PoetryIssue 21 | October 2014

Two poems by Bill Yake

Bat Island

for Marcy Summers

It should have been the dry season, but it had rained all afternoon before clearing. The flying foxes were late; the sky’s fire out, the dusk thickening.

When finally they appeared—determined darknesses streaming northwest against the obscure sky—she shouted and danced in the sand, arms stretched and tilted like wings. A stream of minutes and minutes and minutes above the sea—three thousand she thought. Headed for the mainland.

Last year there’d been ten thousand. Then bush-meat hunters sailed in from Manado. Stayed days. Netted thousands that died in kin clusters, squalling.

Packed, then, as treats for the feasts of Christmas in Christian Sulawesi.

What few bats remained did not remain. They emptied out the island. Left its miniature forest to the insects, its beach to the nautilus shell and small conches; its waters to the villagers fishing off-shore - their outrigger canoes yellow, orange, blue. 

The foxes flew off. Left dusk and dawn empty for months; empty but for the waves and cicadas.

But now we see they’re back! Diminished, yes. But she was dancing in the sand and a village of three thousand pollen-and-nectar-eating bats streamed for the mainland’s fruiting forest.

Taima, Sulawesi, Indonesia

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About the author

Bill has identified butterflies outside the illustrated Paleolithic caves of the Pyrenees, encountered wind witches in the Alvord Desert and wigmen in New Guinea, traded songs in the Peruvian Amazon, and eaten couscous and roasted goat gonads in Tunisia. His poems mainly show up in magazines and anthologies serving the environmental and literary communities—from Wilderness Magazine to Anthropology and Humanism and from Rattle to ISLE. His two collections of poetry, This Old Riddle: Cormorants and Rain (2003) and Unfurl, Kite, and Veer (2010) are published by Radiolarian Press.

Read our current issue:

Poetry

Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok