An actual experience, and then a poem: 1 question for Damian Fallon


Damian Fallon's poem "Bats" is live now on site.

And about those bats?

This poem was based on an actual experience. I live in Brooklyn, close to Prospect Park, and one summer day friends and I picnicked there until well after the sun set, and there were honest-to-goodness bats whirling around above us. Once we realized what they were, we were surprised, although we shouldn’t have been. It’s easy to forget that the borough, like all urban areas, was once forests and meadows and streams.

I inadvertently write about animals quite a bit, but I wouldn’t say I have a sentimental attachment to them or to bats in particular or to nature in general. But I do have respect for them. It’s common to romanticize nature and animals, to yearn for a kind of back-to-the-land-ness, but I remind myself that nature is brutal, that it would kill us (surely me) if we weren’t careful, and that animals (probably) don’t care about us one way or another.

While thinking about this question, I could only recall that I often saw bats as a kid at my grandparents’ home, on their property that was surrounded by farmland in then rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Naturally, in those days, bats scared me, a sense that was only heightened by the cemetery that was across the street from their house. When bats flitted about in the darkening sky, it signaled to me that it was time to stop playing outside and go inside to eat dinner, surrendering the night to these creatures.

My grandparents are gone, the house is still in the family, but the man who owned the farm sold it off many years ago. Soon after, housing developments and a law school were built, which now completely surround the property. As I write this, I’m getting a kind of evil pleasure in thinking that bats are frightening suburban children and law students returning to their cars after evening classes, making their presence known, reminding them of what the place used to be.