The bats are back. I hear them in the eaves near the chimney, a few feet and a wall away from my bed. The nocturnal critters hang silently by their legs, heads bent, covered by voluminous wings. At dusk, there’s a lot of commotion as they head out. I watch them drop one by one into the night.
In the early morning, each bat comes in over the roof, makes a dive for the ground and then swoops upward. There’s skadoodles of quarreling and bickering outside my window as they jostle for prime resting spots.
This morning, though, I need to pick a resting spot for a Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus). It’s actually quite little and a different species than the Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugis). My friend Kate, a wildlife biologist, says so. I sent her photos to help with the identification. She is collecting only specimens of little brown bats, she says, better double bag this one and put it in the freezer so it doesn’t stink until trash day.
Well, now I have one less bat to include in my exit count. And one less love song in the eaves. Did you know that when male bats want to attract a mate, they hang upside down and sing a complicated song of buzzes, trills, and chirps? I can’t hear them because the sounds are too high-pitched but by recording them and playing them back at slower speeds, scientists can.
Randall Jarrell was a literary essayist and one of the most astute (and feared) poetry critics of his generation. But he also wrote books for children. Like The Bat-Poet.
It’s the story of a bat who likes to make poems that, well, the other bats just don’t get. The little brown bat couldn’t sleep days so he kept waking up and looking at the world. Before long he began to see things differently from the other bats, who ~ from dawn to sunset ~ never opened their eyes.
The Bat-Poet is the story of how he tried to make the other bats see things his way. In the book are the bat’s own poems about his world: the owl who almost eats him; the mockingbird whose irritable genius almost overpowers him; the chipmunk who loves his poems, and the bats who can’t make heads or tails of them; and the cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, and sparrows who fly in and out of the fable illustrated by the Divine Maurice Sendak.
By Randall Jarrell
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,
Her baby hangs on
All night, in happiness,
She hunts and flies.
Her high sharp cries
Like shining needlepoints of sound
Go out into the night and
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
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,
Their single shadow,
printed on the moon
Or fluttering across the stars,
Whirls on all night.
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.
Fly fangs-first into this website ~ come hang out in an upside-down world. Then repeat after me: Bats are our friends.