The Moon and the Jackal

Every once in a while, when the moon shines bright

And the flowers are sleeping

There shows a jackal under my window,

He comes seeking sanctuary.

I sleep, and in my sleep I tend to ask—

Why do you come here alone, oh Jackal

When the entire world is led from your dirt paths?

And the Jackal, he tells me every time that he sees

That from the path comes the forest

And in the forest, he can see no shimmering.

And what of the leaves; in the wind don’t they rise?

I ask him, as we sit under the window and look up at the sky.

Above the leaves in the forest, the sky looks a bit shifted

The blues are darker; the stars, all having been lifted.

As a creature of the night, and of darkness and sorrow

Shouldn’t you thrive in the forest’s lack of morrow?

And the Jackal he says that in the forest lie the things

That thrive on the bones of those who’ve accidentally wandered in.

And what of it, I ask with surprise;

Is that not the nature of forests, and of the creatures of night?

And the Jackal leans in, and he whispers me a secret;

Don’t tell anyone, he tells me, but I’m not of this nature.

What is your nature, then, I ask with a frown;

Are you a creature of sunlight, of the stars and the sky?

No, says the Jackal, with a wistfulness of the sincere;

I know not where I’ve come from, nor the place my path shall lead me.

And so you come here, I say with compassion;

To a place not your own, but of none of your rivals.

The Jackal, he says, that in the forest this place’s a myth;

The other jackals dismiss it, as they do the sound of the sea.

We’re not creatures of the depths, and not those of the wind

We walk with ash to our paws, and with fog as our visionary. 

And is that not your spirit, I ask as he stands;

And why are you leaving, going back to that place?

The jackal laughs, and the sound echoes with a ring;

He tells me he’s hopeful, he says he believes.

In what do you believe, when you know not who you are?

He says he sticks to the truth, proceeds to see the sky every month.

And what in it, when you’re bound to go back?

And what of it, when you cannot reach the clouds?

And when the darkness falls anew, and the howls pierce the fog;

And the paw-prints their marks leave on the road;

Where do you go, when you can’t see where you’re reaching?

And how are you running, when the shadows are creeping?

The Jackal tells me that the moon shows him the way

Every time that it fills, he looks up to it for answers.

But the moon doesn’t speak, I say as he turns;

And the moon doesn’t know, who I’ve ever been before;

Simply listen, listen to the sound of the light;

Listen to the way the wind blows; listen to the shifts of the sand.

I’ve been walking my whole life, and I’ve never known what I’ve been

Yet I know what I’m not; I know who I need not be.

And how do you know — I call out as he leaves;

That you’re walking in the right direction, that the moon doesn’t mislead?

I don’t, says the Jackal, and maybe I should’ve ceased long ago

But if I stay where I am, what would become of my soul?

So I walk and I listen and if I fall in the dark;

I hope to know that at least I’ve tried to find my own heart.

Thank you for the window, and the glimpse of the sky;

Wake up now, because with me leaves the night.

And wake up I do, and I hear the sound of footfalls;

And as I look outside my window, there’s nothing but the dirt roads.

In a month or in two maybe I’ll see the Jackal again;

Or maybe I shan’t, for certain I cannot say.

I sit and I paint a picture of the moon that I’ve seen;

And I look at it and ask it, where are you leading me?

The moon doesn’t answer, but it gives me this hope

That maybe one day I’ll look at it and maybe one day I’ll know.

So I hang the moon on the wall and I look at it before I sleep;

And with time, I’m thinking, it would show me who I want to be.

© Michal Rotko

Photo by Geran de Klerk on Unsplash

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