Bat Boy Takes a Late-Night Drive Down the Pennsylvania Turnpike

Bat Boy, my novel-in-progress, began two years ago, on a bus back to the city from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, with the first five-and-a-half lines here. I’d never heard of Bat Boy at that point, and he didn’t attach himself to these words until months later. The rest of the poem was written in a 24-hour laundromat in Prospect Lefferts Garden.

The project has moved over into prose now, but I’ll probably find a way to use or cannibalize these lines. They’re some of my favorites.

BAT BOY TAKES A LATE-NIGHT DRIVE
DOWN THE PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE

Your body, your traitor. She too turned
on you, leaving you shocked as graveyard
in full sun, as white poplars thrown hands
over heads against sky by the speed
of a running sedan. But was she
ever yours, and if so, what was she,
your joke? No, you’re the joke. Ears spiked
like gothic spires, ichthyology
for skin. Eyes two chasms, too-humid
nights. The stars’ keening bleeds into air
around your gun-metal Accura—
fenders whistling as they peel night’s skin
in two. You’ve seen your lineage writ
in the plump screaming of mosquitos
against your windshield, and seen hers too.
They think you don’t know the difference,
think you’ve seen nothing but gray ceiling
in all the puddles you’ve hung your head
over, waiting for someone to come.
But when in cave-close antechamber
you saw her, you couldn’t believe hair
could be that red. So many seasons
of albino trout, so many dawn
digs through office supply store Dumpsters,
aurora breaking over bald crown
in the moment of discovery:
three packs of undefective pencils.
You’d invested such faith in the hex
of your face, after a while you stopped
looking behind you. But someone did
track you home, plastic recorder bulging
in silk-lined pocket. You don’t recall
what you talked about, only the way
the dimness glinted on her white teeth.

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