Roderick Taylor: Liberty

In this poem from Roderick Taylor, Lady Liberty continues her century-long vigil, protecting the fragile gift of the human freedom that is her namesake from enemies both without and within.

 

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Transcript:

 

LIBERTY

 

jagged metal spikes for rays of light

blast from her brow, her statuary face

beatified by namesake -- Liberty. a chain

for centuries too thick to break

lies broken at her feet.

 

liberty is not the copper-skinned

and proud colossus at the gate

where currents of cold water crawl

toward the shelter of the bay.

her statue tells the world that she

is here, that's all, so brackish liquid fingers

claw at rocks and grasp the soil, trying to

take hold of refuge, find protection, seize

the lifeboat of this land, the American

piece of earth.

 

our sad-eyed angel of the harbor sees

each dawn defeat invading waves of night

and holds a blood-bought Declaration

in the hand that's nearest to her heart.

It's words without bravado are a light

and warning to the enemies of innocence,

a doctrine of defense against

the armies of the ignorant, advancing

always underneath cloud-cover

of a darkness they exude. they come

from all directions, and mostly

from within.

 

the writing and the torch both testify

we own more rights than just to live

and die. only creatures imaged after

nature's god and loved despite

their fatal flaws can make that kind

of claim. her defiant high-held flame

came down from heaven to blot out

with luminescence lies crafted to deform

our human destiny and nullify

the grinding slow but perfect will

of God.

 

A fog rolls in and crawls

across wide water, bringing in

forgetful silence, like the quiet

coming on before a storm.

I've seen her image from the windows

of the holocaust museum. from there

the lady emanates uncommon radiance,

persona of a fearless sentry at her post,

revealed at night by lightening sprites

that walk around on water, searching

for reflections of the sky beneath their feet.

they guard the one who guards the steep

and perilous edge of hope, surrounded by

a sawtooth shadowland of endless night --

no, not the north atlantic, alien, cold

and deep, nor even vacant black of the abyss

but darker depths inside the hearts

of drowning men with nowhere else

to breathe. the wounded she allows

to pass. our enemies

she wastes.

 

ancestral thickets dressed this shoreline once,

unruly and indifferent to first fragile immigrants

who waded waist deep out of ocean, struggling

toward the shore. they made deep bootprints

on the beach of wilderness, of savage howling

continent, unshackled and unknown, as ocean

waters filled their tracks with wet and cold

uncertainty -- at apex of the turning

tide of history.

 

without delay to make provision

for the coming night, without equivocation

or any indecision, their mission first

was dedication of the new world

to the glory of King Christ, Holy One

of Israel.

 

they stood out on the windy beach, no one

around to hear them pray, small muffled

english voices contrapuntal to the rhythm

of incoming surf, a random word returning

from the rocks or trees, faintly echoing

from nowhere in particular, to emphasize

the solitude and how

alone they were.

 

into the sandy shore they plant

a double edged sword, steel scraping

on the pebbles as it pierces earth, a symbol

not of conquest or hostility, for they were weak

in all but faith and courage. it was instead

defiance shown against the many fears

encircling there, and still encircling here.

 

the wind caught and carried to the quiet

of the forest their amens, flowing far

into the colonnade of giant virgin trees,

and swallowed by the silence

of oncoming centuries.

 

the wasp still hunts these mud flats

in the sun, as if nothing ever changed

or ever would -- while ragged branches

wave torn flags of wind-blown plastic

near the water's edge.

 

they point time-twisted limbs and leafless

stems toward the daughter of wide open

water, pillar of an always changing sky,

unwinding cloud-mosaics in a dream

of endless possibility -- unowned,

and uncontrolled

by anyone.

 

the story that unfolds has always just begun,

is just beginning now, a revelation conversation

with a woman veiled in storms, who pierces

with a starlight torch the darkness all around,

and sheds her bright array on those who see

the glory that is ours

in being free. 

Issues

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