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Kirby Olson


In praise of Columbus

Explore more of Kirby Olson’s work by downloading his new poetry pamphlet

Portrait of Christopher Columbus by Cristofano dell Altissimo

When Columbus sailed to Hispaniola,
cannibals came out in canoes with flowers.
Two great civilizations merged. We gave
them smallpox, and they returned
the favor with syphilis.

A few years before, the Ottomans sacked
Byzantium. Columbus sought gold so that
Isabella and Ferdinand could push the
Muslims from Seville.

Out they went by 1506, when the last minaret fell
silent. Turks were stopped at Vienna in 1683,
having met little resistance except when Vlad
papered the forests with their heads (1462).

The Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria
lit the harbor with sails (1492) as Christ
came to America, and the New World was
born, as depicted by Salvador Dali in
1959. In addition to the Navigator,
low-information hooligans from the Nina
came too to provide the muscle.

Today, low-information hooligans in Portland knock
down statues of Columbus unaware that the astrolabe
which facilitated his visit was developed by Islamic mathematicians.


About the writer:
Kirby Olson has published several poems in Open including a chapbook of eight poems about families. He has also published in First Things, Partisan Review, South Dakota Review, North Dakota Quarterly, and many others. His only full-length book of poetry is titled Christmas at Rockefeller Center (WordTech 2015).

Image: Portrait of Christopher Columbus by Cristofano dell’Altissimo (1500-1605). Oil on canvas. 23.2 x 16.5 inches. Oil on canvas. 1556. Public domain. For use here, Altissimo’s integrated title has been cropped away.

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