For C.


The Athenians enjoyed

The strategic luxury of the acropolis.

Likely not by chance –

But by design they huddled

The heart of ancient leadership about

One tremendous stone.


Crowned with their temple,

The daily penance was

Up a mighty slope which I presume

Tested the fortitude of the pious,

And children’s courage,

Among the other things.


As an economist, I worry myself

Often with spillovers:

The unseen consequence on the other –

The unplanned and,

The eventuality.


This “other thing” that Athens –

In a singular wisdom capable of:

Cleisthenes’ birth,

And provisions for the good of all people

(Which liberal time has hurriedly expanded) –

May well have deliberately summoned

In building their great hearth of stone,

I found in you.


As a short man, I

Grew shamefully cordial with

Widener’s height and age.

By my third year library was a common noun,

And I feared I might scale its columns that

By then to me were foliage

As shrubs, or trees.


Our greatest secret here and

Yes, the weakness too, is that

When nothing is out of reach,

No majesty persists.


Who is God to fear but his own image?


I like to think Athens wished

To look up each day, as I did

On the one where we met,

Where I was struck down by

Your pitfall eyes, reductive to

Men like me at any angle,

But head on and wide open

The oubliette swallows whole.


I am sure Socrates knew too how

The consequential sight

Can wind you edge-bound,

Tumbling heart over head

Listless into the void.

Inevitably all concerns but hers fall away:


Enduring romance of the obliteration of the soul!


My own fall

Caught only by your voice

Calling me into the Egyptian Wing,

And by my own laugh,

So startling

And violent

When you twirled off my hand

It shook the skin from an overpriced man and

I stood shorter, again.


We build our cities about idols like you

To which eyes rise and fall and

On which humble swords are cut –

Trimming us down to size and

Giving us room to live.


– J.L.E.