Monday, 11 November 2013

To paint a portrait of a bird by Jacques Prévert

To paint a portrait of a bird

First paint a cage
with an open door
then paint
something pretty
something simple
something beautiful
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
without speaking
without moving . . .
Sometimes the bird arrives quickly
but he might also wait long years
before deciding
Do not be discouraged
wait if necessary for years
the speed or slowness of the bird’s arrival
has absolutely no connection
with the success or failure of the picture
When the bird arrives
if he arrives
observe the most solemn silence
wait until the bird enters the cage
and when he enters
gently close the door with the brush
then erase the bars one by one
making sure not to touch the feathers of the bird
Then paint a portrait of the tree
choosing the prettiest of its branches
for the bird
and then paint the green foliage and the freshness of the breeze
the dust of the sun
and the choice of the creatures in the grass in the summer heat
and then wait until the bird decides to sing
If the bird does not sing
it is a bad sign
a sign the picture is bad
but if he sings it’s a good sign
a sign you can sign
Now very gently pluck
one of the bird’s feathers
and write your name in the corner of the picture.

The Chatto Book of Nonsense Poetry, ed. by Hugh Haughton (London: Chatto & Windus, 1988), 409-10.

No comments:

Post a Comment