murdered making love to her.  Their second child died with them, for Sela
was very pregnant.

“Ah, my wife will be angry if I don’t return home soon.”

The words of one of the men cut into Ali’s thoughts.   The sun was setting,
and the sky was red from its fading luster.

“Soon, my friend”, answered another, putting his hand on the shoulder of Ali
in a compassionate gesture.   “You will be yoked like the oxen in the fields
to our Shakira and you too will watch the hours like the rest of us, knowing
they are linked to the tempers of women.  Ah Allah! You had many wives, but
we have just one each, and our lives are made miserable still!”

The laughter went around the benches where they sat in the fading sunlight.
Men all over had the same issues, and now that Ali and the others were
mortal again, they faced their own temperamental women.  Perhaps it was
easier before as Zars, for they could just float out of earshot of women and
gather in the forests in the mountains to share the hookah with other Zars.
But the good outweighed the bad, for the cooking of the women went a long
way in filling appetites that had been lost for centuries.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyright, 2009

“Tin Hinan” Chapter 5, Part 1

August 29, 2009

I started writing this novella two years ago, and put it down.  There are  around 12 chapters but it’s not finished.  Life and other writing got in the way, as usually happens to most of us who pick up the pen.  But I liked the story then, and rediscovering it now, I like it still.

Though, I have forgotten a lot of it.  So it’s a bit new to me as to other readers.

I have no idea how this story finishes but I think that is some of the fun and expectation of writing stories, novels, books. We get caught up in the story, and are as much a spectator as another reader, until we get to a place where the story has sputtered, stopped, fallen into a hole.  Then we  put on a different hat and get out the winch and try to pull it out into daylight, again.

I have come to know that writing stories, etc. as an adult is a bit like playing with trucks, blocks and dolls as a child.  We entertain ourselves, and if we do the same for others, that’s a boon.

Lady Nyo

Chapter 5,  Part 1

Our journey over that last mountain tried body and soul.  We were amongst about thirty men, led by the large man, called Immel Uzmir.   They were mountain Berbers, perhaps that accounted for the difference in language.  Their voices had a flat, windy sound, not the pleasant, musical tone of our desert tribes.  That their lives were so violent maybe made for the difference in speech. Perhaps they whispered to each other behind trees before raids and this formed their speech differently. But of course that couldn’t be it.  They would raid from the desert, not from the mountains.  They only stole away to the mountains, back to their homes, loaded with the loot of bandits.

Takama and I got used to their brusque ways– they were men after all.  Without the soothing nature of women around, what could one expect? Men left to their own devices reverted to savages, more like wild beasts than men.  These men were a rough bunch, and if it weren’t for the respect they held for Immel Uzmir, Takama and I would have been plunder.

They must have come from a successful raid somewhere in the desert, for their mules and pack horses were loaded with bags of spices and bales of cloth woven and dyed with various and seemingly rare dyes.

“Look at the colors, Aicha”! Takama’s voice expressed her wonder.

We could see the great difference. Some of these cloths were woven with gold thread.

“They must have robbed a very rich merchant”, I whispered.

Our women of the tribe did various forms of embroidery, but nothing like the sumptuousness of these pieces.

Caravans crossing from the east were loaded with spices, gold and gold dust, cloths, and precious salt, which they traded further south of the desert for slaves. Since there were no slaves amongst them, we supposed they had raided some rich merchant’s caravan before it had crossed into the southern reaches of the desert. Slave trade was very common, and women and their children were sold off to different tribes and taken afar from their lives.

We were the only women amongst these raiders.

Takama and I were treated well enough, given warm blankets and food from their fires.  We knew our safety was still in question, for we were only women amongst men.
Each night we wrapped ourselves in the blankets and settled against Niefa, for Immel Uzmir allowed me to keep her. A guard was set near us.  We never were sure if it was because Immel Uzmir thought we might try to escape, or if a man would force himself upon us. We slept safely enough, though the weather was colder and the air thinner the higher we climbed.

One night, after the evening meal of snared rabbits, Immel Uzmir came and sat near, a gourd of camel’s milk in his hand.

“You eat little food, Tin Hinan.  Is our cooking that bad to your mouth?”  He was smiling and held out the milk to me.

I bowed my head in thanks.  Camel’s milk was like mother’s milk to me, and I had not had the taste of it since I had left my tribe now so long ago.  Drinking deeply, I could have cried for it reminded me of all I had thrown away.

In truth, my liver was nervous, and I was uneasy.  It is not peaceful to be amongst men without the presence of women. Many times I caught the eyes of a man looking at me with that particular hunger.  I adopted a veil to keep the cold from my face, but also to keep obscured from curious glances.

“Your food fills the belly, but could use some salt.  All in all, women cook better than men.  But I imagine you will be home soon and the women of your tribe will rejoice with a feast.”

Immel Uzmir laughed softly and shook his head.  “You are of the age, Tin Hinan, to be married.  Why are you not so?”

I can be stubborn and when I am, I retreat into silence.  It would take a donkey pulling hard to open my mouth and pry out my voice. These many weeks with only the company of Takama, had taken its toll on my nature.  I was, if the truth were known, lonely and miserable. Perhaps this trek up the mountain had taken more than my strength.  I was tired and sore in legs.  The mountains were beautiful, but this relentless climb upwards challenged more than my stamina.  I was a desert woman, out of my element.  I felt as alien as a star dropping to earth and could not get back to the heavens.

I was silent.  What should I tell him?  His name, Immel Uzmir, meant  ‘powerful, constant one’ and he certainly had the respect of these men.  To be able to control a score and a half again of Berber men meant he was well respected.  The Goddesses had been silent to my demands and I had little else for comfort. I must be grateful.

Sighing, casting my eyes on the ground, I spoke in a low voice.  Low, not because I was worried that others would hear my tale, but because I was almost overcome with sorrow.  My heart and liver ached and our people say that it is better to let out demons than to trap them inward where they multiply day after day, frolicking in the flesh.

“I was to be married. There is not much to tell.  My intended broke the contract and the wedding gifts were returned to my parent’s tent.  We heard then he had married and left his tribe.”

I kept my eyes on the ground, feeling shame before this stranger. His own voice was low and I struggled not to let foolish woman’s tears fall down my cheeks.

“Ah, Tin Hinan.  You blame yourself for a man’s inconstancy?  He knew what he risked in doing so. He would not be able to do what he wanted if he was not backed by his parent’s agreement.  You are comely and brave for a woman.  There is no need to feel shame.  Did your tribe prepare to war with his?”

I looked up at him, my voice bitter.

“Our tribe is small.  If we did, over this broken promise, many of my kin would be killed.  Hasim’s tribe was much stronger.”

In speaking his name, I could not hold back the tears. They fell down my cheeks, though I tried to pull my veil across my face to hide.  Immel Uzmir reached out from where he was sitting and raised my face with his hand.  He looked closely, his eyes searching. I pulled my head back with a grimace.

“So, you cut off your hair and took your slave and went into the desert?  Did you think of the risks?  Foolish girl, you could have easily died out there, or be taken prisoner by Arabs.”

“Hah! Instead I lived to be taken by Berbers, my own tribemen!  What difference has it meant?  I am still a prisoner, probably a slave now like Takama.”

My voice was hard and my eyes flashed through my tears.

Immel Uzmir had his own temper.

“Are you bound like a slave? Do we starve you? Are you made to bear burdens like the pack beasts? Ungrateful girl, if we left you in the mountains, you would be bones by now.  There are black bears and wolves up here.  You and your slave would not have survived more than a few nights.”

My eyes grew wide.  Bears and wolves are not a problem in the desert.  Poisonous snakes and scorpions were.

“What do you plan to do with us when you get home?  Are we to be slaves to your tribe?”

He shifted his weight and looked around at a noise from the men.  “ I don’t know what your fate will be, the Gods are silent on that score.”

He scowled at me, trying to scare me, and he was succeeding.

“ It’s not my decision. When we get to our tribe I will turn you over to our elders and they will decide what to do with you. We are Berbers, not monsters, we do not harm women.  They usually find a place at our fire, and sometimes a husband.  Your luck could change.”  He tossed me a smile and a wink and rose to his feet.

Standing over me, with my head craned back looking at him, he was an impressive man.  He was named correctly, and his appearance seemed to bear it out. I was still prisoner, but it could have been worse.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007, 2009

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