Atop the Acropolis Swimming uphill through the heat to the lip of the Acropolis, I touch every cut and broken stone as if comforting the dead of a hundred pointless wars. The square temple of Athena with its eager caryatids greets me with a toothy grin. I should have brought a bottle of cold and potable water, but hadn’t realized the ascent would feel desperate as my attempt to learn to read ancient Greek in a couple of summer months. The city lounging below this height hides in whatever shade it can find. Along Athens’ squared-off avenues, limestone blocks taper in distance fizzy with an Aegean mist. A hundred cafes offer chairs sturdy enough for the tourists who’ve tired of the crumbled wrecks of a culture they can’t pronounce. I turn to face the last few steps with the noon sun pounding me flat. What’s left of the Parthenon, roofless and bluff with scaffolding, combs the humid air with columns of such Doric purity I’d kiss them if the smirking guards allowed. A construction crane in the midst of the wreckage the Turks left in the seventeenth century seems poised to prey on anyone braving that ghostly interior. An avid crowd shrugs me aside in its rush to snap the famous ruin that only the mating of art, geology and faith in a reckless moment explains. Black Dog, White Dog / White Dog, Black Dog A black dog and a white dog, happy mixed-breed littermates. Shampooing at the groomer’s washes off the dye their owner applied merely to amuse us. The black dog becomes white, the white dog becomes black. Their tails still wag in the same direction, their joy unabated. We laugh off this omen, a harmless prank, but the news is bad: storms are shouldering over the mountains to the west, murders spike in Chicago and New York, right-wing senators rant and foam at the mouth, the army is on full alert with unnamed enemies massing along the Canadian border. The dogs don’t notice that one was white and is now black, the other black and now white. Despite being freshly bathed, they want to play in the mud by the river, where last year the corpse of a child washed up. No one claimed her, no one had reported her missing, no one fainted at the sight of her face. We observe the dogs rolling by the river, then splashing into the iron current, their smiles infectious and indiscriminate. We sip our coffee and discuss the latest political dramas. After a while the two dogs approach us for pets and praise and to shake half a river’s worth of fish-stink all over us, completing the morning critique.
William Doreski has published three critical studies and several collections of poetry. His work has appeared in many print and online journals. He has taught at Emerson College, Goddard College, Boston University, and Keene State College. His most recent books are Water Music and Train to Providence. williamdoreski.blogspot.com