this is the story of how I killed a bat
Motivational Speaker Escape Room
this is the story of how I killed the bat
“If you find a bat on the ground or floor that is not able to fly, you can ‘launch’ it outdoors with a full-size garden spade.”
The Skunk Whisperer, totalwildlifecontrol.com
or why—I can’t figure out how to alter the telling
this is the story of how Jaime died—I don’t know why
I opened the door to get the mail and found the bat
curled into a furry ball I thought might be
a gift from the local stray, bigger than a mouse
smaller than a breadbox or mailbox.
Jaime was a nurse during the Korean War
and held her old bones like a museum display—
thick, wooly mammoth bones you could hold onto
and be carried, cared for, healed.
I nudged it with my foot, and wings emerged,
I suppose we’d all like to die
doing something we love. I suppose
we all love something. I dream
of prayer beads spilling off the string,
the chain, the tender coil of vein.
I got a shovel from the garage—
was a spade the first tool? A knife?
Cutting into the earth, rearranging
time to bring things back, up,
or put things down. Who invented
the cut flower? Maybe you can see
the place I don’t want to go,
trying to cut around it, or veer off the trail,
hand you a bouquet before the apology.
Jaime stood at the podium and began
her one poem allowed at the open mic.
Halfway through, she stopped, stepped back.
I nudged the bat three times, but it did not fly.
It must be hurt, right? I put it out
of its misery and into mine. Flat side
of the spade against the grey porch.
Then I scooped it, not swooped it,
into a black plastic bag.
What was it doing on my porch
folded in like that? Hurt, I say, hurt.
I sat and waited for her to resume,
but she did not, her brain
exploding before the expectant crowd
of waiting to applaud politely
then rise and take their turn
in the prescribed order.
A musician was also scheduled.
If you pick up a rock, it can turn
into many things. What came first,
the poem or the prayer?
I needed to fill that large black plastic bag
with other discarded items.
I never learned how
to pronounce her last name
though she sat in my class and said
mine. I pound out a rhythm with my fist
and try to sway with the tilt of light.
We were in the woods, far from any-
one besides poets, so she was a goner.
The helicopter took her down to Detroit
to die with a plastic tube in her head.
Consciousness and its many prefixes
and states of—I’d talked about the sub–
and imagined the road there, then many roads.
One dead bat in a black sack
with dead weeds and fall trimmings.
Oh, I said. Lord, how stupid can I be?
As stupid as I want to, I imagine
he’d reply if I let him out
of that sack. How can they do it,
those who zip up body sacks
one by one? One by one, I imagine,
they’d say. Bigger than a bread-box.
When we wrote blues poems,
she took Screaming Mimi
as her blues name. I needed
to say that. We ran out of time.
We did not discuss that poem.
She spoke about the war
in someone else’s young poem,
time’s helicopter hovering.
of us might say missiles.
Oh man, I said. Conscious
of everything rewound,
sped up. I see myself slipping
the spade under the bat
and tossing it toward the sky,
watching the magic flight
like the subconscious mind
Her daughter said her mother died
doing something she loved.
She finished reading that poem
at the funeral, though no one
could remember where she’d
Motivational Speaker Escape Room
Blowing himself up like a puffer fish
he explains how I too could transform my life.
He has the key to unlock the path to the ladder
to the top tier, following me around the room
with his exploding microphone while I search
for clues to get my inner self the hell out of there.
I found the spit shield and ear plugs.
He found the volume control on the self-amplifier.
The doorway’s blocked with bricks of books
and tapes, tattooed with his enormous photo.
I’m larger than life, he says. I’m as large
as I want to be, I say, scrunching down
into a shape approximating a keyhole,
but he quickly stuffs it
with his crackling motivational gum.
Someone’s waiting outside to open
the door to come in and mop up my remains.
This is usually the point at which I’d be awoken
from my nightmare, but this guy is jamming
his pointer finger into my eardrum to make his point.
I open my wallet and hand him all my money—
can I exit through the gift shop? I ask.
This is the gift shop, he says.
JIM (RAY) DANIELS is the author of seventeen books of poems. His latest book of fiction, The Perp Walk, was published by Michigan State University Press this year, along with his coedited anthology, RESPECT: The Poetry of Detroit Music. During his long career, he has warmed up for Lucinda Williams at the Three Rivers Arts Festival, read on Prairie Home Companion, had his poem “Factory Love” displayed on a racecar, and sent poetry to the moon with the Moon Arts Project. Awards include the Tillie Olsen Prize, the Brittingham Prize, the Milton Kessler Poetry Prize, two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and many others.