The colony of bats are back. I hear them in the eaves near my chimney. During the day, the nocturnal critters hang silently by their legs, heads bent, covered by voluminous wings. But at dusk, there’s a lot of commotion as they head out to nab mosquitoes. (I just learned that the Latin name for the bat is vespertilio, which refers to when it flies – after twilight.) And in the early morning hours, when the bats return, there’s skadoodles of quarreling and bickering outside my window as they jostle for the prime resting spots.
The Royal Air Force No IX Squadron adopted the bat in its badge in 1917 along with the Latin language motto “Per Noctem Volamus” (We Fly Through the Night). In heraldry, when a bat is used in a coat of arms ( to mark an historic event ), it’s called a reremouse. Legend has it that a bat collided with a drum, waking up the Christians and warning them of an attack by the Arabian army in Mallorca. Another version says that, in the heat of battle, an arrow fired at the monarch hit a bat instead, saving the king’s life.
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 this lovely and humorous tale ~ 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 this fable illustrated by 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.
What’s Poetry Month without a Giveaway?
Here’s one that’s sure to please. Fly fangs-first into Margaret Roach‘s blog ~ it’s brazenly good !
WIN ONE OF TWO hardcover copies of Emily Dickinson’s complete poems; giveaway closes Monday night. Happy National Poetry Month!