To Catch a Djinn

by Nadia Niaz

A ghazal for my Dadi and her sisters

First you must find a copse of trees where there is lore of the djinn
Then await the summer rest when elders think no more of the djinn

When the world has disappeared into afternoon slumber
You must gather your sisters and be sure of the djinn

The trees are treacherous and thick with secrets
but you must climb on upwards to know more of the djinn

In the branches you must wait, breath held and ears pricked
for the silence to turn slowly to the roar of the djinn

You must look for the long body of smokeless fire
and the burning eyes above the maw of the djinn

You must wait while the sun drags across the sky
But you must not grow impatient nor bore of the djinn

You have grown up in these trees, conquered branch and bough
And you have felt before in them the draw of the djinn

So wait, wait with you sisters and don’t make a sound
And in time, if you persist, there will come the awe of the djinn

When she shows herself finally, dark and tall, remember
the things you rehearsed to implore of the djinn

If you ask kindly and show respect, she may even agree
to mark you and your descendants evermore of the djinn

But she will do this only if you and your sisters swear
to tell no-one and keep to the law of the djinn

So when you tell your grandchildren your stories of waiting
you say what you wanted but not what you saw of the djinn

And rest easy knowing the bargain will hold firm into the future
when the young ones have forgotten the lore of the djinn

Nadia Niaz is a writer, editor and academic ‘from’ Melbourne via Pakistan and many other places. She has a PhD in Creative Writing and Cultural Studies and teaches at the University of Melbourne. A simultaneous trilingual third-culture kid herself, Nadia is interested in multilingual creative and poetic expression, the practicalities and politics of translation, and language use among third culture kids and other globally mobile cohorts. In 2018 she founded the Australian Multilingual Writing Project. Her most recent work can be found in The Polyglot, Not Very Quiet, Peril, and Pencilled-In. Nadia is a member of the West Writers Group.

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