First Encounter with Jinni

by Sarah Ghazal Ali

It happened in early February,
the night impatient to end,
Atlantic sun still bogged with cold
so slow to emerge on cue.
In sleep my left foot kicked out
& made contact with what
I can only describe as a lilied face.
I sat up & appraised her,
a petal-eyed jinni at the hearth
of my bed. In the lifting dark,
she opened her mouth, allowed
me a glance at two rows of pink milk
teeth. & so three became four–
me, my jinni, & the angels
perched on either side of my neck.
& so I gained a child
of smokeless fire, who from
that night on slept noiseless
by my ankles. Often she startled
me awake with gentle gnawing,
innocent though painful
as most fresh attachments are.
Most mornings I asked her
standard questions, like
Have you come to misguide me?
& Shall I brush your hair?
Her hair luminous & much
longer than mine. My jinni
never again opened her mouth
but clutched tightly to my leg
as I moved about the house.
She mimicked my motions,
loved climbing on my back
as I bent for evening prayer.
I tested her with daily salaams
hoping she’d slip into response,
this sister shadow I’d come to
care for, silent & watchful
of me, or over me. They say jinn
inhabit our trees, hover leafy
& unseen. On an evening walk,
she pulled me toward a birch.
As we walked under I felt
a flutter by my neck, heard
a horror like bird bones
snapping. I was angry the whole
way home but of course, I forgave her.
In the shower I inspected
the tapestry of teeth marks
climbing up my calves.
When guests came, my jinni
dwindled to fumes. My mother
never believed me. When
I returned home each night
I called to her, yes, I called to
my jinni, who would bring
a brush & sit before me.
Quiet & together, we were two
creatures welded, decidedly kin.