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American Life in Poetry: Column 471

American Life in Poetry: Column No. 471

U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

Despite having once been bitten by a rabid bat, and survived, much to the disappointment of my critics, I find bats fascinating, and Peggy Shumaker of Alaska has written a fine poem about them. I am especially fond of her perfect verb, “snick,” for the way they snatch insects out of the air.

Spirit of the Bat

Hair rush, low swoop —

so those of us

stuck here on earth

know — you must be gods.

Or friends of gods,

granted chances

to push off into sky,

granted chances

to hear so well

your own voice bounced

back to you

maps the night.

Each hinge

in your wing’s

an act of creation.

Each insect

you snick out of air

a witness.

You transform

obstacles

into sounds,

then dodge them.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2013 by Peggy Shumaker from her most recent book of poems, Toucan Nest: Poems of Costa Rica, Red Hen Press, 2013. Poem reprinted by permission of Peggy Shumaker and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2014 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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