Common Raptors and their Prey

by Michele Battiste

1. From the Ground

Where the sky, where
the water tower, where
the parapet, the eave, the telephone
wire, where the lights are beautiful
but also warn, I have never felt light

in your company. I have never clung
to a precipice. If I have a tragic
flaw, none would call it
optimism. None would notice

the culvert, the decayed vegetation
along the road, broken glass and gravel.

Some things I’d rather creep past
delicately, body language admitting
I smell it I am sensitive
to the disturbance
I would rather be
a great distance

away. If you are searching for me, don’t look
up. When I am spotted among the weeds,
it is always from above.

2. From the Sky

Landscape is not bounty, but a code
to be deciphered:
_____Juniper bush, sagebrush, rivulet, warren.
_____Sagebrush, culvert, juniper bush, warren.

I have

never felt empathy in your company. I have never
felt much beyond hunger, how it turns
a body weightless, sends forth a talon.

Grace is a product of air currents I did nothing
to earn, that do nothing to hide me. You have
mistaken me for something else and I am not sorry.

3. Identification

Osprey, secretary, vulture,
hawk. Falcon, kestrel,
owl, eagle. Buzzard,
harrier, condor, kite.
We all cast a shadow
when the sun is bright.

4. Commons

Juniper bush,

Culvert, river.
You are not

native and should keep
to yourself. I know
where to burrow.
I know how
to forage. When you are not

here, I am free
to fear the natural



Michele Battiste is the author of Uprising (2014) and Ink for an Odd Cartography (2009), both from Black Lawrence Press. She is also the author of several chapbooks, most recently Left: Letters to Strangers (Grey Book Press, 2014). Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Rumpus, Memorious, and Mid-American Review, among others. A finalist for the National Poetry Series, she has also received grants and awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts, AWP, the Center for the American West, the Jerome Foundation, and the NY State Senate. She lives and works in Colorado.