NPM: The Clockwork Bird

A fable is told round the nightly campfire

of a nomadic deep-desert clan

Of a magical bird made of wheels, gears, and cogs

And a curious, marvelous man

 

It was years ago now when the man came to stay

after wandering through the white sands

He appeared in a shimmer just like a mirage

Unmistakably from foreign lands

 

He approached their silk tents, executed a bow

and politely inquired of the chief

If he’d heard of a bird made of metal and gems

Or reports of an infamous thief

 

The chief simply refused to speak of the matter

till they each drank three cups of mint tea

The man grinned and nodded, delighted at once

by the tribesman’s hospitality

 

They entered a tent draped with rich printed silks

strewn with pillows of fine filigree

The sweet smell of incense hung thick in the air

As they drank the three cups of their tea

 

The chief cleared his throat and said, “Surely you’ve learned

that I am the one whom you seek.

I’ve known you would come, for my wife is a seer.

And she told me we needed to speak.

 

Yes, I stole the bird from the sultan’s fine palace

thinking only of riches and gain,

but the false bird is cursed and I’ll give it to you,

for it’s brought to me nothing but pain.”

 

The foreign man smiled and sipped his mint tea

and waited a bit to reply.

“I know of the curse. If you’ll give me the bird,

I’ll take it away by and by.”

 

From a chest of acacia carved over with vines,

the chief lifted a bundle wrapped tight.

When he opened the cloth, a bright glint of gold

shimmered in the candlelight.

 

A mechanical bird then perched in his hand

inlaid with fine precious stones.

It stretched out its wings, and whistled a tune

that shook the man down to his bones.

 

From his worn leather pack, the man lifted a cage

of intricate ivory make.

He opened the door, the bird flew inside,

And the chief realized his mistake.

 

The cage was the key to keeping the bird.

Without it, the curse took effect.

The cunning thief-king thought to steal back the bird

and the cage that would keep it in check.

 

His eyes quickly hardened, he reached for his sword;

it was as the strange gentleman feared.

But in the next moment, the man tipped his hat,

took the cage in hand and disappeared.

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