Two poems by Bill Yake

Baja Noir

We beach our kayaks on the sand-
stone Punta Gata, its articulated
cliffs burnt to the ferrous tint of coals

and crab shells. Sleek vultures perch
on huge, white whale vertebrae:
sperm remains, backbones. Among

boulders, isopods work the shadows,
skitter like loose fingers till the full
moon, flattened as fire, rises

from the sea and this self-same
sea rolls back from freshly unmarked
sands. It’s dusk and crepuscular

coyotes trot the beach; long-legged
green-crabs scramble from their womb-
burrows to sketch plural excursions

beneath the broadcast, moon-struck
sea-birds who have all altered all
the protocols of night to seize

lithe moon-lit minnows whole.
Behold, beached cuttlefish and hefty
squid ink the wave-lap.

Scorpions, with pincers, fluoresce
in the stranded wrack—a hidden,
delicate lethality—

till, at dawn, an inland-dented pickup
creeps to market so full of oranges
its bed thuds, scrapes, shoots sparks

as the west-setting moon, all up
and down this harsh and fecund
coast, settles into empty cactus arms.

Bat Island

for Marcy Summers

It should have been the dry season, but it had rained all afternoon before clearing. The flying foxes were late; the sky’s fire out, the dusk thickening.

When finally they appeared—determined darknesses streaming northwest against the obscure sky—she shouted and danced in the sand, arms stretched and tilted like wings. A stream of minutes and minutes and minutes above the sea—three thousand she thought. Headed for the mainland.

Last year there’d been ten thousand. Then bush-meat hunters sailed in from Manado. Stayed days. Netted thousands that died in kin clusters, squalling.

Packed, then, as treats for the feasts of Christmas in Christian Sulawesi.

What few bats remained did not remain. They emptied out the island. Left its miniature forest to the insects, its beach to the nautilus shell and small conches; its waters to the villagers fishing off-shore – their outrigger canoes yellow, orange, blue.

The foxes flew off. Left dusk and dawn empty for months; empty but for the waves and cicadas.

But now we see they’re back! Diminished, yes. But she was dancing in the sand and a village of three thousand pollen-and-nectar-eating bats streamed for the mainland’s fruiting forest.

Taima, Sulawesi, Indonesia

About the author

Bill has identified butterflies outside the illustrated Paleolithic caves of the Pyrenees, encountered wind witches in the Alvord Desert and wigmen in New Guinea,…

Read the full bio

Issue 21 · October 2014

Table of contents