Men Who Seek Refuge in the Djinn 

Tarik Dobbs


# pages

Sample poem from Men Who Seek Refuge in the Djinn:


winner of the Projector Poetry Prize  




I spent every Sunday in Saturday School

Tales in Qu'ran, no hijabs worn, nail polish abound

a reform mosque, All-American Muslims


I make Wudu in the marble-half showers

A djinn enters as there is no exit

perfectly-crafted squares in rows of wall


His presence sweeps under my ledge

water splashing onto my feet

Its fire warms me (the dirt)

pulling me from concrete tundra/Michigan


No wonder Shaytan comes from it, too





I feel my sinuses clear


Warm-air and farm lands, the djinn shows me what flat

rooftops and green feel like: No bud

or roses. No apple blossoms but field of olive

trees and my grandfather's bones


The djinn stands before the stone

We grieve

It's disguise. Azrail, a goat, the one

they slaughtered for: my mother's seventh birthday

we cry, goat and I 

Sky sets and the fire goes out





By morning, I've summoned the djinn again

from a lighter I found

outside the BP gas station

We tease and smile and the djinn tells my history

through google image searches:

an anthropologist in the fields of the Amazon rainforest:

Claude Lévi-Strauss; zaddy


The djinn knows my wish:

to make out with a 30-something,

anthropologist from the 20th century

We slump down behind the ice ally of the BP and kiss

its lips, the morning star and mine, red




Now, I'm seventeen—

Embers leave the worst

smell in my burnt neck-






Stashing gum in my hoodie pocket, the corner store was emptier than usual

it was Eid, after all

Ayb, yes, but the attendant sold my 12 year old

friends loosies, besides ethics

are artificial, the djinn admits

It's why we are dirt and fire, not 

right light or water

He pulls me through tile and concrete

to the core/my home





I slide into the jittering 2002 Audi A6/

my father pulls up the passenger power lock, lets me in

His cheapo mechanic cut the car’s computer circuitry

Djinn-proof, eh?


My father, always 15 minutes late after school,

(sometimes he didn't come at all)

ate pepperoni pizza on weekends

while we drove,

its smell


I can only know microaggressions:

he added anchovies to the lard,

radiator waiting to explode,

haram, to release the flameless fire

back into my home





"I regret the day your lovely carcass caught my eye" - John Grant


The record spins and the djinn steps in—

His fire reflects in my pupils.

I speak brusquely:

Why have you come to me?


The djinn slides out of my dresser without a word

He stands 5'9, dark eyebrows like mine,

a dented nose

pipe-in-hand, and tortoise eyeglasses,

skin to stovetop, he briefly

holds my hand/lights his pipe

like candle light, but nothing more





The djinn shows my home with no doors and no hallways

No bedrooms, no kitchens, no

call-to-prayer alarm clock, just a frame 

of wood in crumbling brick


It shows me before and after and now;

we see the other

djinn and the other me, and we

kiss one last time

Tarik Dobbs is a queer, Lebanese-American poet from Dearborn, MI. In 2018, he won a Roy W. Cowden Memorial Fellowship, a Hopwood Undergraduate Poetry Award, and the Paul and Sonia Handleman Poetry Award for his collected poems. His poems are forthcoming or recently appear in diode poetry journal, Tinderbox, and Glass: A Journal of Poetry.