“Watching the Bat” by Jeff Friedman

Jeff Friedman


It is the last bat hanging
from the rafters that scares me. Why hasn’t
he disappeared like the others
in a spume of smoke and dusk?
Too sick? Too young? Too much of a
loner? I stare at him from my ladder
into the crawl space of the attic,
my flashlight aimed just
below his back. He looks
like a small handful of mud,
tiny bugs breathing inside it.
He looks like a dark mound
in a cemetery or an anthill on asphalt.
He looks like a young boy
in denial about his awful family.
The quivering body holds
the sonar that lets him navigate
the white roads of the moon.
The quivering body holds the
high-pitched song, the quiet
breath that turns blue in
the glass jar of the air.
With my flashlight and my metal
coffee can, I stand on
my ladder into the attic—the pink
feathers of insulation that drift down around me
catching on my sweatshirt and in my hair,
the little bits of fiberglass
floating in my lungs—and wait for him
to make a move, but he is no more
than a mouse who clings to the rafters
a mammal who squeezes his eyes
shut against the light, trying
to get a little sleep.

from Rattle #23, Summer 2005

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