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One of two drafts of "Dear Elizabeth" dated September 21, 1964
Yes, I would like a pair of Bicos de LacreIs it beaks of lacquer or of sealing wax?The words are the same in Portuguese.
"About three inches long including the tail,with red bills and narrow bright red masks—the malewith a sort of drooping mandarin-mustache,
one black stripe…”
Otherwise the sexes are alike, you say.
"Tiny but plump, shading from brown to gray
on top, to pale beige then white with a rose red spoton the belly…” Their feathers, you tell me,"are incredibly soft, alternating lights and darkslike nearly invisible wave marks
on a sand-flat when the tide’s out.”
And with a pattern so fine
you "must put on reading glasses to appreciate it properly.”
Well, do they sing? If so, I expect / their not is extreme— not something one hears
but must watch the cat's ears to detect.You mention 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 / delicate. Not easy to keep. Still,on the back porch, on Perry
Street here, I could build them a little Brazil.
I’d save ever shred and splinter of New York sunshine, and work through the winter to weave them a bed— a double exactly their size,with a roof of thatch— making sure to leavea little oval hatchway in the side—and set it inamong the morning glories
where the gold-headed flies, small as needles’ eyes, are plentiful. "Although their egg is apt to be barely
as big as a baked bean,"
as you say. It rarely hatches in captivity, you mean.but we could hope! In today's letter you
But who knows? 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. Yes, except for that stripe. Yes, dear Elizabeth, I’d like them! 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 must find husbands in order to have alittle song around there.