The Indiana Bats

They’re like little brown handkerchiefs waving goodbye
in the sky. Goodbye oaks, dogwoods, ashes and elms.
Goodbye, caves. Goodbye, mines and the coal
that lit up the night. Goodbye, night that the bats fly by.

The bats fly by twilight, or bat-light, and their bat-flight is full
of waltz and veer and feeding in midair. Goodbye,
arcane glide over the woodlot. Goodbye, tiny pink tongue
that drinks on the wing from the pond with the apricot glow.

The apricot glow fills the carriage window of the overnight train
rushing two fields away and then (Goodbye!) it’s too late
to ask who’s inside or what they’re saying. The bats
hear sumac, nettle, and wild grape when a woman hears nothing.

A woman hears that elves wear bat-fur coats, or witches
cook with wool of bat, and goodbye, Dunsinane. Goodbye,
the old wives say, believing that when a bat flies into a woman’s hair,
she hears voices that remain indefinite, and goes insane.

Voices that remain indefinite reverberate through the cloister
of hickories and bounce off the goldenrod and poison ivy. They
compose the stream, the fall-flowering anemones, and the mosquito’s
wing, indexing the distance between the hawthorn and extinction.

Because the tincture of night is darkened by their goodbyes:
“My umbrella was cut in half,” says one. “Goodbye, havens
and hibernacula,” says another. “I never knew a belfry,” says one.
“I spent my whole life shouting hello,” says another.

Say another goodbye to the bat hanging in the shower
before an adult with a badminton racquet flushes it down the toilet.
Say one goodbye to the derelict gabled mansion where signs
warned people never to touch the bats sleeping on the ceiling.

Sleep with me, the bats sing each winter before hibernation.
Sleep with me, sings the baby bat to its mother in the roost
in the bark of the decaying maple tree. Sleep with me, the maple sings,
having said goodbye to making leaves and green twisting keys.

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