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Captive Raptor

for Anna-Lisa Hillenburg

The kestrel clutched our ranger’s padded fist,
its rust-streaked cheeks jerking quizzically
from girl to girl. We listened drowsily in mist
before the thunder broke, before we leaned
beneath that tiny canopy to keep
at least our shirtfronts dry. ‘Imprinted’ means
she can’t survive outside captivity,
the ranger sighed, then continued streaming
through camp. That night I dreamed inside the storm
both girls cawed to help a beak rip out
its handler’s eyes, swallowing his warm
and tendriled nerves. Like Oedipus without
a trail to stagger bleeding on the loam
they flew into the dark to speak with stones.

Adam Tavel is the author of The Fawn Abyss (Salmon Poetry, 2017) and Plash & Levitation (University of Alaska Press, 2015), winner of the Permafrost Book Prize in Poetry. You can find him online at

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