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.
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
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
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
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
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,
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.