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This report is taken from PN Review 223, Volume 41 Number 5, May - June 2015.

Letter from Trinidad Vahni Capildeo
At the mouth of the cave, we asked: ‘How many bats?’ ‘One point five million.’

Evening washed down the silk cotton trees, high as the piers of a bridge. The tiny faces of the bats were the same face over and over, alert and unexcited. Hierarchically, according to inscrutable bat pecking order, they dislodged themselves to spiral out and up, wings translucent violet in the dipping light. I walked so close to the edge of the huge oval opening into the earth that my friends called me back; but the bats were doing the tilting for me. I was delirious on the spot yet safe and steady, holding out one arm around which they flew mini-circles. They used echo-location; I used concentration. Then a bat shat in my eye… This is not about you. The patterned activity of the bats was taking me out of myself, throwing me back at that self. It felt like the phrase people say about football: it was poetry.

One point five million is the figure most often quoted for Trinidad’s population, in conversations with those people who want to know how many people were at the book launch, or how many kilometres lie between the city you don’t care to live in though you must and another city you think you still live in though you most likely never will return again. The numbering of the bats, the innocent pleasure of recurrence, was more than fictive, was not merely an approximation. It made us happy, like an ...

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