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Natural Awakenings Central New Jersey


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, 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.

“Bats” is from The Complete Poems, by Randall Jarrell. Copyright © 1969, renewed 1997 by Mary von S. Jarrell. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

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