Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja
“Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja” (The birdcatcher I am, yes)
Stets lustig heissa hopsasa! (Always happy, hi-di-ho hey!)
I noticed the bird, flapping its wings wildly as it slid across the glass—the only barrier separating it from the early morning sky—moving right then left in a zigzag pattern. There was no easy escape. As it struggled, I realized that unless it discovered the passage down the red brick-walled stairwell, the bird had no way out. After setting both bags onto the concrete floor, first I tried to direct it toward the stairs with my body. Too focused on the brightening sky, instead it skimmed along like an insect along the pane of a much smaller window.
Ich Vogenfänger bin bekannt (I, the birdcatcher, am well-known)
I moved closer and extended my forefinger, hoping the bird might somehow know to step on and let me usher it to safety. Shushing, as if dealing with an infant, before this moment I had never attempted to catch a bird and had no idea what to do. It knocked into my left hand, and I realized I could quickly gather my right hand over its body and carry it. On my first attempt I was afraid to hold it too tightly, and it flew up and out of my grasp toward the glass before I could even make it down the first flight of stairs. I turned and marched back up, knowing what I had to do.
Bei Alt und Jung im ganzen Land. (To old and young throughout the entire land.)
The second time I caught the bird, it went still inside the hollow of my palms. If it wasn’t for the wild beating of its heart against my skin, I would’ve sworn it had died from fright. There was no struggle and I cooed the entire way down the three two flights of stairs.
Sie schlief an meiner Seite ein; (She would fall asleep by my side;)
Stretching both arms out in front of me, I uncupped my right hand from over my left and whispered, “Go.” When she hesitated, I noticed a mixture of grab yellow-brown interwoven feathers and her black eyes blinking at me. Then after a bow of her rounded head, she flew straight ahead and slightly up, navigating her invisible path to freedom. I noticed how the sound of her wings beating against the air was much different from the noise her tiny body had made knocking against the wall of glass when she was first found.
ich wiegte wie ein Kind sie ein. (I would rock her to sleep like a child.)
And I felt an ache of sadness as she called out: per-chik-o-ree, per-chik-o-ree.
Papageno's aria from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, which premiered in 1791.
About the author:
Although Janet Dale spent ten years of her childhood in Germany, currently she lives in Georgia where she is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Writing and Linguistics at Georgia Southern University (Statesboro). Janet graduated from Georgia College (Milledgeville) with an MFA in Creative Writing and her work has appeared in GERM Magazine, Foundling Review, The Medulla Review and others.