Ghorab il-Bein

—“O stranger of the house” –Muzaffar Al Nawab

The subject turned
to the cluster of birds
perched in the sarow سرو
across the way.
Raucous, unsettling cries
filled the sky.

Ghorab, he called them.
and the word sounded
like destruction
or the arrival of a stranger
in the midst of a storm.

Ravens or crows, we wondered.
But they were not the color of our ravens
and not the color of our crows.
The plumage was black, except for the grey
cape across breast and back—like a tarnished collar
or a stole of ash.

The ghorab is an omen
whose root is estrangement. Cross her once
and count on revenge. She’ll stalk you
and scold you, cut you and bleed you.
She will never forget
your face.

I was sure they were ravens
from the tone of his voice
but I should have known
—when he called them a she—
that they were nothing more
than household crows.

I studied them from afar
the four large birds, hunched
in the boughs of the towering cypress
cowering close to the spine of the tree.
With bent wings, half-unhinged
they began to move upward

branch by branch
—a skittish, unpredictable ascent
until they reached the peak
unfurled completely
and took flight
in a trail of scalding caws.

And then, they were shadows.

July 2015
Reineh Village, Nazareth

This poem originally appeared in
Sukoon Magazine Volume 3, Issue 2 Summer 2015