Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Fire Carriers

you grasp for stolen rock
in freefall dreams

when slow heart winter
ends in rushing wind

in warm air wake the ceiling gone
wax dripping from your wings

peculiar prey these insects
so full of foreign blood

you shrug against the unfamiliar
weight, this strange sky dawning

rest in wooden building eaves
roost in secret attic shelters

alight and burn with dawn
a million tiny fires raging
through the empire of the sun


I just finished reading James Jones’s The Thin Red Line (which I do recommend) and found myself reading up on the Pacific battles of World War II. The Wikipedia rabbit hole led me to one particularly horrifying scheme thought up during the war, Bat Bombs:

Bat bombs were an experimental World War II weapon developed by the United States. The bomb consisted of a bomb-shaped casing with numerous compartments, each containing a Mexican Free-tailed Bat with a small timed incendiary bomb attached. Dropped from a bomber at dawn, the casings would deploy a parachute in mid-flight and open to release the bats which would then roost in eaves and attics. The incendiaries would start fires in inaccessible places in the largely wood and paper construction of the Japanese cities that were the weapon’s intended target.

They were never used against the Japanese, but the army did manage to blow up one of their own facilities experimenting with the concept. I found it particularly troubling, this use of wild animals basically to kill civilians, and I kept thinking about the bats. What it must have been like to suddenly be out of hibernation in a strange place, that sense of dislocation coupled with the instinct to hunt and roost. That’s what led to this poem.


  1. oh heck… it is terrible.. i wish we all would use our creativity to create things that help people instead of destroying them… tightly penned…and nice to meet you james

  2. ugh. i have never heard of those bombs…imagining those little bats who had no choice int he mirror…agree with claudia, why cant we have that same creativity for peace…

  3. horrifying – is there nothing humankind will stop at?

    love your poem, sensitive, understanding of the creature’s plight

  4. Wonderfully concise piece on our times, James. Hope all is well with you and yours.


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