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On Fruit Bats

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Another poem from the trip to Sri Lanka, a first draft based on a rough that I unexpectedly found this morning in the Aspinal notebook:

Fruit Bats at the Botanical Gardens, Kandy

Juicy black fruits themselves, they hang heavy out and down from trees, no branch spared,
Stock-still, their shapes pregnant, ripe, bulbously
Promising great transitions, harbingers of a future
Rooted, inevitably, in its primæval past.

Suddenly a flicker, a shudder, a flap,

Then one fruit flowers, unfurling dark petals,
Morphs into a pterosaur from antediluvian times,
Followed by others who. stirring one by one
Like alien travellers from transpatial sleep, now kite the sky criss-cross,
Respooling the landscape of river, palm and bamboo
To dusk-smudged origins of dankest green, the little fingers on the wings
Somehow disturbing, like the bones that Hansel puts out from his cage,
Their shred-heart shrieks—as from the tortured young of all life-forms—
Distilling those terrors that carry no name.

It goes some way to capturing the moment, despite the odd weakness. The bats were genuinely scary and earn the vague Lovecraftian feel (I substituted dusk-smudged for eldritch while writing this). The crude three-image rough is fleshed out as well as it could be and effectively wrote itself into a free-verse sonnet. Could be something worth keeping here.

Last night I watched Mrs Lowry and Son in the hope (as usual with this type of film) of inspiration, but found its narrow focus on his rather Oedipal relationship with his mother. Both Redgrave and Spall were brilliant, but this left me somewhat short-changed after Spall’s Turner—and he really does not resemble Lowry. In fact, by the end I was hoping he would (unhistorically) wring her neck.

Better was what I watched after it—The Strange Case of Margaret Rutherford. This was a more tragic tale, but left me feeling upbeat, if only for Rutherford’s philosophy of lifting people’s spirits. The fruit bat poem falls somewhat short in that department.

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