Poets are not saints, nor do they necessarily possess some secret knowledge that the rest of humanity ignores. (If you disagree, I suggest you read a few of the many hundreds of biographies that prove just how human most poets are.)

However, poems do often call us to a kind of attention that is missing in our everyday world. In this week’s poem, the speaker notices an injured bat and witnesses its terrible suffering. It’s something that could easily be dismissed, and almost is, but the poem becomes a meditation on any suffering that we are unable to do anything about. I suggest reading it a few times and letting those last lines reverberate in your ears.

Betsy Sholl taught poetry for many years at the University of Southern Maine, serves on the faculty at Vermont College, is a former Maine State poet laureate and lives in Portland. She is the author of seven books of poems, including “Otherwise Unseeable” (University of Wisconsin Press, 2014), which won the Four Lakes Poetry Prize and a Maine Literary Award.

To a Bat Fallen in the Street

By Betsy Sholl

Crumpled carbon paper, I thought.

Then you moved, humped yourself up

and collapsed, using your wings

like crutches, straining to inch off

the street onto somebody’s lawn,

as if you knew the difference.

I bent close enough to see:

your small cat ears, gargoyle shape.

But couldn’t bring myself to touch,

to help, as if I were what you were

made to scare off. Terrible,

your struggle to cross. I cringed,

wanting a door to shut, wanting to jog off

like easy belief, thinking the stars

are pure light, not firestorms raging.

But there you were, a glimpse of God

nobody wants – broken body, dark night

with shattered doors, and what sonar

beyond my ears still singing?

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2016 Betsy Sholl. It appeared originally in Field, Spring 2016, and appears here by permission of the author. For an archive of all the poems that have appeared in this column, go to pressherald.com/tag/deep-water.

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