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An Old Soul (A Poem)

By Joyce Jacobo

[Author’s Note: “An act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted” ~Aesop’s Fables]

An ancient creature roamed a forest

   from one shadow to the next

      silent as a whisper among the trees

   with eyes worn by time

       and a heart drained

             like an abandoned stone well       

An ancient creature who in a sharp predatory tragedy

    always a threat in those woods

          had lost her offspring

     only to find solace in the protection

                (over countless years)

         of any children she found

                  in the forest alone

                  often from the nearest village

The ancient creature watched these children from the shadows

     as they moved along the narrow trails

She chased away the beasts that stalked them

        and whispered for them never to stray into the brush  

The ancient creature even comforted and left the children food

                             (on occasion)

               but she refused to reveal more than glimpses of her form

For the children would have run         the ancient creature was certain

    from a sight like a wolf but much larger and skeletal

       though still radiant as moonlight on unmarred snow

              who oftentimes howled late at night

               to fill the darkness with whatever sorrow

                       had built up in her heart

                       during the day

Until one autumn night        when lightning stalked the land

    with merciless   crackling     dominance

        that in

        a singular strike

                 brought down

                 the ancient creature

                       at the very edge

                       of the forest

                              on the outskirts of the village

An old soul in pain

                            a darkened terror unable to move

      who expected—

           even welcomed oblivion

                      with a feeble whimper of despair

                 as the first rays of dawn revealed her

                          to the residents

They approached the ancient creature

     and murmured in low voices

She waited to hear weapons drawn

         or perhaps a bonfire set alight

Instead the villagers brought food and water

         gently tended to her wounds

           and wrapped a great blanket about her

The ancient creature could hardly believe

     this unexpected fate until

         as her vision cleared

              she began to recognize the faces

                    of the people—

                          as older versions of the children

                           the ancient creature had led

                           through the forest

These villagers had grown     

                              without fear of the ancient creature

       of whom they had shared stories

                 related to her protection

                       passed onto their own children

Now they shared with the ancient creature

     all the fondness accumulated in their young souls

          and filled her heart with it to the brim


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