Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Aegean.

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

–Wallace Stevens Thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird.

I. Gate #98.

Newark Airport.
6pm: The witching hour for jumbo jets taxiing down the runway. Each, sailing to a different destination across the ocean.
In the backdrop, the skyline of New york city climbs into the fog. I was there, just two months prior. And for the first time–out of dozens of trips over the years–the collosal city-scape no longer choked my conscience. The congestion. The pollution of man and machine. The utter claustrophobia.
And for the first time, I could go back if I wanted.
But I’m not.

II. Civitavecchia

Not the Italy you see in coffee table books. A barren landscape of rock outcrops, sparing blooms of grass like toddler’s heads, with every road leading to its massive port. The silvery cement blinds you. For miles it stretches along the coast hosting a fleet of nephilim arks. Instead of a paired assortment of animals, each holds 2,200 humans, ready to be enveloped in pure gluttony.
Our taxi dropped me off at a petrol station. I bought an American coke.
One American dollar for the water it contains.
One American dollar for sugar and food coloring.
Everything in the EU costs double. Even shit.

III. Delos

Was burned to the ground in 88 B.C.. Twenty thousand islanders were murdered. The balance were enslaved by the Romans. The tiny island served as the financial capital of Greece: all money, all art, all play. Here, the stock market was created. Once incinerated, the Roman Empire suffered a forty year depression.
Years ago, our tour guide, one of eight resident archeologists, watched the events of 9/11 unfold.
He feared the second coming of Delos.
As we shuffled in the blistering heat, surrounded by broken monuments scattered on the island of Gods and men, he offered his parting words.

“Remember two things:
One–History repeats itself.
Two–Nature will outlive man.”

IV. A helicopter

Flew in from the mainland during dinner. I could hear its blades pound the air, pound our steel, floating capsule as it landed on deck.
A man, stroked out, was carried away on a stretcher.
I watched the helicopter climb away, numb to suffering, my lips littered with crumbs.
Sometimes having too much fun can kill you.

V. Mykonos

Is what you see, when you see the Aegean.
There is no grid system here as raised cement walkways wind between homes and dead ends.
Myth claims Mykonos’ architecture the most efficient way to capture the plague: centuries of pirate attacks.
I’ve never seen so many beautiful women in such a tiny city.
It was best to go to the wharf and watch the crabs fiddle.

VI. Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes fell in 226 BC. Made of brass, it fell as Gods shook the earth.
Or so they thought.

At a bar, my father and I had a drink.
Across the street was a golden mosque.
We chatted religion.
My father’s father was an agnostic.
I remember him dumpster diving in his plaid pants, perpetually resurrected electronics.
My father told me,
“Dad didn’t believe in God.
He told me to do whatever I wanted,
to learn as much as possible,
and to be free.”

I was brought halfway around the world for this.
Enlightenment from my father comes when I least expect it.

VII. My father

woke up with a giant bruise on his thigh.
For three consecutive nights he took Ambien-C.
“I’m not really sure how it got there,” he explained.
“You don’t remember tripping over the coffee table?” I asked.

“No, I must of had sea legs.”

VIII. Santorini

Erupted between 1600 and 1500 BC. Debris fell as far as Spain. Its volcanic smoke was documented in China.
Below the mountainous island, its crescent shape cups that erect, black nipple.
980 feet up on the cliff face is the whitewashed, Lapis-Lazuli domed, poster child of the Aegean.
600 steps rise from the ocean, zig-zagging, a dozen switchbacks to the top.
You can take the Gondola, or hire a donkey.
I walked.
Beside me, mid way, was a very elderly man climbing with his daughter.
I overheard: “Not bad for a ninety year old, Pops.”

IX. Constantinople

has over 2,000 mosques. On entering one as an infidel, I treaded lightly.
Taking my shoes off, I walked slowly on beautiful Turkish carpets.
My biggest fear was not being called out as a fake in front of my father.
More so the potential exchange of a static electric charge onto the devout.

X. Constantinople Part Two.

I remembered the Hagia Sophia from a high school textbook. A church. A mosque. Now a church-mosque. There was an armed guard out front. In one hand, an AK-47. In the other, an ice-cream cone.
He, like Constantinople, like the Hagia-Sophia, was the perfect communion of East and West.

XI. A Canadian man

Sat with us for lunch at Topkapi Palace. The walls displayed ladles the size of a man. They were used to serve the masses as well as the Sultan’s Harem a stone’s throw through the courtyard.
The Canadian was retired ski patrol. His gift was this affirmation:
“There was a woman I took down the mountain once a month. A paraplegic. I’d situate her in a toboggan and push her down the slope. At the bottom, I’d open the capsule. And there she lay, eyes wide open, blinking out of control. It was her signal to ‘please send me down again.’”

XII. The Athens Acropolis

was littered with tourists. Looking up at its majestic, Corinthian columns, a woman beside me announced: “I’m ruined.”
It was less the massive, ancient architecture that subdued my senses. More so, the mangy dogs that roamed free throughout the high city.
Behind each cordoned rope lay a dog.
A king to his kingdom.
Panting in the heat, nature outlives man.

XIII. In Pireas

the heat was oppressive. I had no desire to take a bus, no desire to walk to experience history. Instead, I sat on the wharf and met Peter, the limo driver.
Peter was one of thirty-two drivers in Pireas.
He told me the price of his driver’s license.
He told me the price of his limo.
We talked about his son in Montana.
“Americans are slaves,” He told me. “You work until you die.”
“You doing well?” I asked.
“I sit outside while people do their business.”
Taking a drag from his cigarette, he looked over his shoulder.
“I’m not complaining.”

Looking on to the Aegean,
Neither was I.

Matt Coplon

Work by day. Ride by evening. Write by night.