BISWADARSHAN MOHANTY

Djinn and Men

“Djinn and Men” came to me during a night shift when coffee had lost its potency. An image of Bedouin coffee ritual around a campfire floated in my mind. The image led me to mythical Arabic djinn and their similarity with humans. And how our primal urges have remained with us despite our feigned civility.

By a fire in a Bedouin camp
not far from date fronds
kahwa1 dripped through the sky’s fine mesh
trickled through the Milky way
into cups, emanating fumes of cardamom,
coffee and stories
that cracked with embers on which djinn danced.
Djinn, the beings of fire, tolerated
men and their stories,
for the two beings shared same longings,
same vices, same wickedness.

Behind the row of men and tents
were lines of dunes that
shifted in day and ruminated at night.
They were simpler creatures
made neither of mud nor fire,
but of sand.
Sand that rises in dervishes,
dribbles into an hourglass
filling emptiness—
sprouting tents of glass and steel
stacked one on top of the other.
From their perches in one such tent,
men and women inhale foamy decoctions and
through a screen of clear sand
watch sand drape over
what remains of their horizon.

Djinn still lurk in the desert,
and in leather-bound
Alif Layla wa-Layla and
turn blue in Hollywood musicals—
they also skulk in the city,
in windowless massage parlours
under red-blue neon signs
flashing OPEN
in not so dark alleyways,
where men ask,
“How Much?”

1 Kahwa: Arabic Coffee

Biswadarshan Mohanty, having moved around numerous cities and countries, has found a home in his imagination. He is a graduate of Master of Arts in Writing and Literature from Deakin University. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in ConstellationsQuadrantThe Tiger Moth Review, and Verandah Journal.  

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PROSE

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