Literature The Folklore Issue

Poem: 1001 nights with my Jida

"she laid out the books end to end/ and showed us all the stories enchanted"

By Sarah Zahaf

Once In An Arabian Night by Iraqi artist Batool Al Tamimi.

It was time to get ready 

Teeth brushed and faces washed, we switched on our bedside lights 

Prepped to be in bed by 8:30

Mama and Baba came in to wish us good night 

Right as they left, Jida walked in 

With a stack of books reaching the skies

“Let’s give these stories a spin”

And excitement lit up in our eyes

We all ran to our bed

Pillows propped upright, us laying beneath our blankets 

She laid out the books end to end 

And showed us all the stories enchanted

“This one! No, this one! No, this one!”

Each choice contradictory

On which seemed most exciting and fun

“How about this one? It seems like a mystery!” 

Ah! A Thousand and One Nights 

Its cover littered with stars, buildings and characters

Blue, black and gold, so dark yet so bright 

My eyes grazed across, ready to listen to the stories together

Jida flipped open the book, starting to read, and into the stories we sail 

“Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp,” “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”

“The Fisherman and the Jinni,” each one a different tale

All 200 stories, one each night, all of which we receive 

I watched her as she took the time

Line by line, one by one, story by story

The magic in her voice, still sublime

Through generations of retelling, such a glory

Jida?” I hear and I open my eyes

My own granddaughter along with her two brothers are calling for me

8:30 on the dot, “Yes habibti, I’m coming” and I rise

I tuck them in their beds, one, two and three

I bring the same stack of books and lay them out on the bed

My granddaughter reaches for one without delay

For the one we have already read, the one at the end

The one I recognize straight away

With A Thousand and One Nights in hand

I watch my grandchildren and see joy 

The same joy I had, I come to understand

Retelling the same story told to me by my Jida, something I enjoy

As I remember her words, I’m smitten

Her words like music to my ears, in what seemed like a lifetime

I look at my own three grandchildren

“Are you ready for story time?”

Sarah Zahaf is a Chinese-Algerian writer and a student studying International Relations and English at the American University of Sharjah. She is passionate about diversity in culture, arts and literature.

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