Two Poems By William Doreski

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.

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