Immortalized in Contrapposto by Nikki Velletri

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Immortalized in Contrapposto

There are very few parts of the summer
that concern us and I wish the wasting
away wasn’t one of them. The way I heaved
in shallow breaths outside the Louvre, smell
of sweaty tourists clinging to my nostrils,
staples tickling my stomach with each
inhale. They say you’d need a hundred
days to see it all. If I had that kind of time,
I’d be a little less Winged Victory—ancient,
faceless—and a little farther away
from France.

And maybe everything would look a little less
like dissolution: the glass and its spiderwebbed
skin cells, the pyramid’s ghostly
hands—divine spires reaching upward
to starve off divine ends. People don’t go
to Paris unless they’re in love
or dying, so we were asking for it
to end this way—begging really,

folded dresses leaving impressions
on our thighs but mine cut straight
through to bone. If there was ever a version
of this life where I live long enough
to become a doctor, I’d be the quack kind
who whispers in comatose ears,
tries to sew fight into the cloth
of a body. Acquiring anything requires
a certain degree of desire. Surviving anything
requires a whole damn ocean of it and hands
that don’t burn when set aflame. I walked
the same hallway four times before

my mother found me, clutching someone
else’s topcoat and dreaming of my bed back
home. This is not the way the world should end
but there are only so many options
to choose from. The worst—my mother’s
hands inside a body cavity, my shiny face and
gaping mouth, opening again and again like
a gutted fish to spill empty recitations:
are you consumed with the way I almost
made it?

No, later that night on the Seine—the sugar-coated
fingers and the pulsing river, the dying bird on
the surface still flapping its wings.
It wasn’t over but it would be, a truth worse
than the bleeding out. The end had always existed,
waiting between the paintings for me to slip
into it. Mona Lisa and I share a wicked smile
before I leave even though we’re
not the same—she figured out
how to live forever.

Nikki Velletri

Nikki Velletri is a high school student from Massachusetts. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She spends her free time mastering vegan recipes and reading any book in her vicinity.