Vita hominis

“You are too hard on yourself.”
Harshly, I spurn the comment
indulging a moment of introspection,
examining the corpus of worms
those that incessantly eat at life,
gnawing away its fine veneer,
until all that is left resembles
a wrinkled hardened prune pit.

“What’s done is done.”
That profitable observation,
never a coin exchanged for it.
Having made the staves of my barrel,
forming my chariot of journey,
caught in the river’s current
there is no turning back,
once it rushes forward, nothing
but the roaring falls of Niagara.

“How will you be remembered?”
That is the folly of a human quest,
interpretation determines memory,
everyone will be what others want
belief is the only logic left.
Ashes have no memory, no DNA,
nothing that resembles what was,
anyway, it does not matter,
memory is as complacent as thin air.

©2012, Donald Harbour

Old men paint in winter

For my friend Wayne, displaying his painting talents on canvas in far Northwest Canada.

Where Wayne creates and paints.

It is said that old men paint in winter,
Remembering warmer times, years,
Winter is not kind to bones and joints,
But winter does not really know old men,
There lies with in their soul an acceptance,
A reflection upon invested years of age,
The knowledge of journey and time,
Theirs is an awareness of that march,
A travail, a struggle to their goal,
Old men know what those lesser do not,
Life takes more than it gives,
Life watches, waiting for it’s moment,
It is the jester of their childish follies,
A trap door to be sprung without warning,
Their life, words, and painted pictures, leftovers,
The satisfaction of having been at the table,
How will they be remembered, these old men,
Viewed in the springs of their youth,
Interpretation of life on canvas,
Accumulated tablets of poetry,
How will winter remember them,
And, when your cold dark night comes,
What will you paint in your winter.

©2011, Donald Harbour

Who will remember

When sunset fades to night
Will you remember it
Can you feel the beginning
Of its day, its journey
Will you reflect on the moments
Of each melody it sang
The tinkling distant bells of wind
The crystal magic of its light
Painting azure skies with white clouds
The green of the grass and trees
Flowers yearning for a bee kiss
Ripples in a brook, ocean surf
Life awakened, vibrant, joyous
These tracks in time never again
Each minute of each day different
Each sunset a unique treasure
Living and dying in its course
If not you, then who will remember
When you can no longer remember
Who will remember your sunset
When sunset fades to night

Live, reborn Chatterton

I have always been fascinated with many of the lesser known poets of the 17th and 18th centuries. Thomas Chatterton lived from 1752 to 1770. At his age 17 year old death he was held as just another miserable poverty stricken poet. Much has been written about him and his consideration as a forger of pseudo-medieval poetry. He did write under the pseudonym Thomas Rowley. Both Chatterton and his pen name Rowley stirred controversy after his death.

This is a homage to Thomas Chatterton and the inscription upon his grave stone: “To the memory of Thomas Chatterton. Reader! judge not. If thou art a Christian, believe that he shall be judged by a Superior Power. To that Power only is he now answerable.”


He sat in the dark gloom lighted
With only the glow of one sputtering
Candle. The quiet of the night
Momentarily interrupted by the scratch
Of a single feather quill and,
A gentle jab at an ink well.
His hair fell down about his
Stubbled and lined face
Accentuating its hawkish wanness.
Though he was so much younger,
He showed the poverty of years.
Scribbling upon the parchment,
His gauntness was softened by genius
in his eyes. He mumbled the words,
Syllables, patches of words that
Rhymed, words that carried music
In their meaning. These words would live,
Take on the symbols of love, of soul,
Of godliness, though the oppression
Of his moment was an ache,
Upon his talent. There was resignation
In his calm, a romantic yearning
For cleverness, that one exquisite
Verse that would phrase the meaning
Of all that was beautiful. Sipping
The arsenic of despondency, he wagered
His gifts for tomorrow, to the decades,
To the unborn. At the nights morning,
When light burst through the shattered
window pane of his hovel, he convulsed
With the drought of anonymity, dying
In the dust of yesteryear, only to live
In resurrection, reborn in the pages of today.

Copyright: 2009, Donald Harbour

I will wait for you

When my race is run with living,
And, the door beyond I step through,
In the next life I will be, I promise,
I will wait for you.

When the silence of twilight
Casts a shadow of violet blue,
In the dusk between night and day
I will wait for you.

When the path is now trod by one
Where once hand-in-hand walked two,
Stop beside memorys bend,
I will wait for you.

When you feel the sweet kiss
Of a morning crystal drop of dew,
In the touch of dawn’s gentle breeze,
I will wait for you.

When your heart fills with sadness
And, you feel that life is through,
In the comfort of our love, I promise,
I will wait for you.

Copyright: 2009, Donald Harbour

Love’s fallen tears

One day as the summer approached,
I took a stroll down a dusty road.
A brief morning shower had fallen,
Scattering the scent of fields newly mowed.

A breeze played with the daisies,
A game of catch me if you dare,
It kicked up the red sand of the surface,
Twirling dust dancers in the warm air.

I inhaled the beauty that surrounded me,
It would live only till the season turned.
There was a joy about all nature,
So, I slowed my step as I sojourned.

This lane passed through shadows and light,
Of oak and pine forested wood.
Then along fields of tall tasseled corn,
And pastures where cows chewed their cud.

Absorbed in the world around me,
I continued a mile – maybe more,
Until as time the trickster can do,
I walked through fate’s unseen open door.

Glancing down at the dirt road,
I saw another also walked alone ahead,
Faint as a whisper in the sand,
Though steady and measured the tread.

I was curious as to who it might be,
For none had I seen pass this way,
Nor did I know when they had stepped in the road,
On this marvelous magical day.

I quickened my pace to catch up,
Peering intently ahead to a bend.
I wished only to know who it was,
I did not want to bother nor offend.

The trees arched together
They formed a cool cathedral dome.
A sanctuary for those who tarried.
The solace of knowing ones home.

I walked as silently as I could,
Rounding a turn with a high banked hill,
I saw the shadow of a scrap of a man,
Not far ahead in the road standing still.

He leaned on a gnarled walking cane,
His white hair gleamed as if covered with dew.
Then he turned to look at my face,
With eyes of the clearest bright blue.

“I see you are enjoying this fine day as I,”
The voice strong but with the rasp of age.
“Why don’t you come walk with me for a piece,
At least to the other side of this forest glade?”

“Thank you,” I said and I strode to his side,
Where he turned heading on down the lane.
He began to speak as if we were longtime friends,
Without ever asking for my name.

“I was visiting the place of my birth,
Now gone but back in a fern covered glen.
My mother and brother are buried ‘neath a rose bush,
Where a rocky cliff makes the creek take a bend.”

“A tree there was planted by my father,
A red oak now a giant at its girth.
I was six when my little brother and mother,
Died at the moment of his birth.”

“Oh, I know that you probably don’t care,
About this old man’s tales of his past.
I just want to relive some memories with you,
Along with a simple requested task.”

Then he stopped and looked in my face,
Before I could ask what the task could be,
He reached out a farm weathered hand,
Holding the most beautiful rose he offered to me.

“I will leave you at the edge of this road,
I have some other business that I need to attend,
You’ll find a farm house further on with some people,
Stop there and tell them you are John’s friend.”

So I listened as he told me of his days,
Plowing fields behind a pair of loved mules,
About the implements of his work in the soil,
Protesting modern mechanized tools.

He spoke about his wife and his children,
Taken by the fever one and all,
How he once looked over the heads of men,
When he was not bent but young and tall.

I thought I saw a tear in the corner of his eye,
When he mentioned his friend a black and tan hound,
But that soon passed and he livened his step,
As he spoke of farming and growing the ground.

At last we reached the end of the glade,
The forest took up its stand once again.
“When you get to the house and tell them you know John,
Please give this rose only to him.”

Then he patted my hand that held the rose,
And turned down a meadow path of parted grass.
I said, “Goodbye I enjoyed your company,
I truly hope that this meeting is not our last.”

He stopped, paused a moment then looked back at me,
There was a smile on his face that touched my heart,
Saying,”Good friends do not take a life time to make,
Our walk together is a bond that no person can part.”

I watched him disappear in the shadows
Then he was gone leaving silence in this place,
I realized I was holding my breath,
Trying hard to remember his face.

Not too much further up the road
Past fields of weeds and a dilapidated barn,
I came to a driveway filled with cars,
Leading to a once proud old homestead farm.

I did not hesitate for I felt calm, at peace,
Knocking on the paint crackled solid plank door.
I waited as I heard footsteps approach,
Each one creaking a pine wood laid floor.

A man dressed in black stepped out,
I said, “I’m a friend of John who I have come to see.”
“Then you are welcome,” said the man with kindness,
“Please come in, peace be with thee.”

I followed him through a room filled with sadness,
Etched in the faces of those gathered there,
I heard, “Here is John,” and looked in a casket,
Where lay a man with white dew covered hair.

A great knot welled up in my chest,
The shock of the moment caught my surprise.
I heard his words echo in my mind,
As tears filled my now reddened eyes.

I took the rose and placed it beneath his hands,
As its petals fell scattering across his chest.
For a moment I thought his face changed to a smile,
And now I understood his single request.

“That was a kind thing to bring him today,”
The man standing beside me spoke with pride,
“I know that rose, it grows at his mothers grave,
John would have been 100 the day that he died.”

“He has tended that site since he was six,
On his mothers birthday for ninety-four years,
He has picked one rose to honor her,
The rose has a name it’s called “Loves Fallen Tears.”

“Today,” he continued, “is John’s funeral day,
Today would have been his mother’s birthday too.
I think you have helped John fulfill a kept promise,
Since he could not pick that rose brought by you.”

Was fate the chance meeting on that road,
Or something of life’s mystery not to understand?
It now has been forty years since that day,
Still I wake up feeling the rose in my hand.

I found the place where the rose bush grows,
Just where he said it would be.
Cared for by the forest and the creek bend,
‘Neath the branches of a grand red oak tree.

Each year on that memorial of John’s death,
I travel to that place across the glade,
With joy in my heart at being so honored,
I select a rose and place it where John is laid.

I often think what will happen at my passing,
But the answer you have already been told.
Two strangers will meet walking down that dusty lane,
One younger the other white haired, bent and old.

They will walk a distance through magical woods,
A conversation of past memories will begin to ensue.
Then the old man will stop, smile and ask for a favor,
Maybe the promise and the rose will be passed to you.

Copyright: 2009, Donald Harbour

Many diapers and boo-boos

"Golden Bird" - graphic art by Donald Harbour

"Golden Bird" - graphic art by Donald Harbour

I know that life has loved me.
How many times has it changed
my diaper? Or bandaged a boo-boo?
Someone asked me, “How will you
be remembered?” In contemplation
I know that if remembrance is
not now it will not be after.
Those that one loves are the
the stones of the present.
Each gift of the heart the
blocks that build a man’s
mountain, the monument to
the sacrifice of a journey.
When I pass will you speak
of the stones of this life,
or the many diapers and boo-boos
left along my tread?

Copyright: 2009, Donald Harbour