In the glade an old Red Oak stands naked,
except for a single fluttering leaf,
still cast with the color of fall.
I have watched it for hours, and
I wonder if is proclaiming a message.
An axiom of life in its resilience,
its tenacity to purpose, to refusal,
a dogged determination to hang in there.
Though the winter wind tugs at its grip,
still it stays convinced that it must,
if not for purpose, then for the tree.

©2015, Donald Harbour

The wheel of the year

There is sleep in the air,
rustling leaves begin to fall,
the sagging eyelids of the season.
Each day a crispness awakens,
it heralds other subtle changes,
rest for the land, flowers, lakes.
The cleansing purgatory of snow
gathers its chemistry in the north.
The gentle breeze whispers: “Quiet now,”
the hush is Mother Nature’s cool touch
upon the frantic fevered cheek of summer.
Human hearts yearn for this time,
they cling to past ancient old ways,
a quickening yearning for the hearth,
harvested fields, ducks on the fly.
Goddesses lurk in the shadows,
Modron and Olwen lean into their work,
shouldering, turning the wheel of the year.
Sages know only spring and autumn hold love,
the dawn and twilight of seasons,
the spiritual recharging of all life.
Smoke rises from a distant chimney,
it has comfort in its languid message,
a temple incense carrying prayers.
In the living is the solitary knowledge
that with the ending of the year awaits
creation’s glorious beginnings,
the only promise winter gives up.

©2015, Donald Harbour

Morning in the South

I arose this morning –
the dawn silently tip toeing,
across the sleeping dark horizon.

Bare stark branches of trees,
gatekeepers of the coming day,
beseech the horns of Luna to stay.

Night has left behind diamonds
glittering, strung across the ground,
a gift for the coming spring.

Tendrils of fireplace smoke waft
with the musky clear, crisp air,
a ritual offering to the hearth.

Fluffy feathered birds chirp awake,
shaking the cold from drowsy beaks,
tenors tuning up for their work.

A distant hound speaks its mind,
announcing another glorious
morning in the American South.

This magical moment of wakening,
carries the heritage of time,
of past and present, of tomorrows.

It touches the soul, the heart,
with things that are gentle reminders
of what it means to be a Southerner.

 ©2015, Donald Harbour

The golden years

The dust of dusk is gathering,
an orange tinged crimson,
its detritus closes the hour.

The past procrastinates, lying,
deceiving the learned, the wise.
burying its muzzle in your forgotten.

There is no beginning in its end,
only the moment, another dawn,
the brass ring, another ride.

This flaccid imitation of hope,
of spiritual calamity, devouring
humanity with closed mouth clamoring.

Just when you figure life out,
a small rat of truth arrives, hungry
gnawing at the seams of your past.

You know you cannot win, ever,
the only trophy on your shelf
a granite slab and six feet of earth.

©2014, Donald Harbour

Winter long flying bird

The hawk of winter is sinking
its talons into the soul of earth,
bitter grievous dark beacon of
the long sleep, long flying bird
that beckons the forgiveness of spring,
it cannot wait its task for it blankets
this night with the howl of its song
and the moulting of its cold cold feathers,
perched upon the dead and fallow ground
there is hope in the birth it nurtures,
a blessing in the sacrifice to destiny,
it will not nest forever but for the morrow,
cast back to its northern clime
duty bound to leave us when the sun
awakens from its southern sojourn
with a heated nod shooing that pesky bird.

©2014, Donald Harbour

This house

The house is speaking tonight,
commentary, with clicks and sighs.

Its mouthpiece a north wind,
moaning, as the zephyr whistles.

Then, gathering itself up
to move, with the darkness.

Somnolent solitary shifting,
as if, the night hides secrets.

Does it hide truths of the past,
a desolate sentinel of time.

Lives lived, lives lost, composted,
can its timbers remember, and speak.

A whispered reciting of life’s passage,
I do not understand its language.

An ancient part of me hears, feels, and
knows, this house dwells in all of us.

©2014, Donald Harbour

The bite of winter

The season’s dog has clamped its jaws,
biting deep into my warm, moist flesh.
It’s bark turning the sky dispiriting grey
as a canopy of death, an ash urn turned
upside down clutching at the life below
with corpse cold fingers. The birds
refuse to fly, those that do soon drop
from heaven, feathered chunks of ice.
To breathe is to inhale shards of glass,
each breath a searing arctic surgery.
The air is still, cloying, a suffocating chill.
Frigidness permeates every pore in the body
making hands useless, hammer struck fingers
ache dangling off reddened fleshy paws.
The end of the year brings the burden
of survival to all creatures; except
those frozen in stillness, burrowed deep in
the earth never knowing the suffering above,
sleeping to awaken when spring triumphs,
banishing old man Winter to his northern realm.

©2013, Donald Harbour

Joyful madness

Potence has overtaken the dawn sky,
a mystical wakefulness in the scene,
a swirling mass of screeching devils,
choreographed jockeying for position.
They are grains of sand in the cosmos,
autumn’s winged disciple vagrant voyagers ,
These calamitous irreverent starlings,
gathering each year for millennium,
a convention of chirping auctioneers,
selling the season to winter’s chill.
Their movement paint on a Van Gogh canvas,
soon one will take command, a leader,
thousands will follow in joyful madness.
There will be evidence of their passing,
tree branches littered with white refuse,
then the tranquility of grateful silence.
I am transfixed by them and I wonder,
did humankind evolve from starlings?

©2013 Donald Harbour

Flowers need a promise

Diana Fritillary butterfly on Mike Harbour’s Zennias.

As flickering bits of confetti,
torn paper cast they float
attaching to flowers and trees.

Flashes of sparkling color,
iridescent hues of the rainbow
trace these aerial spindly creatures.

The trees are telling nature
to get ready for the season’s child
a capricious snowy headed cherub.

Yet here are the last hangers-on,
pausing to pose for a picture
then gliding away to another petal.

Do they smell the air as I,
a mosaic breath of warmth, chill,
blended with damp dead leaves, and musk.

Rest arises from the earth
pushing furry babes to deep burrows,
proclaiming sleep will save you.

Gray has muted the sun’s light,
scudding clouds have dismissed it
they forage to drop their burden.

I wonder why the butterflies linger
defying the moment to drink the last nectar,
fall is waiting with its frosty wings.

Maybe it is because only their kiss
can comfort summer’s passing flowers
to promise resurrection in the spring.

©2012, Donald Harbour

The tale of the Wizard Maerwynn

Circe Invidiosa ("Circe, abounding in env...

Circe Invidiosa ("Circe, abounding in envy") by John William Waterhouse: in the magical tradition, invidia was a danger that could be provoked or turned away by spells

For Stella, Queen of the Fairies, a magical tale.

The child stared at the man’s scarred and wrinkled face,
Her grandfather moaned settling slowly in his place.
A hearth fire glow flickered about the hallowed hall,
As shadows were cast on a rough hewn log wall.
Outside the howl of a fierce winter blizzard storm,
Beat for entry upon the house safe and warm.
She reached out a perfect tiny pink fleshed hand,
Touching the heart and life of this wise aged man.
“Poppy” she called to catch his ear,
He turned his head so to better hear.
“Poppy, tell me the story about a maiden fair,
A tale of Maerwynn with tasseled sun golden hair.”
As she spoke the name the moment seemed to sigh,
A sparkle shown in the old man’s light blue eyes.
Thus he began to weave a tale of long past glory,
The tale of how Maerwynn closed her life story.
“Twas so long ago, far, far in the distant past,
Where lived Maerwynn on the high mountain pass.
Alone with her tomes of forgotten magical lore,
Piled about her on shelves and the cold stone floor.
She had studied all there was to the dark craft,
It had taken her soul, her smile, stolen her laugh.
This life of magic had left her in a word, bored,
A failing the Wizard Maerwynn could not afford.
Flaring her hooded wizard cape she twirled about,
Strode to a parapet, with resolution stepped out.
She wished for more than the powers she possessed,
She wished for more than the gods had her thus blessed.
From her castle keep she saw the village in the valley below,
The windows of the houses lit the night with cheery glow.
She stood in the thin chilled air as it swirled with glee,
Where possessed she kept only a castle as her company.
From the parapet she heard music rising to her height,
The villagers sang and danced this festive winter night.
She was envious of their joy, their warmth and their place,
She longed to sit at their tables, to touch each human face.
Their safety and their hearts became none of her concern,
Gripped with need for her own succor, her desire burned.
She was spirit protector charged with keeping strong the spell,
That held at bay the evil rushing through the gates of hell.
The kingdom was a place of beauty – a paradise it was said,
Though all that looked toward the pass did so with dread.
Maerwynn was one of the ancients of many through the years,
The thought of her filled villagers with awe and silent fear.
Her name was not spoken lest even whispered it was heard,
Carried to Maerwynn by a spellbound black wing spying bird.
She could see beyond the forests and glide through any door,
Though never leaving her escarpment to walk the valley floor.
A captive to her magical obligation, an eternity’s yoke to bear,
Maerwynn was a hopeless prisoner to her own destiny there.
From within her a voice as beautiful as this maiden of olde,
Cast out a chant into the moonlit mountain’s frigid cold.
The spell awoke a Roc to soar up to her from a craggy knoll,
The long forgotten mythical bird grasped her weakened lonely soul.
The giant beast swooped and cried in raucous raptor delight,
Snatching her from the ramparts it flew into the starry night.
In the wink of an eye there appeared in the castle keep,
A figure dressed in scarlet, gold fringed, and silken sleek.
Surrounded by imps and fairies spreading fairy dust everywhere,
The god’s choice for the new Maerwynn had already arrive there.
Thus the Roc set her down at the village mighty iron gate,
Where she stood still in silence to accept her ultimate fate.
The gods had cast a spell upon this maiden wizard’s brow,
Her time prophesied had come, her moment was now.
As Maerwynn slipped her cloak, slowly her form slide beneath,
Accepting what the ancient gods for her had thus bequeathed.
Upon entering the realm of mortals the spell cast did take,
Maerwynn the woman now became a Plume Feathered Snake.
As she had once been she would now forever be,
No more a life far above mortal humanity,
No more a castle on the mountains high,
No more to commune with spirits coursing the sky,
No more to know the lore and magical potion books,
No more to command all eagles, ogres, dragons and rooks.
When she became consumed with what she was not to be,
She broke her kismet thus written on the pages of eternity.
Maerwynn now saw only the feet of those she had once reigned,
Slithering on her belly she was viewed with disgust and disdain.”
Then the old man smiled at his granddaughter with eyes of love,
Reaching out he touched her hair as soft as a feathered dove.
“The lesson my granddaughter; when one has such great might,
Do not covet another creature’s possessions or their meager plight.
For your wish may be granted from a fleeting careless desire,
That, once given, can consume your being in a sin of mortal fire.
Maerwynn the Plume Feathered Snake haunts forests and dales,
A hissing product of wishes granted by an oath taken and misused spells.
Be true to yourself, be proud to carry your family name,
Do not envy others, utter not oaths and do not pass blame.”
Rising the child smiled and kissed the crown of his head,
“Thank you Poppy, I like that story,” then she toddle off to bed.
The old man sat alone for a moment feeling the warmth of the air,
Barely speaking he said, “Maerwynn, I know you are there.”
Hidden in a corner recess where spirits lived in the gloom.
A Plume Feathered Snake opened haunted eyes peering into the room.

©2012, Donald Harbour