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One of two drafts of "Dear Elizabeth" dated January 28, 1964
Yes, I'd would like a pair of
Bicos de Lacre--
But is it ("Beaks
of lacquer" or "sealing wax?"--
the words are the same in Portuguese)--
"About three inches long including the tail--
red bills and narrow bright red masks,and The male
has a sort of drooping mandarin-mustache--
one black stripe,"you say--
Otherwise, you say the
xs are alike...
"Tiny but plump, shading from brown to gray
to pale beige,beige, then white
with a rose red spot
on the belly..
"The feathers "incredibly soft,"
are "incredibly soft
you write "and "alternate
"alternate lights and darks
like nearly invisible wave-marks
on a sand flat when the tide's out"
in a pattern so fine, you tellme, that you
must put on reading glasses to appreciate it properly! Well,
and do they sing? If so, I expect
their note is extreme.
Not something one hears,
but must watch the cat's ears to detect.
You mention that their nest, that's "smaller than a fist,
with a doorway in the side just wide
enough for both to get into, to sleep. "They must
be very, very delicate. I'll bet they're not easy to keep. Still,
Still, on the back porch, on Perry
Street here--depend upon it I will
build them a little Brazil.
I'll save every shred
and splinter of New York sunshine, and work
all winter to weave
a bed--a double, exactly that size,
beneath a roof like an ark, making sure to leave
the right kind of door--
and set it in among the morning glories
where the gold-headed flies,small as needles' eyes,
their egg is apt to be be barely
as big as a baked bean."
It rarely hatches in captivity, you mean.
But then, you know, it might!
I can see them as I write,
the Bicos de Lacre--on their perch
on my porch.
"From the front they look like a pair of half-ripe
strawberries--white and red."Yes,
except or course, for that stripe.
Yes, I'd like them, dear Elizabeth! If you would be so kind.
Especially as, in your P.S.you confess
you already "have two unwed female wild canaries
for which you're trying to must find husbands
" so as to
have a little song around here."