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As Halloween approaches and as part of our poetry series, we present a charming poem called "Bats" by Randall Jarrell. Bats, typically understood as spooky, nocturnal, cave-dwellers that sleep upside down is presented through a different lens: the relationship between a mother bat and her baby bat.
The poem describes the care of a newborn baby bat by its mother in wonderful and heartwarming detail. Through the personification of bats that reveals a side of bats that is rarely contemplated, the reader's entrenched and long-held view of bats changes.
Our favorite line is the last, but we will not reveal it here. Read on. The poem is beautifully written with detailed imagery, with similarities and parallels that we can relate to and understand. This is one to share with the kids to reveal a non-spooky and beautiful side of bats this Halloween season. For our collective edification, we hereby present "Bats" for your family-reading enjoyment.
"Bats" 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.