Bat Furnace

by Gabrielle Frahm-Claffey

Sometimes I talk to myself while I hang up laundry
in the basement. The stone floor’s spotted with water
and I worry we need a plumber. But pipes sweat
in the heat. What we really need is a new dryer.
I button shirts, straighten collars, clench wooden pins,
shake sometimes, curse for some reason that waits
to be remembered like so much in a basement.
The bags of my kids’ clothes wait to go to charity,
the huddle of lamps waiting years to get rewired
at that shop called A Lamp. This morning I wake
from a dream that the furnace is shaking uncontrollably,
a heap of percussive metal that we keep needing to fix.
All we do is forget. My husband shakes his head.
The furnace has never been broken, he mumbles
and goes back to sleep.

Bats make quite a racket when they fly uncontrollably
in their caves. Every night, each flier ignores the sonic signals,
the light inside turned off, the pure ink of thousands
and the chaos whirls, whirls before that slip out
into night’s water—their voices, what they hear,
what they hunt, we’ll never hear. Step into a cave
during the ritual flight and a bat will crash into you,
dark so thick with selves could be it’s you
who’s stunned,

as I am, light spitting off in every direction
at the raw surface of waking,
this white-dark fever I bring to the basement
finding the furnace is fine and standing there barefoot
on the stone floor to have a cry over what needs repair.

Published on December 16, 2020