On a light side: To paint the portrait of a bird

When I grew up in France Jacques Prevert was my favorite poet. He once said that war would not be such a bad thing if it only killed soldiers. He allowed a generation to break the artificial boundaries of rhyme and rhythm. Here is my translation of one of my favorite poems. You can easily find the original on the web (here is one link).

sign that you can sign
To Paint the Portrait of a Bird
By Jacques Prevert

First paint a cage
with an open door
then paint
something pretty
something simple
something nice
something useful
for the bird
then place the canvas against a tree
in a garden
in the woods
or in a forest
hide behind a tree
keeping quiet
keeping still…
Sometimes the bird arrives quickly
but it may also take many years
before deciding
Do not despair
wait for many years if needed
the pace of the bird’s arrival
bearing no relation
with the success of the composition
When the bird arrives
if it arrives
keep the deepest silence
wait for the bird to enter the cage
and after it enters
gently close the door with the brush
one by one erase the bars
being careful not to touch any of the bird’s feathers
Then paint the tree
picking its finest branch
for the bird
then also paint the green foliage and the fresh breeze
the sun’s dust
and the clamor of insects in the summer’s heat
then wait for the bird to decide to sing
If the bird does not sing
it’s a bad sign
sign that the painting is bad
but if it sings it’s a good sign
sign that you can sign
Then gently pluck
one of the bird’s feathers
and you write your name in a corner of the canvas.

Jacques Prevert

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