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One of two drafts of "Dear Elizabeth" dated October 15, 1964

Yes, I would like a pair of Bicos de Lacre—
is it beaks of lacquer or of sealing wax?—
the words being the same in Portuguese—
"about three inches long including the tail,
with red bills and narrow bright red masks—
The male with a sort of drooping mandarin-mustache,
one black stripe, you say, "otherwise the sexes
are just alike: "tiny but plump, shading from brown
and gray on top, to pale beige, white,
and a rose red spot on the belly." Their feathers,
you tell me, are incredibly beautiful—
"alternating lights and darks like nearly invisible
wave-marks on a sand-flat when the tide’s out,
and with a pattern so fine one must put on reading
glasses to appreciate it properly.”

Well, 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 their
You mention their nest that’s "smaller than a fist,
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 would build them a little Brazil.
I’d save every 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—and make shure to leave
a little oval hatchway in the side—and set it in
among 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," you say. It rarely hatches
in captivity, you mean. But we could hope!
Today, again you write: “The Bicos de Lacre
are as adorable as ever—so tiny—so neat
taking baths constantly in this heat—in about a
quarter inch of water! Then returning to their
filthy little nest to lay another egg which
never hatches.” But here it might
And it doesn’t matter that they have no song
I can see them as I write—on their perch
on my porch. at night, as you describe,
“the cage looks empty and I have a moment’s fright,
then see the little straw nest moving softly.”
From the front, except for that fine black line
you confess you "already have two unwed female
wild canaries for which you must find husbands”
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 a little song around there.