Poem: The Woman Who Was a Sister to the Vultures

The Woman Who Was a Sister to the Vultures 

A woman of the early race 
took vultures for her sisters. 
They lived with her and ate with her,
they did not eat a little. 

The woman's husband brought a gnu 
which he had killed while hunting. 
The vultures, flapping, swallowed it; 
they ate up all the gnu's flesh. 

The woman took the skin for food. 
She singed it and she boiled it. 
When it was soft, she went to call 
her man to eat the gnu's skin. 

While she was gone the vultures took 
hold of the skin, they pulled it. 
They tore it and they swallowed it, 
though they had eaten gnu's flesh. 

The woman and her man came back. 
He was the hungry husband. 
He cursed the birds, he threatened them, 
for he was very angry. 

The vultures were afraid of him. 
They fled in all directions. 
They flew to sit on trees and stones 
And watched their sister's husband.

The husband went to hunt again. 
He pierced a gnu, he tracked it. 
When it was dead, he brought it home. The man was tired, he rested. 

The day was hot, he fell asleep. 
The vultures saw him sleeping. 
They did not fear his wife who was 
a woman and their sister. 

Therefore they rose, they flew, they came, 
they swallowed up the gnu's flesh. 
They ate in haste, they went to sit 
beyond the flight of arrows. 

For they knew well, when he woke up, 
the man would wish to pierce them. 
The man, awaking, saw afar 
the vultures and he cursed them. 

'Ye who are sisters of my wife, 
I can no more endure ye. 
Ye are the ones that make us starve, 
destruction be upon ye.' 

The woman also spoke to them: 
'Ye take our food-chabbabbu! 
Ye are no longer sisters who 
may come to fill their bellies.'

Therefore we do not take again
she-vultures for our sisters. 
Indeed, we kill them while we wish 
that we might not go hungry. 

(Bleek, Lloyd; reworked by Arthur Markowitz)

Image Credit: Abhishek Singh on Unsplash.



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