Bat Boy, Break a Leg

By Julia Kasdorf

The student with two studs in his nose
and a dragon tattoo crawling from his collar,
       who seems always ready to swoon
       from bliss or despair, now flits
At my office door. I will look at his poem
drawn onto a music score and find nothing
       to say about chance or HIV.
       Only later I'll think to tell him
the night before I left home, I slept
sadly in our old house until a wing
       touched my cheek, tenderly as a breeze.
       I woke to black fluttering at my feet,
and a mind fresh from the other side
said don't turn on the light, don't
       Wake the man, don't scream or speak.
       Go back to sleep. The next morning
I remembered that people upstate
whack them with tennis rackets, that
       the Chinese character for good luck
       resembles the character for bat-
both so unsettling and erratic-
but it's bad luck to say good luck
       in China, as on stage where they say
       Break a leg, so delicate bats
must be woven into silk brocade
and glazed onto porcelain plates.
       Next morning, I found a big-eared mouse
       with leather folded over his shoulders
hanging from claws stuck in a screen.
All day, my work made me forget, but
       then I'd remember, passing the window
       where he slept, shaded under the eaves.
He was fine. I was fine. Then at dusk,
he was gone, suddenly. Pale boy dressed in black,
       Maybe the best that can be said for any of us is that
       once we were angelic enough to sleep with strangers.
He touched my cheek. I opened the screen.
He flew in his time. We did no harm.


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