There is a wonderful book of stories called The Thousand Nights and a Night or The Arabian Nights. You may have heard of it. It is the book from which the stories of "Aladdin and the Genie of the Lamp" and "Sindbad the Sailor" come.
One of the stories is called "The Fisherman and the Genie". It tells of a fisherman who pulled in his net and found a bottle in it. When he opened the bottle, an ifrit -- that's what Arabs call genies -- came out.
Unlike Aladdin's genie, this genie was not a nice one at all. No wishes did he offer to grant. You see, he had been imprisoned in the bottle so long that he had become very angry and full of hate and vowed that he would destroy whomever was unlucky enough to release him from the bottle.
This poem takes that story and uses it to tell about something that you might encounter in our time that is just as evil and deadly as that angry genie.
Most people don't have to be told what "crack" is. Just in case you don't know, it is an illegal drug that is sold on the street in little plastic containers called vials. It is a very powerful drug and people who use it can easily become addicted to it. That means that they must smoke it every day or they will become miserably sick.
Crack, like many other dangerous drugs, takes over addicts' lives, forces them to think about almost nothing else, causes them to spend all their money on it and if they run out of money, they will steal from other people -- often their own families -- to get more. They end up completely alone and isolated.
Being addicted to crack or heroin or any other drug is just like being imprisoned all alone in a sealed bottle in the cold and dark at the bottom of the sea forever.
O, little man, what have you found?
What's that you've picked up from the ground?
Some funny thing that's made you smile?
I see. A little plastic vial.
It seems there's nowhere we can go
Where unseen hands have failed to sow
These seeds of death, these dragon's teeth
That litter all the ground beneath.
You ask me what was in that vial
And why it takes away my smile.
I think the best response I'm able
To give you is this little fable:
It's long ago the tale was told;
A fisherman both brave and bold
Did cast his net upon the sea
And hauled it in eventually.
Well, in that net, a bottle stuck;
But this was bad and not good luck.
In no time flat, he'd opened it
And freed its tenant -- a huge ifrit
(What we'd today a genie call)
Towering forty stories tall
And indisposed to granting wishes
For gold or jewels or even fishes.
He told our man to say his prayers
And bid goodbye to all life's cares
'Cause now he'd meet a frightful end.
That genie, see, was not his friend.
To make the tale both brief and short,
The fisherman, by all report,
Had kept about him all his wits;
Said: "Show me how that bottle fits
A genie who's as huge as you."
As quick as had that genie grew
He shrunk again, jumped in the jar.
O, what a show-off. Thinks he's a star.
Our hero shut and sealed the jar
Then took that thing and hurled it far
As he could heave it from the beach
Till it landed -- splash! -- beyond all reach.
Well, if you're smart, you might outwit
An evil genie or ifrit.
The same, I fear, is not so true
Of what did from this vial spew.
That stuff, my boy, they call it crack.
Once it gets out, it won't go back.
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