above the human circus

This is not a poem about a dead bat.

You know, the one that was on the telegraph wires

just outside our house and I joked to the neighbour about “our new pet”

and today it fell down, flat on its back,

its dragon wings not quite clasped anymore

its little claws not quite clasped anymore

and looking down at it (advised not to touch)

a little piece of me came unclasped too.

Our new pet, who we assumed had been pigging out on our pears,

may never have been alive from when I first saw it

just as we were all hopping in the car and about to drive to orchestra.

I saw it hanging there and said “Wow! Kids! Look! A bat!”

And we all got out of the car again and peered up against the glaring grey

trying to see more than just black, to see a face, to get a picture.

But we had to go and when we got home it was still there

and when it rained, pelted for a while, it was still there

and I joked that the wings were as good as a raincoat

because it didn’t move a muscle. “It’s a good sleeper” I said.

This morning, it was still there and I started wondering,

thinking it a bit odd, checking on it through the window. And then,

when I was dusting and outside everything was skittering with breezes,

I saw it on the ground, flat on its back, looking as dead as 50cm of bat can look

from twenty metres away. We all went out, curious about it,

about its appearance, about any evidence of why it had fallen.

It was dead. That’s about all I can tell you. And my son said

“Maybe it’s not dead. Its eyes are open.” I bent down to look

and they looked like soft toy eyes, all glass and blindness.

“You can die with your eyes open,” I said.

And suddenly I was so sad. The upside down

open-eyed creature with the orange ruff around its neck.

Dying there with its black raincoat and a

human circus below. You can die with your eyes open.

But this is not a poem about a dead bat.

10 thoughts on “above the human circus

  1. As you did earlier, I’ve read this several times. A couple of things crossed my mind – how we seem to go mentally blank and stare at things that are obviously dead (birds, bats, rats, snakes, fish on the beach, etc) as if we’re in disbelief at what we’re witnessing. What part of us pulls to a stop-and-stare, whether it’s a road accident or a dead animal. I do the same; I just have to look until my brain registers what it sees. And secondly, when we’re up in the Highlands, the loft is occupied by (protected by law) Pipistrelle bats. One occasionally finds its way into a bedroom or the kitchen, or on this one occasion in the toilet. We caught it in a towel, took it outside, and hung it off a tree branch to dry out. Then we drove to Ullapool for groceries and lunch. Came home, and the bat was gone. Mr M suggested that an osprey probably took it. I told the boys that it dried off, and flew away back home. I suspected that Mr M was right, but I preferred my version. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are wrong about that. It is a poem.

    Unfortunately bats regularly die on the electricity wires when they short circuit the wires by touching both at the same time. If you see a bat hanging from the line during the day, you know it is most likely dead because they always return to their camp before daybreak.


  3. This piece left me in such a silent, contemplative place for several minutes. It’s perfectly written, and there’s a surreal aspect to it that’s hard to pin down. It also brought back memories of my late mom and her death and how strange it was to see her after it happened, the shock and numbness as my brain sort of misfired and shut down for awhile. You have a singular ability to reach deep places with your writing. This is sad and strangely moving and deeply thoughtful.

    Liked by 1 person

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