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Bird-Girl

Дева-птица

Early one morning
in Broseliana
a happy shepherd
drove his flock to the valley.

They grazed, and he
piped out his happiness
on a reed
pipe.

And suddenly, there in the branches,
he heard a voice, not a bird-call,
and saw a flame-red
bird with a tiny girl’s head.

It sang, then stopped, then sang,
then stopped, like a baby crying in its sleep.
Its lazy black eyes reminded him
of Indian slaves.

He stared
hard:
“A beautiful bird
but such bitter moaning.”

And then, confused,
he hears it say,
“Nowhere on the green earth,
nowhere, is there another

“Like me. But here in Broseliana
a male bird is supposed
to be born, filled
with mysterious longing,

“And think, shepherd:
fate is vicious, refuses us
happiness, for I
must die for him to be born.

“And why should I sing
the sun, or the high new moon ?
Nobody needs my songs,
my lips, my pale white cheeks.

“And him, I’m sorriest
for him, for it’s him I love
best, and without me
how lonesome he’ll be!

“He’ll fly here, there,
he’ll sit in these elms,
he’ll call to his mate,
and his mate will be dead.

“You’re not much, shepherd,
but I don’t care, I understand pain:
come, kiss
my lips, my delicate white neck.

“You’re young, you’ll marry,
you’ll father children,
and then the Bird-Girl
will be remembered, will fly down the centuries…”

He breathes die scent
of her sun-warmed skin,
he hears gold bracelets
ringing on her claws,

And mad,
wild, almost unconscious,
his rough knees
smash down on her red feathers.

She moaned just once, just
once, before
her heart
stopped.

And dead is dead:
her eyes blur,
the shepherd pipes funeral songs
over her body.

Twilight.
Grey mist.
He drives his Hock home,
away from Broseliana.

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