I was sitting in the padaria, having my usual toast and coffee, in my usual spot next to an open wall, when I heard a strong and clear cry of a bird, “Bem-te-vi, bem-te-vi.” I looked up and, on a roof across the street, sat a colorful bird well known here for its plumage and distinctive cry, which gives it its name as well.
It hopped to a couple of different perches, an awning, a high-line wire, before it disappeared, always crying, always warning. But nobody paid it any mind.
That happened several days ago, and this morning, in my mind, that same bird hopped over and started singing again. Hence the poem.
Above is a picture of the species, which my Portuguese-English dictionary says is a flycatcher, with habitat as far north as the southern U.S. (I’m waiting on a friend to send me the scientific name.)
“Bem-te-vi” is the Brazilian attempt to reproduce the sound of the bird. It can be translated as “I saw you well” or “I saw you, [my] love.” I don’t know which meaning was intended originally. I used both in the poem.
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UPDATE: My friend says it’s the Great Kiskadee and was described by Darwin on the ship, H. M. Beagle:
“The Saurophagus sulphureus is typical of the great American tribe of Tyrant-flycatchers. […] In the evening the Saurophagus takes its stand on a bush, often by the road-side, and continually repeats, without change, a shrill and rather agreeable cry, which somewhat resembles articulate words. The Spaniards say it is like the words, “Bien te veo “(I see you well), and accordingly have given it this name.”