Dead Bat, by Ted Kooser

I’ve shared one other Ted Kooser poem, Mother, here. I thought this was an interesting poem…it actually reminds me of a story…my friend and I were walking in a park when we came across a bat lying flat on its back with both wings outstretched on the ground.  It was a very pale bat, with pink wings and a blonde, round body, and it was lying perfectly still.  Is it dead? we exchanged glances.

Having been recently vaccinated for rabies (it’s a long story), I held up a hand for her to stand back, and I picked up a stick from the ground and leaned over to gently prod the bat’s belly. Imagine my surprise when the bat’s whole body convulsed. It flopped into the air, landed on its back, and was quiet again.  It’s alive! my friend and I exchanged another look.

After only a moment’s pause, the bat flopped again… and then again… and then again. With increasing frequency, each time it landed on its back, heaved its whole body up, and landed again. And then, suddenly, the bat flopped up into the air, flapped its wings once, and rocketed off into the forest, flying drunkenly.

Dead Bat

When I slid out my heavy thrift-store

hide-a-bed to sweep around it, then

shoved it back, it left behind a bat

that must have been shaken out of

one of the springs where I imagine

it hung for years like a burned-out bulb.

It was frail and almost weightless,

as if a boy (the very boy I’d been)

had glued it together out of balsa sticks

and scraps of papery skin, and I held it up

eye-level as you would a paper plane

and flew it about. Its nasty face with its

needle teeth was turned up, ready

to snatch whatever it saw out there

banking and darting and weaving

ahead in the gloomy afterlife, and after

I’d dropped it with a little rustle

into my big black plastic bag of trash,

I went back twice to see if it had moved.

– Ted Kooser


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