AngelBat

by Joseph Butler

Last year I turned forty but these days I find
my wisdom bested by a toddling child.
“Hold me upside down by my ankles,” she says, “and swing me from side to side.”
And I say: “Ella, my lovely,
if you had only mined the depths of fickleness in me,
if you only knew how little I deserve your trust, you’d never ask.”
And she says: “Hold me upside down by my ankles,
and swing me from side to side like a pendulum.”
So I do.

Below the pinchmarks of her nappy
her belly is as round and as smooth and as full of laughter as an unbaked bun.
And the hairs of her upturned fringe strike sparks of pure gold from the carpet.
In their afterglow she pleads: “Again.”
And I say: “Ella, my lovely,
if you only knew how rich a seam of unreliability you’ll find in me, you’d never ask.”
“But it’s fun,” she says. “Really … you should try it sometime.”

In my dreams I pray to the Goddess:
“Hold me upside down by my ankles and swing me from side to side
like the pendulum of a Grandfather clock.”
And that’s just what the Goddess does.

Squinting upwards, into the radiance, I can’t help but notice
that my navel’s crammed with grey-green fluff.
And the thought comes that it’s ages since I changed my socks.
“It’s no good,” I say, “I feel like a Bat, I feel like a large, ungainly Vampire Bat.
Maybe we could try it the other way up?”
So we do.

And for a moment, for the briefest of moments,
suspended by my armpits in the grip of the divine,
I know myself utterly and completely an Angel.
Angel; vampire bat. Vampire Bat; angel.
Bat, angel; Angel, bat. Batangel; Angelbat.

In the early morning bustle of coffee-brewing and mislaid socks, I seek her out.
“Ella, my lovely,” I say,
“In my dreams I dreamed I was a cherub
with teeth like hypodermics and a freezer full of Type O blood.
In my dreams I dreamed I was a Vampire
haloed in gold and endowed with all the wisdom of the Seraphim.
In my dreams I dreamed I was an angel. In my dreams I dreamed I was a bat.”

And she looks at me, with infinite compassion, out of her three-year-old eyes
and says: “Such little progress, and so much to learn …”
And she squats, and shits serenely on the living room carpet.