Virginia Smith


I don't understand bats, why they loop
over my head at dusk, but some details stay

just as remembered, and how often
          can you say that?

Night after night, stepping into a house
flush with anger, stubble-coarse,
that gives way at last to silence — still angry,

but without words, which makes us less
human with one another, and bearable.

I tried spinning out of one life and the bats
          moved with me,
papering space with odd sightings: a black sock

crumpled in the washer, scooped out before
I feel tiny bones or see the bared teeth:

          another perched, twitching
my pillow at dawn as I stir     startle     freeze.

          Most trap themselves
inside at night: like an infant's hunger
or the croup, the timing is their own,

with nothing to do but stumble out of bed
          and answer to them.

It is possible to develop a competence
at anything, even trapping a small, clicking fright

latched to a curtain, aiming heavy towels
          away from the clean

dishes stacked in the drainer: fold
the fabric quickly underneath, run to the door
and fling the whole bundle out.

          It is difficult
to hold still and discover anything

new in the day. Bats know this:
that's why they are most alive in the dark.

Virginia Smith earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Northwestern University, where her poetry manuscript, One Voice May Survive the Other received the Distinguished Thesis Award. Her work has most recently appeared, or is forthcoming, in Denver Quarterly, The Jet Fuel Review, Lily Review, and Southern Poetry Review.

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