Washington University Libraries Home
Final Versions Home
One of two drafts of "Dear Elizabeth" dated January 28, 1964
Yes, I would like a pair of Bicos
de Lacre. But is it "beaksof lacquer" or "sealing wax?"--
the words are the same in Portuguese.
"About three inches long including the tail.
With red bills and narrow brightred masks." You say t
has a sort of drooping mandarin-mustache--one black stripe."
Otherwise as you say,
Otherwise the sexes are alike:
"Tiny but plump, shading from brown to gray on top to pale
beige, then white, with a rowse
red spot / on the belly..."
Their feathers, you write,
lights and darks in like nearly invisible
wave-marks ripples, like
wet wave-marks on a sand flat whent he tide's out--"
in a The pattern's
so fine, you tell that you
must put on reading glasses toappreciate it properly! Well,
and do they sing?If so, I expect
their note is extreme. Not somethingone hears,
but must watch the cat's earsto detect.
You mention their nexst,
that's"smaller than a fist,
with a doorway in the sidejustwide
enough for both to get into, to sleepThey must
be very verydelicate. I'll bet they're not east to keepStill,
on the back porch on PerryStreet here--depend upon it--I will
build them a little Brazil.I'll save every shred
and splinterof New Yorksunshine, and work
all winterto 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,
are plentiful."Althoughtheir egg is apt to be barely
as big as a baked bean"
It rarelyhatches in captivity, you mean.
But then, you know, it might!
I can see them as I write,
the Bicos de Lacre--on their perchon my porch.
From the front they look like a pair half-ripered
strawberries--white and redexcept for that stripe.
Yes, I'd like them, dearElizabeth! If youwould be so kind.
Especially as, in your P.S.you confess
you already "have twounwedfemale wild canaries
for which you're trying to find
husbands, so as to / have a little song around here."