A Visit to the British Museum

one thing the olive branch must learn

is that people love paintings.

they love to breathe asthmatic breaths and clutch their pasty hands,

staring at paintings of papaya and blue.

people love a museum: a zoo display

where they cage up paintings to watch them in hostage

and scrape the paint from marble statues, create a little

country from an archaeological daydream,

rig them up high, high, higher, lift that side there,

higher north the elgins until they are heavenly white

fantasied past, a mythical justification

they want to stain their church windows

with the face of olympus

and bend to pluck the olive branch

until it grows apples.

a chandelier was hung in the palace of versailles,

a statue erected in columbus’ name.

here a country was born: here

we pray that god lets us be

and thank our ancestors for our paintings.

here the office of an artist, foreclosed on a sunday.

the ex-owner drives a car on rolled up pennies

and gets callouses from counting singles.

here the heiress hangs the ex-owner’s painting in the den and then

spits on the door of the soup kitchen.

a portrait of dr. martin luther king junior,

a mural, a banner

and a cacophony of radio silence

to the riots of the present— higher north the elgin marbles, heavenly white.

the british empire lives on inside a museum,

a tango of gold coins, exotic fruit

and a splotch of dirt on the face of the immigrant

kicked by a professor in world history.

we thank you ancient gods for our paintings

the statues you so graciously, and unknowingly,

let us adjust for inflation,

and we hope your descendants keep within this white line.

we bend to pluck this olive girl

until she grows apples

and know there is no way to be the two things at once: american

and not.

– J. Kontozissi

J. Kontozissi is a poet from Danbury, CT. They have received multiple awards for their work, such as in the CT Student Writers Magazine and in Danbury contests. In their writing, they hope to illustrate the human experience in its rawest form—even when it isn’t beautiful.