Gwen Harwood

(8 June 1920 – 4 December 1995 / Taringa, Queensland)

Barn Owl - Poem by Gwen Harwood

Daybreak: the household slept.
I rose, blessed by the sun.
A horny fiend, I crept
out with my father's gun.
Let him dream of a child
obedient, angel-mind-

old no-sayer, robbed of power
by sleep. I knew my prize
who swooped home at this hour
with day-light riddled eyes
to his place on a high beam
in our old stables, to dream

light's useless time away.
I stood, holding my breath,
in urine-scented hay,
master of life and death,
a wisp-haired judge whose law
would punish beak and claw.

My first shot struck. He swayed,
ruined, beating his only
wing, as I watched, afraid
by the fallen gun, a lonely
child who believed death clean
and final, not this obscene

bundle of stuff that dropped,
and dribbled through the loose straw
tangling in bowels, and hopped
blindly closer. I saw
those eyes that did not see
mirror my cruelty

while the wrecked thing that could
not bear the light nor hide
hobbled in its own blood.
My father reached my side,
gave me the fallen gun.
'End what you have begun.'

I fired. The blank eyes shone
once into mine, and slept.
I leaned my head upon
my father's arm, and wept,
owl blind in early sun
for what I had begun


Comments about Barn Owl by Gwen Harwood

  • Geoffrey Fafard Geoffrey Fafard (7/16/2016 12:20:00 AM)


    This would have to go down in my journal of powerful writing, right at the top.I have revered it for many years and it is there when i need to feel humbled or rescued.Beautiful and desperate at the same time.Outstanding. (Report) Reply

    1 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • Susan Williams Susan Williams (7/15/2016 9:51:00 PM)


    Heart-rending story of the loss of innocence provoked by the loss of temper. What a huge weight of guilt to carry on one's soul for the rest of the child's life. What a price that was paid to learn to live in peace with the fellow creatures on earth. Very powerfully written, (Report) Reply

  • Amar Agarwala Amar Agarwala (7/15/2016 8:55:00 PM)


    A touching and honest confession by the poet... Gwen Harwood. Very well described. (Report) Reply

  • Barry Middleton Barry Middleton (7/15/2016 2:32:00 PM)


    Their is more to this than shooting an owl. All who pick up the gun may find regret. Well written. (Report) Reply

  • Edward Kofi Louis Edward Kofi Louis (7/15/2016 3:18:00 AM)


    For what i had begun. Thanks for sharing. (Report) Reply

  • * Sunprincess * (5/31/2014 9:05:00 AM)


    ...........truly this must have been a lesson learned for daughter and father.....must have been sad for her father to see the owl suffer and pass away on a beautiful morning...I feel sure he kept his guns locked away after this incident.... (Report) Reply

  • Square Cutter (2/25/2014 5:00:00 PM)


    subsribe 2 my utube chenl (Report) Reply

  • Rich Persoff (1/3/2014 4:24:00 PM)


    This is the finest and most honest poem I have read in weeks and weeks! (Report) Reply

Read all 8 comments »



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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 20, 2012



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