Author, Photographer, Researcher, Artist, Adventurer and Buccaneer Extraordinaire

“Or at least that’s the plan each morning after coffee.”

DL Tolleson.com

THIS UNNAMED GEOLOGICAL formation is the likely result of wind, rain and time eroading away surface material to expose what at one time would have lava (magma) that had cooled and solidified. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
COMING INTO OR out of the Chisos Mountains, this is the northwest view and is several miles south of Panther Junction and the headquarters for Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
THE CLARET CUP is covered in barbed spines and blooms a reddish, cup-shaped flower from about April to June or July in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
THIS VIEW FROM a formation called, “The Window,” looks out from the westside of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
INDIAN HEAD MOUNTAIN and its southern region offers this “leaning” wall of geology at the western boundary of Big Bend National Park. The rocks of the foreground are boulders ranging from man-sized on up. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
MASSIVE AND TOWERING, this wall of the geology is at least a couple of hundrend feet high and situated in the Indian Head area of Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
WIDE-OPEN PANORAMAS and mountainous terrain such as this are routine along roadside in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
THE SOUTHWEST SIDE of the Chisos Mountains, also known as the Chisos Mountain Basin and home to the lodge in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2011 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
A FALLEN TREE is an impassable barrier in an otherwise debris-free dry riverbed in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
INDIGENOUS TO TEXAS, New Mexico and Arizona, Javelinas in Big Bend National Park genetically differ from swine. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
LOST MINE TRAIL in Big Bend National Park, looking southward over Juniper Canyon, the Chisos Mountain’s Northeast Rim and into Mexico. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
A TREE SILHOUETTED against the night sky as seen from Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
THIS VIEW EAST of a volcano is an illusion of the setting sun streaming through the Chisos Basin area behind Casa Grande Peak in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
WRIGHT MOUNTAIN in background at Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
A VIEW WESTWARD after sundown from the Indian Head area of Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
A CAMERA COMPENSATION for the limited light after sundown provides this view westward from the Indian Head area of Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson/Camera One. All Rights Reserved.
SANTA ELENA CANYON after sunset, as seen from the Chimneys in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson/Camera One. All Rights Reserved.

Publication History: The Harbor © Copyright 2001, 2009, 2019 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved. Excerpts from this work are permissible if author attribution is included. However, beyond this no part of this material may be reproduced in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.

Tolleson, DL. “The Harbor.”
DLTolleson.com, 2009.
http://www.dltolleson.com/poetry/harbor.php.

Tolleson, DL. “The Harbor.”
TheLighthousePress.com, 2016.
http://www.thelighthousepress.com/dltolleson.com/poetry/harbor.php.

Description: Poetry—524 words.

Commentary: For me this was a fairly ambitious undertaking and stands-out as perhaps the most complete story in a poem format that I have written. The message is at first conveyed through allegorical means, but not left to the reader to interpret. Rather, at the poem’s end the narrator interprets the message he takes away from the encounter documented in the poem.

The narrative of The Harbor: A young man who is eager to talk of his new love interest and discuss his fears of a relationship, goes into a pub wherein he strikes up a conversation with a mapmaker who is a seasoned sailor. The mapmaker is consumed with the story of a particular harbor that he had mapped in the past. Because of the reefs near the harbor the mapmaker never took his ship into it, choosing instead to carefully probe and map every detail of the cove. So taken by the harbor, the mapmaker notes that the place caressed his senses and no matter how rough the seas, he was able to depend upon that harbor being calm. But even though he so closely studied the harbor, knew all of its depths and obvious problems, he never once risked more than taking a rowboat into it. At the end of his story, the mapmaker leaves, carrying with him some obviously unspoken despair.

The narrator then seeks out the barkeep and inquires about the mapmaker. The barkeep tells the story of a ship captain who was a mapmaker by trade. One day the Captain/mapmaker found a hidden harbor that was the home of a beautiful young woman. It is because the Captain/mapmaker was so taken with the young woman that he went to such lengths to map the harbor—spending every day doing so. The barkeep tells us that the young woman was kind and that the Captain’s previously hardened heart felt affection. But the Captain never spoke to the woman of his heart or his plans—if any—regarding her. A rogue wave outside the harbor assaulted the Captain’s ship and all hands were saved but one: The Captain himself. Before his death he instructed a crewman to tell the maiden that his sin was in not taking a risk (to form a relationship) and that his punishment was regret.

Thus we learn that the Captain/mapmaker with whom the narrator spoke was a mere ghost or spirit. The encounter prompts the young man to risk the next step in his own relationship—to offer more than just charting a future; to offer love while he has the time to share it.

Throughout the story everything is more or less symbolic of the message learned by the narrator. The Captain/mapmaker is filled with such regret that he cannot bring himself to even speak of the maiden he never pursued. Instead he speaks of the harbor, which is symbolic of the maiden. His ship, which he references only rarely, is symbolic of his emotional heart—something he never commits even though he knows the harbor (the maiden) well.

The narrator of the poem arrives at the bar to gush about his lover and to express his fears of a relationship. Everything after he walks through the door is a message of commitment—literal in context of the poem’s story and symbolical in context of the poem’s content. As for the mechanics of the poem, don’t look for Iambic, Trochee, Dactyl, or Anapestic meter—or any other traditional poetic conventions of style and structure. The only structure is six-syllable lines that rhyme the second and last lines each stanza—a few of which I’ve tweaked over the course of time.

I have even re-composed the last two stanzas, shifting away from what the narrator’s maiden may—or may not—have desire of the narrator. I have instead re-focused on what is best learned from the Captain/Mapmaker’s story: And this is to say that the storms of life may arise at any moment, stealing away the only two things worth sharing: time and your life.

—DL Tolleson

THE HARBOR
DL Tolleson

The mapmaker was young
And said so over ale.
He knew the coastal shore
And where best to set sail.

I had come to this pub
For sympathetic ears,
To speak of attraction,
My maiden and my fears.

Alas none would listen,
And dismissed out-of-hand
That my maiden’s beauty
Hid things to understand.

And this he brushed aside
As if a sailor’s wife,
And wept about instead
The oyster of his life.

“Hidden is a harbor
Into which none will sail
Nor even try challenge
The rocky reef’s travail.

“There is of course distance
Between a ship and shore
And oft times betwixt them
There’s peril hidden afore.

“But with this one harbor
And hidden reefs below,
I never risked my ship
To find what I could know.

“But then ask you this now,
‘Why in all of the sea,
Is just this one harbor
So important to me?’”

The mapmaker broke off
His face so sadly shown
That but for this moment
His torment seemed my own.

“The harbor,” he explained,
“Was likened to the rose
That caressed my senses
With a scent of repose.

“And when the tempest came
By rage of sea unfold,
Gentle was this harbor,
And a virtual stronghold.”

And when he was silent
Compelled I asked of him,
How he so knew the reefs
Had he not tested them?

The mapmaker replied
That he had rowed ashore
But that he had not risked
More than a rowboat oar.

Indeed he took great pains
To map the hidden depth,
And in the so doing
He saw the harbor’s breadth.

This his having now said
He took his leave away.
I watched him disappear
Then sought what others say.

“Who is this mapmaker?”
I sought the barkeep’s tale,
“And where is this harbor
Into which none will sail?”

“You speak of the Captain.”
The barkeep slowly said.
“A mapmaker by trade
And so burdened with dread.

“For the harbor he found
Which held his ship at bay
Was home to a maiden
Who intrigued him they say.

“So each day he mapped
This most secretive quay,
But it was the maiden
He yearned to see each day.

“Never much more he knew
Than that she was so kind.
And within his hard heart
Affection he did find.

“His time with her elapsed
And he spoke not his heart.
Whatever was his plan,
It had no chance to start.

“For outside the harbor
Came a tempest rogue wave.
Down plunged the Captain’s ship
Sinking down to its grave.

“No hands were lost—save one—
Just the one, so I heard.
And to the boatswain mate
He gave his final word:

“‘Tell her I will miss her
And tell her not to fret
My sin was not risking
My punishment—regret.’”

“You mean he knew her not?”
I asked, somewhat irate.
“Forsooth,” came the answer,
“He decided too late...”

So I rushed from the pub
With this story in mind.
I sought out my maiden
To avoid being blind.

For fair weather sailing
We plan on our life’s chart,
But storms are not charted
With the fate of the heart.