Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bats in the Belfry

Last Thursday, I used Roethke's poem "The Bat." This week, I searched on line for a copy of Randall Jarrell's poem "Bats," but never found a complete version. So back to my trusted copy:


A bat is born
Naked and blind and pale.
His mother makes a pocket of her tail
And catches him. He clings to her long fur
By his thumbs and toes and teeth.
And then the mother dances through the night
Doubling and looping, soaring, somersaulting--
Her baby hangs on underneath.
All night, in happiness, she hunts and flies.
Her high sharp cries
Like shining needlepoints of sound
Go out into the night and, echoing back,
Tell her what they have touched.
She hears how far it is, how big it is,
Which way it's going:
She lives by hearing.
The mother eats the moths and gnats she catches
In full flight; in full flight
The mother drinks the water of the pond
She skims across. Her baby hangs on tight.
Her baby drinks the milk she makes him
In moonlight or starlight, in mid-air.
Their single shadow, printed on the moon
Or fluttering across the stars,
Whirls on all night; at daybreak
The tired mother flaps home to her rafter.
The others all are there.
They hang themselves up by their toes,
They wrap themselves in their brown wings.
Bunched upside-down, they sleep in air.
Their sharp ears, their sharp teeth, their quick sharp faces
Are dull and slow and mild.
All the bright day, as the mother sleeps,
She folds her wings about her sleeping child

Perhaps Jarrell's best known poems are "The Death of the Ball-Turret Gunner" and "Eighth Air Force"... the differences between the war poems and this poem are notable. A new discovery in my Jarrell searches: his children's book "The Bat Poet" --illustrated by Maurice Sendak--was among the Best Illustrated Children's Books 1964 (NYT) Year's Best Juveniles 1964 (NYT).


  1. What I think is so cool about this is who would think you could write a lyrical poem about bats of all things? I love watching them fly at night, but I don't think it would ever have occurred to me to write about all those aspects of their lives and families. Interesting!

  2. WONDERFUL! I adore bats, they have such mystery and yet look so appeallingly cute... I made a bat-doll shrine years ago, I think I will try to post it today - as you reminded me of it! Thank you...

  3. This is such a nice poem about bats...Yippee...bats are cool!

  4. I guess you must really like bats; I hate them! But it's a great poem.

  5. DebR: Don't you love the last line, "She folds her wings about her sleeping child."

    Ulla: Eager to see the bat-doll shrine...all of your creations are so lovely.

    Vicci: Thanks...knew you'd like it!

    Paris Parfait: It isn't so much that I have a special affinity for bats, but that my mind categorizes poetry, and Jarrell and Roethke are excellent poets who happened to write these two poems that could be grouped together. Then there is Diane Ackerman's book of essays...


Good to hear from you!