“The Sick Bat” by Ted Kooser

Ted Kooser


It was right side up, which was wrong
for a bat, and was hiding its face
in its shadow, its back to the sun.
It clung to a fieldstone sill at the base
of our barn’s south wall, ten feet below
a house for bats I’d built and nailed up
years before. I suppose it was trying
to pull itself up to the others—the sill
was black with their droppings—
but it didn’t move. For four summer days
I watched it, thinking it had to be dead
but not wanting to touch it, and then,
one afternoon, I brushed it with a stalk
of tall grass and it cried out, not turning
to face what had touched it, moving
no more than the tip of one wing.
In that instant I’d entered a world
I knew nothing of—at least nothing yet—
and I drew back at once. From then on
I kept at a distance. Whenever I looked
it was there, both dead and alive,
and I looked there until it was gone.

from Rattle #55, Spring 2017


Ted Kooser: “My sick bat poem has a back story. About ten years ago I was bitten by a bat that I mistakenly tried to brush away from a bonfire. It got me through my glove. I had manipulated it into a coffee can and was instructed to take it to our county sheriff’s office to be forwarded on to a lab for analysis. My wife made the delivery for me and, typical Nebraskan that he was, the sheriff’s deputy asked her if she wanted the coffee can back. The bat turned out to be rabid, and I had to have the shots, but the coffee can story was worth all the trouble.” (website)

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