Jack Foley




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Kamal is the Arabic word for “perfect.”


Mahmud Cemaleddin Hasan Effendi was known to be perfect. He was the very Pole Star of perfection. Never did an unworthy thought cross his mind; never did an unworthy word cross his lips. He had instructed others all day today and he was greatly fatigued. It was no sin to desire rest, and he thought with great delight of his warm bed as he crossed over the grass to his simple dwelling. As he neared the house, he noticed the wondrous fig tree that grew before it. It pleased him to think that he and that tree had grown old together. Its branches beckoned to him like the arms of his mother. Indeed, many were the days when his mother sat on the grass watching him as he, a child, climbed the tree. “You are closer to heaven, my son,” said his mother. “But be careful not to fall to earth again.” She was known far and wide to be a good woman, and when she passed from this vale of sorrows, many were the tears that were shed in that town. He could feel her warmth as he approached the tree.

            What he did not notice was the djinn who just now inhabited the tree. But the djinn saw him and laughed silently.

            “Good afternoon, good sir,” said the djinn. “May the wondrous light that bursts forth from the eyes of the Prophet (blessed be his name!) shine upon you.”

            “Good afternoon, djinn,” said the holy man. “I hope you are doing God’s will today.”

            “On what day would I not be doing God’s will, good sir,” answered the djinn politely.

            “I have…shall we say…various reports of djinns,” said the holy man.

            “Oh, Effendi, these tales are gross exaggerations. We have our rotten apples, of course—what group does not?—but in general we are a God-loving lot. Praise be to Allah for everything, everything. What wonders does he not perform?”

            “Praise be to him, djinn.”

            “Still, I do have a problem, Effendi. I am in love with a young woman of good family and high reputation. And she is to be married tomorrow. What can I do, Effendi. My heart aches with such sorrow. All I wish is to tell her of my passion. I know she does not return it. But I would feel such relief if only she could hear of it. But, alas, I cannot force my tongue to utter the words.”

            “That is truly a sorrow, djinn,” said the Perfect One.

            “But you, Effendi, I have heard you speak with such eloquence that the angels came down to earth to listen and wondered whether they were in heaven again to hear such sounds. Perhaps, Effendi, you could tell her. It would be a great relief to me—just so that she knows that I, a peace-loving djinn, love her as deeply as a djinn can love anything. Oh, please, Effendi.”

            “Well, I might write her a note…”

            “No, no, Efffendi, you must tell her. It must be her ear’s hearing. And it must be tonight since she marries tomorrow.”

            “Well, I suppose….”

            “It would do me so much good, O Perfect One. My soul would at last be at peace. Please follow me. Her home is not far.”

            With that the djinn climbed down from the tree and motioned the holy man to follow him.

            Slowly they made their way through the dark town. Finally they came to the woman’s house. It was a warm night, and her window was open.

            “Say this,” said the djinn: “‘O beauteous one! Answer I beg of you!’”

            “O beauteous one! Answer I beg of you!” said the holy man.

            A window was opened. A shrewish voice said, “Who calls out to me?”

            “Say, ‘I, O beauteous one! I, the djinn who loves you with all his heart.’”

            “I, O beauteous one! I, the djinn who loves you with all his heart,” said the holy man.

            “The Holy Koran says you are made of smokeless flame,” said the woman. And with that she threw a pot at the holy man. Her aim was good, and she hit her target. But she could not see the djinn, only the holy man.

            “But Sweetest of all Sweet Things, O…”

            And with that she threw an egg, which also hit the target.

            “You must climb in her window,” said the djinn. “She is angry now, but when she sees you standing in front of her she will recognize your holiness and listen.”

            “Climb in the window!” said the holy man.

            “Yes, yes,” said the djinn, and pushed him forward.

            The holy man was not used to climbing into windows and it cost him some effort to do so, especially since the woman beat at his knuckles as he scrambled at the sill. Finally, he was inside.

            “Woman,” he said, “this djinn—” But he got no further. The woman’s mother was suddenly upon him. She was a large woman, and she pinned him to the floor.

            “I am not speaking for myself,” cried out the holy man. “I am speaking for that djinn.”

            “What djinn?” said the woman and looked out the window. No one was there. “There is no djinn here.”

            “No djinn?” said the holy man.

            “Only a most foolish old man,” said the woman. “Don’t you know the deceptions djinns can weave?”

            “Well, I have heard—”

            “You have heard right. You are a foolish old man. Somewhere out there in the night, the djinn is laughing at us all. I myself am in the deepest of trouble. I am a foolish young woman and I allowed my deep love to get the better of me. The man is gone, and I am with child, and there is no one to marry me.”

            “No one to marry you?” said the holy man, gasping a little from his position on the floor.

            “No one,” answered the woman.

            At these sad words the woman’s mother began to weep and released her hold on the holy man.

            The holy man was silent for a moment. “I am without a wife,” he said.

            “What? You would marry me?”

            “I would,” said the holy man, “for as I spoke the djinn’s words, I realized the truth of them—I saw you through his eyes, in all your radiance. And oh, what a thing it would be for me, at my age, to have a child. Though I follow the will of Allah in all things, I have been so lonely. A wife and a son would be the hope and perfection of my old age.”

            With that the woman kissed the holy man. And together they heard the echo of a not unkindly laughter that rang through the night. “All of us,” said the holy man, “djinns and men, perform the will of Allah. How alive with meaning the night is. And tomorrow you, love, will be my bride.”

            The woman smiled. The djinn, who was far away now, far out into the night, had kept his solemn promise to his love. Kamal.

© 2011 Jack Foley


Jack Foley is a widely-published San Francisco poet known for his "spoken-word performances" which involve choruses. His Cover to Cover radio show, can be heard online at Berkley Radio KPFA www.kpfa.org
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