Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bats in the Attic

I wrote this ghost story-poem about a year or two ago, but I am sharing it now because  it is the spookiest time of the year and therefore, the perfect time to tell ghost stories. Also, I made some illustrations to go along with it!

The Bats in the Attic

Part One: The Bats

Miriam lived
in a sturdy but shabby house-
an ancient tortoise shell
a castle in the shape of a farmhouse.

In the attic
were hundreds of bats
and hanging from roof beams
their wings clenched
against their murmuring chests

“It’s a health hazard.” the neighbor said
her flushed face
sunken with a scowl.
Miriam's only response was to
place her hand on her heart
and close her eyes.

When they flapped their gauzy wings
against the attic walls
Miriam imagined she heard
the merry patter of dancers
tapping across the floor.
Sometimes during her afternoon tea
she set an extra cup or two
almost believing
the dancers would come downstairs
thirsty and glistening with sweat.

Part Two: The Salesman

The traveling salesman
drove across the country
from dusty town to dusty town

In Miriam’s town
he didn't know where he was except
another nowhere in a vast country of nowheres.

Miriam was in her garden
watering the rose bushes
which were only leaves and thorns.

The salesman sauntered up her walkway
in his arms he cradled a stack of books-
J through N of an encyclopedia set.

“Ma’am, I’m here to offer you the world!”
he said, smiling his well oiled grin
and tapping his swollen finger tips
on top of the stack of books.

Inside the house, the traveling salesman
sat with his books in front of him.
“Now ma’m, What is something
you have always wondered about?”

Miriam thought
about all the things
she’d ever wondered about.
“Llamas.” Miriam said,
remembering the blanket
she felt at the country fair
it was knit from yarn
spun from llamas fur
the blanket was so soft against her palm
that she picked it up
and pressed it against her cheek.

She’d never heard of a llama before
so she tried to imagine what the llama looked like
based only on the feeling of the blanket
and the musty smell of the yarn.

Round and stout and covered with long fur
straight peg legs and a circular face
with an expression, calm but sullen
that belonged on a human's worn face.

The llama pictured in the book
looked nothing like she imagined
but she liked the odd creature
with it’s bulged knees
and delicate, round lipped face

she wanted to bring the llama home
she would feed it clover blossoms
and cups of steamy tea
that the llama would lap up
with it’s long purple tongue

At night, the llama could sleep next to her
it’s soft fur radiating with warmth,
the beat of it’s heart
sounding exactly like bat wings.

Part Three: The Attic

In the attic, the bats grew restless
they flew back and forth
between the shadowed corners

The salesman heard the sound
and imagined it was the stir
of someone else in the house
another unseen husband, out of work and
hiding shamefaced upstairs.

But the sounds transformed from a gentle rustle
to a clatter and bang
as the bat wings pounded against the walls

The salesman realized the noise was something else
“The ghosts.”
he thought and swallowed back the rumble in his throat
They followed him everywhere he went
their presence taunting him
with everything he wanted to forget

The ghosts were quiet before-
watching and reaching
their withered fingers toward him
the tips only brushing against his flesh

There were three of them
and in their silence he could hear it all

While driving down country roads
windows rolled down and wind  in his hair,
he’d glance in his rear view mirror
and see the three ghosts
sitting in his backseat
thin and wispy forms
except for their eyes, which were solid,
shaped like empty worlds
and watering from the sting of moving air.

Now they’d arrived at this woman’s house
before he even knew he would
the ghosts were tired of shadows and backseats
and made a commotion only he could hear
finally insisting on the confrontation.

And with a mumbled excuse
the salesman left Miriam
who was still absorbed in learning about the llama.

The salesman followed the sound to the attic
and pressed his ear against the attic door
Inside he heard the flutter and crash
of the angry ghosts

He pushed the door open
the hinges creaked like a rusty violin.
The bats stirred
and blinked their wet eyes.

The bats were unfamiliar with light
and when they saw it streaming
through the open door
their hearts pulsated stronger,
their wings ached to move toward the glow

The salesman’s eyes were closed
his arms out stretched
The bats flew all around him
basking in the strange feel of the new air.

They landed on his shoulders
their wings scratched against his skin
when the salesman opened his eyes
he thought he saw the ghost's faces stretching around him
the shadows between the bats
looked like hollow eyes
the moving bat wings
looked like hungry mouths
he opened his own mouth
and said something
but his voice was swallowed
in the swish of flapping wings.


Autumn Elixe said...

Great poem and pictures for Halloween. It is an unusual kind of spooky story.

Amber said...

Thank you!