Finding: why wind turbines kill bats

Wind Turbines Give Bats the “Bends,” Study Finds

Half of the dead bats that lie like jetsam
around the tall masts of wind turbines
appear unharmed, wingbones unbroken,
their ears’ stiff calipers still cocked.
But an autopsy finds their lungs
flooded with blood, as if punctured
by invisible splinters. It seems
each whirling blade grows
a zone of low pressure at its tip,
& the bats, attracted to the motion,
are caught unprepared — for what
in 50 million years of evolution
could’ve prepared them for barotrauma
bursting the web of vessels in their lungs,
so that they drown in the air?
Their dun or silver bodies crumple
like divers with the bends.
Exquisitely tuned sonar systems go silent.
The propellors spin on, as if in service
to some vast, uncaptained ship,
a new Flying Dutchman, yawing
under the glue-eyed moon.

Written in response to a Read Write Poem prompt, according to which I harvested five words, one each from five different poems, and wove a poem around them. Other responses to the prompt may be found here.

My words came from Lia Purpura’s wonderful and quirky new book King Baby: slat, calipers, splinter, dun, and glue-eyed. All five words were present in the first draft of this poem, in the order in which I pulled them from a bag, but “thin slats of their wingbones” didn’t survive the edit.

Wind power: four movements



Out on a sailboat
secure in her windbreaker
she enjoys being buffeted so much
that her husband grows sullen & points
the boat toward shore



The wind took all my money
& threw it
in the gutter
says the poplar tree
& I’m left swaying like an idiot
with my arms still up



He came home from Afghanistan
& couldn’t find the mountain at first

old Backbone Mountain had shrunk
almost to nothing

pinned down by 400-foot turbines
moaning through the night



Stiltgrass spreads like cancer between the pylons
a green feathery shroud for the clumps of feathers

the beaks & talons
blue as old ice

the delicate finger bones of forest bats
stripped of the brown parchment
on which they flew

What profit hath he
that hath labored for the wind?

& overhead the bone-white blades scything the air


For more on the ecological and social impacts of industrial wind plants, go to and browse the important documents section.