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