Art for Obeidah the Cow.
Detail from a 1977 cover of Palestinian Affairs magazine | Palestine Poster Project Archives

Obeidah the Cow

Detail from a 1977 cover of Palestinian Affairs magazine | Palestine Poster Project Archives
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We had a cow, Obeidah the cow.

She had big wide eyes
but the whole herd had big wide eyes.

She was dappled
but the rest of them were dappled.

She had two large udders
that daily gave two or three buckets of milk
but every other cow in the herd had full udders
my mom milked for the same amount.

Most of the time Obeidah had snot running down her nose
and that was disgusting
and pervasive in the herd we owned,
their nostrils were snot-filled.

And whenever we took her calf away from under her
Obeidah used to shed tears like human tears
and that was the case for the rest of the cows
whenever we took their calves away from them
they cried like humans might.

Obeidah used to suffer longing.
And would low a painful moo.
The whole herd could do this
and rip our heart cords apart, send us
into hiding under blankets
as if taking cover
from a night monster until daybreak.

At daybreak we’d declare our safe presence
by taking a piss out in the open
one after the other
a natural rite of passage
as the sun recited her hymns overhead.

Then into the plains we, kids, would go
unafraid of being lost
where we’d been in a previous life.
We knew even the smallest rocks,
the yellow snakes, their crossing time,

and in our mouths
we held a piece of bread each,
and in each hand a thin stick
off the corpse of the poppy plant
we used to call the bitter orange bush.

We would run brandishing our sticks
with Obeidah and the entire herd ahead of us

and alongside them
our dog, Camel.

 

                                        —Jiftlik

 

Translated by Fady Joudah

 

 

Read more from our series by Palestinian poets.

Ahlam Bsharat is a memoirist, essayist, poet, and author of young adult fiction. Two of her young adult novels have been translated into English, Code Name: Butterfly and Trees for the Absentees from Neem Tree Press. She is from Jiftlik. 

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