First paint a cage


How to Construct a Painting of a Bird

by Jacques Prevert


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 yourself behind the tree

Without speaking

Without moving…

Sometimes the bird will arrive soon

But it could also easily take many years

For it to decide


Wait if necessary for years

The rapidity or slowness of the arrival of the bird

Has no connection with the success of the painting

When the bird arrives

If it arrives

Observe the most profound silence

Wait until the bird enters the cage

And when it has entered

Gently close the door with the brush


Erase one by one all of the bars

While being careful not to touch any of the feathers of the bird

Then make a portrait of the tree

Choosing the most beautiful of its branches

For the bird

Paint also the green foliage and the freshness of the wind

The dust of the sun

And the noise of the creatures of the grass in the heat of summer

And then wait for the bird to decide to sing

If the bird does not sing

It’s a bad sign

A sign that the painting is no good

But if it does sing it’s a good sign

A sign that you can sign.

Then you gently pull out

One of the feathers of the bird

And you sign your name in a corner of the painting.


Trans. Eugene Levich


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