Reb Anderson has been talking about this poem quite a bit lately. He is comparing the mind to the bird. The cage as zazen (I think).
HOW TO PAINT THE PORTRAIT OF A BIRD
First, paint a cage
with an open door.
Then, in the cage, paint something for the bird,
something useful and beautiful, and simple.
Then take the picture to a garden
or a park
or a forest.
Put the picture under a tree.
Hide behind the tree.
Sometimes the bird comes quickly.
But it can just as well take years before deciding.
If the bird doesn’t come right away,
don’t be discouraged. Wait.
Wait years if necessary.
It doesn’t mean that your picture won’t be good.
When the bird comes, if it comes,
remain absolutely silent.
Wait till the bird enters the cage.
Then gently close the door with your brush.
Then, erase the cage,
one bar at a time,
being very careful of the bird’s feathers.
Now paint the portrait of the tree
with the prettiest branch for the bird.
Paint the green leaves and the summer breeze.
Paint the smell of the sunshine and the flowers,
and the songs of the bees and the butterflies.
Then wait for the bird to sing.
If it doesn’t sing, don’t be sad.
You did your best.
But if the bird sings,
it’s a very good sign.
It’s a sign that you can sign.
So then, very gently, take a feather from the bird
and write your name in a corner of the picture.
(Tomorrow you can paint another one.)
~ Jacques Prévert (1900-1977), French surrealist poet