But I think, at that point, I would've known,
For though I could not as yet ascertain
The truths behind the mysteries that surround,
Not in depth, not down to the gnarled roots,
Signs my powers had now increased appeared
As I proceeded through Nineveh's outskirts,
Past gas stations, drive-in restaurants,
Motels with mildew lysol won't kill,
Rusting scrap metal and trailer parks,
Past empty farmyards and dead acreage,
To where the boarded up strip malls start.
It's here memory meets non-memory,
The city limits, urban borderlands
Where lawns and fields converge, where weeds invade,
Where cruel beasts come to annex our herds.
Here memory and non-memory mate,
The damp cavern from which all we know
Will first emerge, will first engage our thoughts,
And then to which, dead, it's finally tossed,
A place of fickle cellphone reception.
Here, as rush hour began to back up
I felt extremities begin to tingle.
And here I began to suffer my headaches,
Here began double vision, hair loss,
Skin discolorations and muscular aches.
Here I began to hear the howling of djinn.
I have heard of the djinn, said Marguerite.
The fishermen find them sometimes in nets.
They'll grant you three wishes when lamps are rubbed
In fables of Sinbad that Arabs tell.
But those stories are just fairy tales.
They lack hard lessons and gemlike facts
That true life accounts like mine impart.
Whatever empiric loss fiction takes
It regains, she said, in the charm department.
That's a lesson you'd do well to learn.
I learned the basic facts about the djinn
From a book by a famed anthropologist
Who lived among the djinn for forty years.
I can state for you his findings, summarized.
Good prophetcraft makes use of the djinn,
Employs their powers, unlocks their coy songs,
Pursues their perfume along hidden trails,
And pilfers treasures they stash out of sight.
But it takes a seer to see them, to use them,
To harness up a team and pull gold from lead.
The secret meanings watermarked on dreams
Are easily detected by any shrink
Schooled in the oedipal tautologies.
And any street corner preacher can spot
Those shadows cast by the impending end,
By the grim eschatology that drives
The created world, its contents and its peoples,
Into the whirlpool that circles the drain.
But more useful mysteries are visible
Only to those of us who can see the djinn,
Who hear the liquid words shaped by their tongue.
They are always among us, everywhere.
A hotel bellhop's idle chatter
May hide more than just a bid for tips.
Prophets and paranoid schizophrenics
Alone can detect the minute distortions
Beneath the surface and beneath the grammar
Which will announce a value-added sentence.
The djinn are always among us, disguised,
Taking the form of a friend, a loved one,
Or a homeless beggar, or a bureaucrat.
Changelings engage us in conversation
In order to impart concealed messages.
Their words disguise spells and mystic guidance,
Instructions on strange mental disciplines,
Low-fat diets, useful fashion tips,
Algorithms for computing prime numbers,
Maybe systems for winning the lottery
Or forecasting prices of stocks and bonds.
Liber Jonae Contents