when the bayou rose above
the waugh st bridge
in the daylight flood
bats asleep underneath
drowned in the thousands
tiny free-tailed bats
ears cupped for echo
roosted seven layers
deep in the concrete trap
is sentience
the wonder of sonar
or knowledge of pain?
the rain erased the sun
I wept in the dark
cars in the flooded lot
hidden like alligators
one summer at twilight
sometime later
I visit the bats of waugh st
who have syllable
acoustics and
skin glands that rub
this bridge and no other
with the odor of home
I lie on the grassy bank
near the bridge
in a crowd of my species
children’s voices echo
and the trees open
their arms to the wind
is sentience
a hurricane radar
or knowledge it will
happen again?
three hundred thousand bats
drown out traffic
each the weight
of a pencil
writing parabolas in the dusk

Henk Rossouw is from Cape Town, South Africa. His book-length poem Xamissa, published by Fordham University Press in 2018, won the Poetic Justice Institute Editor’s Prize. His poems have been featured in literary journals such as POETRY and The Paris Review. An Associate Professor of Creative Writing, Henk received tenure in 2023 at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he serves as the Co-Director of the UL Lafayette Creative Writing Program. He’s an associate editor for Tupelo Quarterly and a consulting editor for the African Poetry Book Series at the University of Nebraska Press.