The Crow Croaked, by Antarah ibn Shaddad

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By Antarah ibn Shaddad, from War Songs, which will be published next month by NYU Press. Antarah was a pre-Islamic poet and warrior of the sixth century. Translated from the Arabic by James E. Montgomery with Richard Sieburth.

The crow,

beak like a pair of shears,


I was afraid

they’d leave

and now they’re gone.

“Don’t let your chicks fly the nest

and leave you

lost and bereft,”

I warned him, but his news

inspired my fear

the long night through.

Often I’ve defended

the women of Amir,

their legs slim

and tender as stalks,

from the onslaught of

armed raiders.

I won’t be able

to outrun Fate

when she comes.

Cowards run.

I stand

my ground.