The bird in the looking-glass sky
Written by Clare Azzopardi
Illustrated by Lisa Falzon
Translated by Albert Gatt
Merlin Publishers (Maltese Version)
Once upon a time, high up in a looking-glass sky, a big
bird flew by. Delightedly swooping high, the bird tried to spy a spot where to kip after a rather long trip.
“No, no, mamà, that’s not how the story begins.”
“How, then, Klarissa?”
Once upon a time, a small bird flew by. Well, it wasn’t all that small. But it wasn’t all that big either. He’d got lost somewhere high in the sky. And he swooped up and down trying to spy …
“No, no Klarissa, that’s not how the story begins.” “How, then, Melissa?”
Once upon a time a hunter drove by on a scooter with a plum-coloured shooter in hand. In the looking-glass sky was a rose-tinted bird not that small, not that big. It was just flying by.
But the hunter spotted him and raised his shooter on the fly and fired. Like this.
“Mamà! Mamà! That must be a plane.”
“In the garden? You’re kidding.”
“But those wings were ginormous! Like a walrus!”
“Maybe, Klar, it’s a crane.”
“Or a pelican, a kestrel, a heron, a lark.”
“Or maybe, guess what? It’s a dragon!”
With barely a sound or a bound
with mamà at her shoulder (and somewhere, Klarissa)
opened the door to the garden.
They peeped out:
first came Melissa,
then came mama
and behind her, Klarissa.
It wasn’t a plane or a crane.
And it wasn’t a dragon, of course!
It was just a big bird that had crashed in the garden.
His plumage was whitish and rosy and grey.
His beak like a carrot was curvy, a little bit wonky and turvy.
His long legs were spindly, like stilettoes on shoes meant for grown-ups.
Mamà had a fright and she shut the door tight. “What was that?
Who is he? Where’d he come from? Did he…? Klarissa? Where’s she gone?
Was she under the sofa? She wasn’t.
Under the divan, perhaps? No.
Perhaps under the carpet? No. No.
Or inside the big chest? No. No. No.
Klarissa, where have you gone?
Klarissa didn’t know where this big bird was from. She didn’t know his name
or where he was headed. But she sat there beside him because
she could see he was gentle
she could see he was wounded
“My name is Klarissa. My sister’s Melissa. And mamà, she’s Larissa.
When mamà and Melissa turned up
the big bird gave a bit of a stir.
He tried spreading his wings.
But he couldn’t and stayed put right there.
“We’ve got to make him well again.”
“Yes, mamà, but how?”
From her first-aid box, mamà produced cotton wool and bandages.
From the oversized book about oversized birds,
Melissa and Klarissa discovered it was a flamingo
a young one (though big as a rig).
They also found out what he ate and drank.
When he’s bigger he’ll be rosy all over. He might even turn crimson.
“My my, what a bird!”
Every morning and evening the children took insects and shrimps
to Flame the flamingo. Mamà changed his bandage every once in a while.
And gradually Flame became bigger
and his tattered wing bloomed with bright feathers.
Until one day…
One day in a looking-glass sky a big,
beautiful bird flew by.
“No, no mamà, that’s not where we’ve arrived.”
“Where are we, then, Klarissa?”
“We’re right at the end.”
One day, Flame, the big bird,
got to his long spindly legs and unfurled
a huge pair of wings. He was finally ready to fly.
To set off through the looking-glass sky.
To a place far away.
Where no one could wound him again.
Melissa and I gave him a smacking big kiss and we said
to take care. Then we climbed up to the roof.
And we waved till he was no longer there.