Barbara Conrad, After Attending a Commemoration…

Barbara Conrad
AFTER ATTENDING A COMMEMORATION
OF THE 1964 CIVIL RIGHTS ACT, I COME HOME
TO FIND A BAT IN MY BEDROOM

Top of the stairs, feeling for the light switch
in a dark room — this instead — darting

swooping past my hair, my left ear, my right.
Not the chimney swift I would have favored

or a gentle house wren, something easily
gathered in a soft cloth or coaxed out

the back door. This one’s wing span was
too wide, too fluid. A dark shadow

I couldn’t navigate, nor my thoughts —
a shrunken head with teeth, the dreaded

bite, how would I sleep. I backed out
of the room, considered then my toothbrush

and bed sheets fresh from the dryer,
re-entered with an old towel and broom.

I don’t know if fear can justify
such a tiny thing he’d become, no bigger

than a man’s thumb on the floor. Lurking
no more on my door frame, blind

gaze ablaze in his own angst. We were
two strangers backed into corners

one poised for preservation, the other caught
in someone else’s status quo.

So there I was, here he was, limp tatter
of rag, wings tucked into submission

folded small and neat and proper
as if making one last effort to please.

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