Old Glory (What would Emma Lazarus say?)



Old Glory
(What would Emma Lazarus say?)

The dawn’s early light
is late, dim and damp,
a wrung-out dishrag gray.
Oh say,
can you see?

Only the faintest wake
disturbs the harbor,
the needy turned away.
With vitriol trumping vision,
what would Emma Lazarus say?
(Speak, winds!)

Lady Liberty is seeing Red,
if that means raw or burned,
White, if that means pale and aquiver
Blue, if that means wretched and lost
in a dark field seeking stars.

What would Emma Lazarus say
to the Republic, for which it stands?

Stripes are not meant to be bars.
Look at the spaces between,
find the wideness in the narrow.
Do not silence the voice of reason.
Do not sentence Socrates twice to death
because he dared question the Republic.

What would Emma Lazarus say,
lamp sputtering,
locked outside the golden door
beside a befuddled mass
of the homeless
and orient-less poor?

Oh say, can you see
one Nation, under God, indivisible?
Oh say, can you see
Lady Liberty, invisible, steeped in fog?

What, Nation, have you repatriated
the Mother of Exiles?
Have you chosen to be
Colossus, after all?

And if you are so brazen,
Nation, so outsized,
how long do you expect to stand,
one leg kicking the other
until you topple?

Open the floodgate and
stow your fears,
relearn the art of the sextant
or suffer the fate of the ship of fools.

Let Liberty be your wide sea,
Justice the wind in your sails.

 Until we are all free,
we are none of us free.
(When will this be?)

Oh, sea, can you say?
Oh beautiful.
Oh spacious skies.
Oh glory. Say it. Oh!

Moira Trachtenberg-Thielking is President ofThe Katonah Poetry SeriesExecutive Committee in Katonah, NY. Her poetry has been published in theKyoto Journal and CHEST,and has most recently won the 2015 Carve magazine Premium Edition Contest in Poetry (Spring 2016 issue). She is currently participating in the Writing the Walls II ekphrastic poetry project at the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, and her poetry has also been performed at theEmotive Fruition theater collaborative in New York City. She holds an MFA from the NYU CreativeWriting program in Fiction.

One thought on “Old Glory (What would Emma Lazarus say?)

  1. The juxtaposition in this poem is stunning. Going back to Lazarus’ original poem, Trachtenberg-Thielking makes a powerful statement in wondering what has happened to the values upon which our country was founded. Heartbreaking — but ultimately reclaiming and reaffirming the promise of Liberty. Thank you for this beautiful and timely poem. Our nation needs to hear this message.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *