The Man with the Hearing Aid
A man takes out his hearing aid
and falls asleep, his good ear deep
in the pillow. Thousands of bats
fly out of the other ear.
All night they flutter and dive
through laughter, catching the punch lines,
their ears all blood and velvet.
At dawn they return. The weary squeaks
make the old stone cavern ring
with gibberish. As the man awakens,
the last of the bats fold into sleep.
His ear is thick with fur and silence.
What I love about this poem is the texture – the muffled, fur and velvet thickness of the start and end, contrasted with the freewheeling, ringing clarity of the center. And I’m awed by the directness with which Kooser connects to the imagination, the deftness with which he makes his poem come alive, so that bizarre as this image of an earful of bats is, you understand and even recognize it instantly, feeling immediately the rightness of the metaphor, its authenticity, its precision. Kooser is not really a surrealist, but this is what surrealism at its best feels like.