Poem of the Week | May 10, 2021

This week’s Poem of the Week is “A Djinn Hums in Sakhnin” by Tarik Dobbs.

Tarik Dobbs is an Arab American, queer writer born in Dearborn, MI, USA. Dobbs’s poems appear soon/now in American Poetry Review, Poetry Magazine, The Poetry Review, & 2020 Best of the Net Anthology. They are presently a Poetry Editor at poetry.onl. Their poetry chapbook, Dancing on the Tarmac, was selected by G. Calvocoressi (Yemassee, 2021). Find them at tarikdo.com.


A Djinn Hums in Sakhnin

    “Will you defeat them…all the non-believers? The plans that they have made?”
                        – “Welcome to the Black Parade,” My Chemical Romance

    “But I am planning a plan.
    So allow time for the disbelievers. Leave them awhile.”
                        – Qur’an 86:16-17

Up the Galilee, we lay arm in arm, home
-stay brothers in a twin bed, music
of missiles—mortars or martyrs—wake

or interceptions, now, my brother’s always
unsure: is it Syrian? Lebanese?
In Fajr’s kneel and grow, I see the faded

welts on his arms. It’s afternoon. He stomps
down the block, settling into the men’s club,
soccer and smoke-filled

reminiscing, the argileh bubbles, my brother,
he whispers, I’m growing tired
of guilt like this;

at the foggy barbeque, he laughs, here
there is no work,
only wildfires;
on the news, we hear the pines

planted seventy years ago are kindling,
starting to wither; dinner’s getting
later and later.

If tear gas and rubber
could cure this soil, always
a missile would whisper.

Tonight, the reporters post
a photograph of a doctor bleeding
out; tomorrow, the wounds multiply, go

unsewn. My brother hands me his best
lighter; I singe the charcoal, it sputters—
the djinn floods out in a flicker of light.

The djinn shows me many moons
ago, when the Galilee still stretched
undivided by the hard lines of empire—

families crossing freely through its valleys,
when the Prophet’s cave glowed like
the crescent sculpture in the town square.

I drive us in circles on Nakba Day,
reminiscing of night walks home.
The djinn knows it’s dazzling,

the expanse of this moon, the Iron Dome
in action; now is the time, it said to me.
I must rethink my life.


Author’s Note

I wrote this poem while doing research on the education system in the Palestinian Sakhnin valley. It was summer, during Ramadan, and the I***** state was firing at Syria in the night, among other things. I spent a lot of time hanging out with my homestay family, reflecting on my Muslim faith, walking around a city that continues to exist extremely precariously, and learning everything I could from local scholars. I wrote this poem frantically on my airplane home.