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preying birds
Roxanne R. Amico
I watch him angle around us, crouching down, viewing our line of women activists dressed in black. We are leafleting people in their cars stopped at the red light.
One of the activists asks him where he's from. As he shoots us again and again, he says, still looking through his camera, "The CIA."
My head spins around when I hear him. I say, "Hey, say 'Hi', and 'Peace!'", as I raise my arm making the peace sign. I really doubt he is CIA. But I am disgusted he'd say that even as a joke.
The light turns red again. I approach more cars, watching him out of the corner of my eye as he continues. Another woman approaches him. I can't hear the exchange, but his body language is evasive: no smiles, no reciprocal hand gestures, no head nods.
I lean against a parking meter. A police car pulls up beside me..."Hmph", I think to myself, "maybe he is with the CIA, and this is it for me!" The female cop in the passengers' seat says to me, "Hi there!" "Hi." I respond. "Is that literature?" "Yes." "Can I have one?" and for a second I pause, stock still, looking at her, looking for her eyes through her sunglasses. "Here." "Heh, heh," she says, "what was THAT look for?" "Heh, heh", I say back, trying to match her tone and the brightness of her smile, "not sure", wishing the cop car would move on.
Later another activist tells me the same cop was here last week and asked what we were doing. "I told her. So today she brought me this article from the internet about a Quaker who supports the war."
Before the photographer drives away, he tells the woman following him that he's taking our pictures because we're "all subversives suspected of terrorism." I write down the license plate number of his black Mercedes, though I'm not sure why.
I think about articles I've read lately about how democratic activism is being defined as terrorism; about new state and federal anti-terrorist laws which define "intention to influence the policy of the government" as terrorism; about the hundreds of people currently detained indefinitely, without charges, without even substantiated suspicions; about the Women in Black group in the San Francisco Bay area under investigation for "suspicions of terrorism;" about two of my friends who've recently been visited by "homeland security;" and about the new climate of fear in which we now live.
I think about all these things under the cover of a pale blue sky, its soft, thin veil of clouds slowing the anxious pounding in my chest.
I see a Peregrine Falcon flying overhead, and wonder if any other women in black see what I am seeing. "Peregrinari", the Latin verb from which its name derives, means to journey to a foreign place, as would a pilgrim or wanderer. A pilgrim is one who embarks on a quest for some end conceived as sacred. I watch this powerful falcon gracefully circle above us. Its wings are pointed and long, enabling this hunter to overtake small prey, swiftly. I imagine for a moment that this endangered bird, under that black hood, is on the same quest we are on, the same sacred search for peace. I notice groups of crows, clothed in black like us, and pigeons, all flying nearby at varying altitudes, seemingly oblivious to the falcon's presence. Maybe they can't see it.
The light turns red again, I return to the work at hand, passing out more anti-war flyers to my fellow citizens.
As I walk home on the unusually warm, sunlit November day, I think of the falcon, and look for it in the sky.
Roxanne R. Amico is an artist and writer. She co-founded Women in Black in Buffalo, New York following 9.11

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