pecking, crumb–hunting, full of purpose,
blue–gray pigeons occupy the sidewalk.
a chocolate macchiato on a Saturday morning,
I sit in an outdoor café, people–watching —
a young girl in cut–offs with sweet, café–au–lait legs;
a heavy–set woman, pink shirt, purple skirt;
a 50-ish man, shirt agape, hairy belly —
as they saunter, quick–walk, amble, dawdle by.
Out of sight
behind hotels, offices, penthouses with a view,
bone white, high above the city,
the Acropolis gleams in my memory like a laser —
edifice of an elegance so sensual, so pure,
not even verse,
can grasp its grace.
Paean to Athena,
hymn to triumph, to glory, to life itself,
its astonishingly astute engineering —
deceiving the eye, tilted pillars appearing straight —
creates an illusion of perfection
worthy of a goddess, ethereal, eternal,
and of man, corporeal, mortal,
yet capable of such a creation.
Yesterday our guide,
herself Greek, on the edge, day job at risk,
her black eyes sparking like flints, described —
in the bus winding through tight streets,
over lunch, leisurely, upscale,
on gravel beside the Parthenon —
laws, appearing straight, tilted toward cronies;
civic life, engineered into tax evasion and bribery;
self–reliance, rotted into selfishness:
a culture corrupt to its core.
On the ground
the people, these or thousands like them,
just last week, marching in a hymn of fury and fear,
stampeded this square.
If I had been one of them,
my wages slashed, or pension lost, or sacked — apparent promises broken —
I too would have chanted, hoisted loud banners, been tempted
to throw firebombs, smash windows, burn banks.
Eager for someone to blame.
Avid for someone to pay.
sipping a machiatto in the birthplace of democracy —
illusion of fairness? vision of engineering? —
the Acropolis out of sight except in memory,
watching these people scatter the purposeful pigeons —
a young man in a black T-shirt, backpack, shaved head;
an older man, gray hair, limping, wiping his temple;
my young waitress, blond hair dyed orange —
I am hard put to believe that they,
their ancient ancestors,
or indeed we human beings,
could raise such a city on the hill.
But it is there.