Now stands the brazen giant of tee-vee fame
Whose hate filled breath has poisoned our land
Here at our walled and barricaded borders shall stand
A mighty ego with hair as flame
While the gilt and gilded letters of his name
Trump. From his stumpy-fingered hand
A raised finger of insult; his wild eyes command
All bow to the fear his policies frame.
“Keep, all the world, your immigrants!” shouts he
With bared teeth and lips. “Screw your tired, your poor,
Fuck the huddled masses longing to be free,
Damn the fleeing frightened of your war-torn shore
Their plight means nothing to me.
My beautiful wall shall have no door!”
The original, by Emma Lazarus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
As proven once again this week, the sharp crack of gunfire and the rattling of sabers is no match for the sound of pencils and pens scratching ideas and ideals across parchment. Whether your power comes from word or picture, essay or cartoon, as the symbol of this week’s tributes of solidarity have shown, the pen remains, as it must, mightier than the sword.
Though I will never be asked to test the merit or strength of my character or conviction in the way that the twelve victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre were, I recognize and appreciate the symbolism of the pen.
Though from the 1990s, this poem was first published recently in Tipsy Lit, Issue 3. It seemed fitting to share at this time. This poem was written long before the current incarnation of ISIS entered our news feeds and consciousness, the title and references are to the Egyptian goddess.
To the twelve who lost their lives the other day, through conviction or circumstance, this is my pen raised.
I’ve got a brand
new notebook. I’ve
got a head full of
drippy neon colors and
a knapsack full of
red bic pens. I’ve
clunky sentences in
my pocket tap dancing
got popcorn strings
of ideas grace
songs chorus lining
through my head. I’ve
got sky words
moon rhymes linked
into sparkle jewels
that coil around my
Wonder Woman bracelets
Like Isis. I’ve
got a dash and a
pinch of a notion that
Isis really didn’t give
a toss whether Osiris
lived or died. She
had those bracelets
honey wound round
gold shiny power clamped
round her wrists.
i write this
blind no experience
no background. write without
the benefit of stanza
verse or prozac. i
write to you:
a thousand words of
poetic translation ultimate
frustration. without bending
or melting myself into
color sound or feeling. without
hiding behind pretty metaphors
or white and glossy symbols. this
is not a poem of bread crumbs:
it will not does not can not
lead you anywhere beyond a now;
beyond a you, beyond an i.
it would be easy to
give you a treasure map that
would lead you along red veins
until you reached the gold X
of memory or to describe the hiss
of steam from your fingerprints
splaying across skin. it would be
simple to fill a page with
silk and syrup…..but
this poem is blind deaf dumb to
that: passionless but slow steady
dripping with want of understanding. it
lacks the juice of early morning kisses
the sunburn of midnight penetration but
it has a carefully folded piece of
myself in it opened
for a you to read. consider
this a love poem.
consider this an invitation to
tea with my soul. consider it
a hundred words dedicated to a raw
you and a naked i. nothing
no one nowhere else
beyond this now.
Poetry was my first foray into creative writing. Lately, I’ve been excavating poems, carefully dusting off the build up of time from their bones to see what I can piece together. Some of them stand alone, skeletons intact. There are others that may prove to be just as sturdy with a little glue here and there. And of course there are many more which deserve nothing more than the respect to die peacefully, chained by the ankle to the time and place in which they were written.
The poem above was published in The Olivetree Review way back in 1996 and remains one of my favorites. It was published as Untitled, but now, this many years later, I prefer Love Poems are a Dime a Dozen.