I Went Out to Hear

The sound of quiet. The sky 
indigo, steeping 
deeper from the top, like tea.
In the absence
of anything else, my own
breathing became obscene.
I heard the beating
of bats’ wings before 
the air troubled above 
my head, turned to look
and saw them gone.
On the surface of the black
lake, a swan and the moon
stayed perfectly 
still. I knew this was
a perfect moment.
Which would only hurt me
to remember and never
live again. My God. How lucky to have lived
a life I would die for.


Copyright © 2023 by Leila Chatti. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 3, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“While at Annaghmakerrig, an artist’s residency in Ireland, a novelist I had become friends with encouraged me to stop working like ‘an American’ and leave my room sometimes. One night, he came and told me there were bats out by the lake which I should go and see immediately. As dusk was coming down, I was struck by the enormity of the silence, a quiet I have never since heard. The moment was lovely and so easily missed, like most miracles. Beauty everywhere, and it’s so brief, so absolute, it fills me with a tenderness that is, at times, unbearable—this miracle of living for a little while to see it.”
Leila Chatti