The Bat

By Ellen Bryant Voigt b. 1943
Reading in bed, full of sentiment
for the mild evening and the children   
asleep in adjacent rooms, hearing them   
cry out now and then the brief reports   
of sufficient imagination, and listening   
at the same time compassionately   
to the scrabble of claws, the fast treble   
in the chimney—
                      then it was out,
not a trapped bird
beating at the seams of the ceiling,
but a bat lifting toward us, falling away.

Dominion over every living thing,
large brain, a choice of weapons—
Shuddering, in the lit hall
we swung repeatedly against
its rising secular face
until it fell; then
shoveled it into the yard for the cat   
who shuttles easily between two worlds.

Ellen Bryant Voigt, “The Bat” from The Forces of Plenty (New York: W.W. Norton, 1983).

Source: The Forces of Plenty (1983)

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Poet Ellen Bryant Voigt b. 1943

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Nature, Animals


Ellen Bryant Voigt has lived in Vermont for many years; she spent her childhood in rural Virginia, where she grew up on her family’s farm. Her poems traverse the worlds of motherhood, the rural South, family, and music. Her 1995 collection Kyrie: Poems is a book-length sonnet sequence exploring the lives of people affected by the influenza epidemic of 1918–1919. Poet Edward Hirsch wrote of her early book, Claiming Kin (1976), . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Animals

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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