Let us begin at slant-light
with cut felt flickers,
unhooding cubic skulls,
furtive and hungry.
Trace our loopy symmetries
beneath the canopy as we feed,
follow our dance with open faces –
long diverged from the birds.
You cannot hear us but you’ll feel
our hunting song across your teeth
defiling the laws of physics
with frequencies beyond this.
Watch our velvet forms take on
three dimensions or four
as we vanish into sky space,
a filigree of apple tree
bursting into fret-work,
scraps of jinking balsa,
flicking the Vs, skimming
odd quick trajectories.
We are fickle as kits,
wombed and jewelled
with kidneys, ovaries,
rows of studded teats.
Born to kill, we are strung
on struts of steel; dissolve
in darkness to anti-matter,
a tapestry of gremlin flight
angling on planes of sound,
almost sightless, blind-to-green.
Turn your ears towards us,
bearing truths in our pitch and fall;
forest-worlds and gardens returned
in sonic negative, transformed.
Hold us in dry hands
when you find us in the woods,
stroke our underbellies
with something approaching tenderness.
(First published in Slant Light, Pavilion Poetry, 2016)
A dark shred of disbelief attaches itself to a white
nightgown, throat clutched like a fist, she is alone
with the bat. Trapped in her room past midnight
and no one to wake for help. Illicit fingers steal her
peace, and he quivers, waiting.
She pities him, his radar found wanting. Little, by little,
she unfreezes, moves to the window, clings to the curtain.
The bat has spread leathery wings like her old hands, full
of instinct, and she sits for hours in the window, high
in the glass tower; an ageing princess, with her one suitor.
Her start, as the light clicks off, brings the bat from his dreams,
he swoops to life
and she screams the meaning of hers out into the night.
Bats by Anjum Wasim Dar
Evening shadows fell all over the lane
soon one could not discern the window pane
this one tree out of three we planted -gave
relief to heated pain, saved all from rain
but that evening it was pitch dark, the car
was parked in the shade, but wait -a sound
strange could be heard, the flurry rapid
flight of birds, small dark swooping round
left to right and right to left, flying in and
falling flat, disappearing from darkly sight
could hardly see them in the dim light-
not at full glare, wanted the birds to fly away scared.
But no, they kept coming and hovering around the car
preventing anyone from opening the door-what next
as fear increased -who had sent these bat-birds here?
small black sharp and shrill, recitation of holy verses
finally made the kill-all flew away as quickly as they
had come, and hoping that all had gone , we took the
back seat, the food basket in between us placed,
dinner to deliver at the hospital gate, trembling still
at the bat attack, cautiously moved on to the road
hardly a furlong had we gone, when sister let out
a loud scream-something shuffling, flapping dark –
Stop the car Oh Stop- Another scream, a loud screech
door crashed open-out flew a dark black bat,
somehow it had clasped the basket, and had
slipped inside -never ever so terrified was I
that night, Halloween or magic – wondered Why?
But then we knew Mother would not be with us
for long, doctors helpless signaled the Swan Song’
with food for Mother we were going, when Bats
flew around – Myths say they warn of Death –
soon soon Mother would be without life
without breath- to Heaven taken, to Heaven
-Anjum Wasim Dar
By the street light
A million thirsty-throated mosquitoes
crowd the street lights.
bats loose themselves
from their topsy-turvey day roosts,
stir the limpid heat.
open their lightning-boom petals
for the gibbous moon.
Call the myriad mouths
of these night witches close.
They are my darling dreams.
Passing the day in shadow,
rising with the moon,
then, when their feasting is done,
slip upside down
into the leather purse of their
wings, like the richest body.
spell-casting, all the while.
I watch the street-light
like a moth, to see them dance.
For many nights now I have stood on the threshold
Watching the sky turn from candle lemon to pink-flecked grey.
Soon you will come
falling from bridges, slipping from roofs.
Escaping the cracks, shoulders pushing through crevices
skin-breathing the valley
the scent of petrichor rolled between your fingers.
You are just a flicker at first
hand-wings like shadow puppets shape shifting
across a newly painted, magnolia bedroom wall.
These days we carry our lives folded like wings.
Carry our friends,
families from room to room. Hug them to us.
Tuck them under our arms.
Place them against our warm cheeks.
Press an ear against the machine.
In solitude, we tap, touch, stroke, click.
Try to navigate distance, obstacles. We hang in rows
amongst bookcases, posters, potted plants, bedside lamps.
Muted and framed in dark caves. We hover over the surface
of our being entombed beneath a surface gloss.
When I opened the door you were there
clinging to the door frame.
The weight of your small body wrapped in the nights’ skin.
fingers still clinging on. How long had you been there?
Had you crawled on elbows and knees to watch
as I stood night after night beyond the corridor of trees,
the light from the kitchen shining out into the dark,
the space between your world and mine.
Unable to hear when the dusk loosened your voice,
the clicking of tongues as you passed by.
-Marion Oxley (runner up in the Trim Poetry Competition 2021 judged by Jean O’Brien )
Bat in the House
How it got in we will never know
but getting it safe outside again
was not easy. Bats don’t fly,
they swoop, with such pure grace.
It first appeared in the kitchen
describing arcs. We opened the skylights,
turned off lights, closed doors
to help it find its way back to air
And thought we’d done it. Next night
it appeared again, perhaps slept
in daylight on the dresser top.
The pipistrelle glided into the hall
and skimmed its way upstairs
in a few wing beats. Hastily closing doors
I followed it to close doors up there,
turn off the lights, open landing window.
I had not gone out. It lay exhausted
on the carpet, until my husband
tenderly picked it up, placed it
outside on the extension roof.
We knew bats could not take off
from the ground, like other winged things.
Next morning it was no longer there.
It must have been hungry, exhausted.
Important not to invest human emotions
in an innocent creature. It didn’t visit us
nor convey any blessings. It was simply
in the wrong place to survive.
Diaemus youngi/the lovers
Licks gleaming strawberry
From another pinkred mouth
Coasting through fur and heavy warmth
Warm beads sit in a papered skull
Lying with a friend, reaching spinds out into the dark
Blinking gloom and the drops in a shared meal
-Laura Jane Round
I stretched you across an asphalt sky
just to watch you yawn.
Oh, my love, you didn’t hear?
I am audience to your failure and success.
The typos turn me on: misstep my way. We’ll pretend
this bat billowing into our windshield isn’t a warning;
drive until the engine nearly explodes.
Zip my dress; wear something easy to slip
out of inside a cab on the way to another
party we weren’t really invited to, but let’s
be honest: everyone prays we’ll show.
-Sarah O’Brien (From her collection Shapeshifter)
On the Wing
Beard of stars, star-beard, Barbastelle,
a little white beard distinguishes you
from Pipistrelle and Daubenton or Serotine.
It sprouts under your face’s dark brown fur.
This face is a gargoyle to fend off evil spirits
taken from the west portal of Chartres. An ageing ET with
a tiny squashed nose, black, round shiny eyes and
enormous white-edged ears, which are needed for echo-location,
your tracking of nocturnal insect life.
This combination of fur and wing disturbs like good surrealism.
Your tessellated wings in out-stretch are so fine,
they must have inspired Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome,
or at least the umbrella. And yes, you are a quadruped:
your front and rear stump-limbs elongate elegantly
into two rapturous wings,
which are huge in proportion to your kind-of-cosy furred body.
The three gently angled divisions of each wing
are surfaced in honeycomb mottling. The only mammal to fly.
This is, after all, a miracle.
The dynamics of the flight-initiating jumps of the common vampire bat
“… the jump sequence can be broken into three distinct phases, preparatory, jump and flight.”
Schutt, Altenbach, Chang, Cullinane, Hermanson, Muradali and Bertram:
The Journal of Experimental Biology 200 (23) 1997
They are a surprising species, still extant,
against all odds. My first observations,
made when I was very young, recalled
them raising themselves onto their hind legs.
Some were taller than most. Our scouts had
reported sightings where the creatures stood
in front of walls of water, pulled their fur out,
then covered themselves with woven grass,
stones, pieces of metal twisted to form
the shapes of whirlwinds. I grant you,
in these things they show an unexpected
intelligence. At times, I am told, they share
a kinship with us, suckling their young,
herding their own into strange caves
which only appear when they sleep.
When they group, they gather splinters
of wood around large flat rocks, and call
to the moon to light their way. They can be
such bewitching, sweet-blooded wraiths, yet
they hardly notice us, even when we quench
our thirst against their warm skins.
(Published in The North magazine, Spring Issue 2014, ed. Jackie Wills & Jonathan Davison)
-Fawzia Muradali Kane
Powder snout, fungus-muzzled,
your snuffled rasps mine the sediments,
wake you blink-eyed, gasping, early out
of your torpid seasonal penitence.
You wake alone. Outside winter holds
her grip, as one by one your smudge-nosed
colony stirs and chatters, the whole dank
chamber hacking like a typhus ship
until the hunger rush and you launch unison
on twigged wings out of your encampment’s
mouth to find a frozen, snow-blind land
where no insects fly and no birds sing.
And so return to your waiting roost
where you huddle and hang, fold
back into the nuzzled cloak of yourself,
slowly starve by increments.
Your dopplered heart stalls and stills. Your tiny
claws lose their grip as you slip light as a leaf
to the reliquary floor. As you, my Fledermaus,
will fall out of memory and fall out of myth;
Some old wives’ fairied tale of you catching
in a young girl’s hair or circling a bride
on her wedding eve, portensions of a doomed
romance or a violent end to a nuptial ring.
While a house frau’s batting broom
rests easy by an unlit hearth,
children sleep undisturbed by dreams
of your little teeth at their delicate throats.
* M. lucifugus (little brown bat) faces extinction across North America as a result of a condition named white nose syndrome — a
fungus inadvertently brought from Europe to North America
Pipistrelles by Amanda Bell
After reading Ted Hughes Defamation of American Bats
How could this poet,
in a book called “Birthday Letters”
claim that all American bats have rabies?
And what, then, did the smart bard mean by American?
Call it a slander in extremis
when the frivolous say that bats
are mere rats, but winged–
can’t they see, isn’t it obvious
that rats, as hares for the less-charmed,
have keen night-sights,
and wear permanent snarls,
while bats, with their bad eyes
and deep hearing
of the tune-fork stalactites
and snouts smelling a thousand shades,
come closer to canines, cousins,
and the companions of seers,
adversaries of all who raid.
And if dogs stay our good friends
then call bats our good friends–winged.
To say that all American bats have rabies,
is blasphemous in extremis.
I come from an island
where the bats don’t have rabies,
not one out of seven species,
they once engorged on offerings,
they swarm in seaside caves with archaic
names like Quadirikiri,
caverns like veiled onlookers
who overlook the coast
as if with longing–
The sea mends rabies.
Its waves cure anything,
anything other than longing.
Links To Other Bat Poems
Bios and Links
grew up in north Devon and lives on the edge of London. Her first pamphlet, Inklings, was a Poetry book society pamphlet choice and Slant Light (Pavilion Poetry, 2016), was highly commended in the Forward Prize. Her second collection, Bloom, also with Pavilion Poetry, was published this spring. Sarah was a news journalist for twenty years and now works as a freelance tutor and writer. Work has appeared on beermats, billboards and buses, baked into sourdough bread and installed in a nature reserve, triggered by footsteps.
Originally a Londoner, Alison Dunhill had a poetry pamphlet published in her early twenties in Paul Brown’s Trans Gravity Advertiser, 1972. She was also published in Martin Stannard’s Joe Soap’s Canoe #15 in 1992. She was tutored at the Arvon Foundation by Michael Laskey and Martin Stannard in the early 1990s, and has given readings at Pentameters, St Catherine’s College, Oxford, St James’s Piccadilly and Torriano Meeting House. Having moved to Norfolk in the new millennium, she has participated in open mikes at Fenspeak in King’s Lynn and Ely, Café Writers in Norwich and at CB1@CB2 in Cambridge. She has participated in almost ten years of stimulating workshops with Sue Burge. Sue acted as mentor for my forthcoming SurVision chapbook. She had two pieces longlisted for the Fish Flash Fiction Prize in March this year. Two of her poems are published in the current issue of SurVision magazine (July 2020) and two are published in the December 2020 issue of Fenland Poetry Journal. She won Second Prize in the James Tate International Poetry Prize, 2020 and has a consequent chapbook forthcoming in 2021. She has always worked concurrently in the visual arts and in recent years is incorporating poetry into her art practice. An art historian too, her MPhil thesis forges links between interwar surrealism and 1970s US photography (please see her WikiPedia entry).
is a poet and playwright based in Leeds, UK. 2018 publications include Ellipsis, Reflex Fiction, The A3 Review, Please Hear What I’m Not Saying (MIND Poetry Project) and 50 Best British and Irish Poets from Eyewear Books. She has held theatrical residencies at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds & Harrogate Theatre, which have supported her plays The Rain King and Laridae.
A Pushcart Prize nominee Susannah has had poems placed or commended in the Plough Prize, Westival International Poetry Prize, the Frogmore poetry prize, Coast to Coast to Coast Pamphlet Competition and appeared in various publications worldwide most recently Bloody Amazing, Pale Fire, For the Silent, Dreich, Alchemy Spoon, Finished Creatures, Channel and Strix.
lives amongst the flood plains of the Calder Valley, West Yorkshire. She’s had poems most recently published in The Blue Nib, Artemis, The Fenland Journal, The Poetry Village, Bloody Amazing Anthology(Yaffle/Beautiful Dragons) and Geography is Irrelevant(Stairwell Press). Her debut pamphlet In the Taxidermist’s House will be published in October by 4Word Press.
She’s a Forward Prize nominee for Best Single Poem.
Based in Devon, Hannah Linden has been published widely including in Atrium, Lighthouse, Magma, Proletarian Poetry, Strix, The Interpreters’ House and the 84 Anthology etc. She is working towards her first collection, Wolf Daughter. Twitter: @hannahl1n
is an Irish poet and author. She holds a Masters in Poetry Studies, and is a mentor with the Irish Writers Centre and Words Ireland. In 2020 she was appointed inaugural Writer in Residence for Harold’s Cross, and awarded a Literature Bursary by the Arts Council of Ireland. She is an assistant editor of The Haibun Journal. Previous publications include First the Feathers (Doire Press, 2017), which was shortlisted for the Strong Shine Award; Undercurrents (Alba, 2016),which won an HSA Kanterman Merit Book Award and was shortlisted for a Touchstone Distinguished Books Award; The Lost Library Book (Onslaught, 2017); the loneliness of the sasquatch, from the Irish by Gabriel Rosenstock (Alba, 2018); and Revolution, a chapbook of haiku and photographs (wildflower poetry press, 2021). <clearasabellwritingservices.ie>
is a South Wales-based haikuist who began writing and sharing his poetry in 2020. Steven publishes his work via https://stevenlstokes.wordpress.com and three of his poems were included in the recent Dylan Thomas-inspired anthology ‘How Time has Ticked a Heaven Around the Stars’
pamphlets Lake 32 (published Field Notes on Consolation) and Sentient (published by Yew Tree Press). In 2021 Juliette was awarded an Arts Council grant to work on a collection exploring the role of trade cloth in colonial expansion. She is poet in residence for Stroudwater Textile Trust.