Sunday, November 6, 2011

to paint the portrait of a bird - jacques prévert

To Paint The Portrait Of A Bird
by Jacques Prevert (tr. John Dixon Hunt)

Paint first a cage
with an open door
paint then
something pretty
something simple
something handsome
something useful
for the bird
then place the canvas against a tree
in a garden
in a wood
or in a forest
hide behind the tree
Sometimes the bird arrives at once
but it may also take many years
before making up its mind
Do not be discouraged
wait if need be many years
a speedy or a delayed arrival
bears no relation
to the success of the portrait
When the bird arrives
if it arrives
observe the most profound silence
wait until the bird enters the cage
and when it has entered
close the door gently with a stroke of the brush
paint out one by one all the bars of the cage
taking care to touch none of the bird's feathers
Paint then the portrait of a tree
choosing the loveliest of its branches
for the bird
paint too the green foliage and the fresh wind
the dust of the sun
and the noise of insects in the grass in the summer heat
and then wait for the bird to sing
If the bird does not sing
it is a bad sign
a sign that the picture is bad
but if it sings it is a good sign
a sign that you can sing
So you pluck gently then
one of the bird's feathers
and you write your name in a corner of the portrait.

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