The bronze is warm from futile rubbing.
Dented wickless lamp---empty of oil,
no light will come from its spout.
No salvation from this relic.
No jinni will roar forth in a rising smoke.
I hold the lamp over my head,
turning it upside down
and put my eye near the spout
and behold him in the recesses of the lamp
cowering from my godlike gaze.
I prod him out of the shadows with a small stick.
The hierarchy of spirits and mortals is inverted.
I ask him why.
He said that being confined for eons made him snug
and fearful of far horizons.
I ask again.
He was tired of hearing desperate pleas for fourth wishes
to undo the third ones.
Once more why.
Old gods fall from fashion;
let Allah himself now hear the ten million pleas.
I open my mouth but am silenced.
I've had my three whys.
I stand in the deepest depression,
sand dunes piled around me
as if I were in an antlion's lair.
My palms are raw from rubbing.
I place them together prayer-like,
and in that sandpit,
one hand takes its only comfort from the other.