Gary Percesepe ~ Raptors

The Republicans start­ed their con­ven­tion in Cleveland, Ohio today. The TV is on with the sound mut­ed, and I’ve raised the blinds to look out the win­dow at the two hawks in my back yard. I’m lying in bed as I watch the hawks, who have no idea they are being watched and not the Republicans. There is an old book in my lap, ear­ly Hemingway. It is a book I know, but I don’t mind. Since last week I’ve been read­ing it again, slow­ly. I read it until I come across a famil­iar sentence—like wan­der­ing lost in Rome until you pass a famil­iar land­mark, the Pantheon or Colosseum—or one I can admire,

The cab stopped in front of the hotel and we all got out and went in. It was a nice hotel, and the peo­ple at the desk were very cheer­ful, and we each had a good small room.

The hawks have been here for weeks. They have tak­en up res­i­dence in the big cher­ry tree that turns pink each spring here in the low­er Hudson Valley. We first noticed them when all the song­birds in the neigh­bor­hood dis­ap­peared, fol­lowed by the majes­tic red car­di­nal we used to enjoy watch­ing, and final­ly the quar­rel­some blue jays, bul­lies them­selves, who knew they had met their match. There was a fam­i­ly of spar­rows that had tak­en up res­i­dence under the gray met­al flap of our kitchen vent, metic­u­lous­ly build­ing a nest for three suc­ces­sive fam­i­lies of babies. Gone, too. I cleaned out the remains of their nest last week, using a pair of tongs we keep hang­ing on the side of the stain­less steel gas grill.

Hawks are large, though con­sid­er­ably small­er than their rap­tor cousin, the American bald eagle. Our hawks are red-tailed, buteo jamaicen­sis, com­mon­ly called chick­en hawks; they rarely prey on stan­dard sized chick­ens (though I have noticed the black squir­rels have gone into hid­ing as well as the chip­munks). Our lit­tle cock­er spaniel does not seem to be afraid of the hawks, who in any case ignore her. She licks her paws and lies pant­i­ng against the house under the shade of a shrub bare­ly large enough to cov­er her, in the ditch that she dug last summer.

The heads of the hawks are large, with hood­ed, squint­ing eyes, and their talons are sharp as razors. They are aggres­sive, and strong fliers, but their vocal­iza­tion is short and dull and very monot­o­nous, deliv­ered in a high pitched wail, with a down­ward slur:

Kree-eee-ar!  Kree-eee-ar!  Kree-eee-ar! 

It is 4:26 pm. On TV pro­test­ers in the con­ven­tion hall chant in sup­port of a roll call after RNC offi­cials denied same. I lis­ten for a while, then hit mute again.

Kree-eee-ar!  Kree-eee-ar!  Kree-eee-ar! 

Sometimes when I’m read­ing I can feel a calm­ing breeze blow through me. Summer read­ing is a sim­ple pleasure.


Gary Percesepe is an edi­tor at New World Writing.