American Life in Poetry: Column 543


Having been bitten by a rabid bat I was trying to save from a fire, I’d prefer never again to see bats up close. And here, in this poem by D.R. Goodman, who lives in California, I get to watch them from a safe distance.

Exiting the Night

By living late, and sleeping late, we miss
the moment when the bats come home to roost—
when crooked shadows flit in jagged loops
that seem to seek the chimney, seem to miss,

then somehow disappear into the eaves;
and they (the bats) tuck wing to fur to wing
in crevices and roof-beam beveling,
doze through our nearly diametric lives,

invisible as brown on brown—until
today, wakened by dreams, I caught a slight,
compelling corner-glimpse in gray first light,

of sudden motion in the mostly still
new dawn; and drawn, I rose to see the flight:
our dark companions exiting the night.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2014 by D.R. Goodman, “Exiting the Night,” from Greed: A Confession (Able Muse Press, 2014). Poem reprinted by permission of D.R. Goodman and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2019 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.