Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Reply To Emma Lazarus

[Someday we will inscribe this at the base of whatever remains of the Statue of Liberty.]

I lit a single flame to guide them in the blackness,
And stood open my doors, crying out into the night…
“Bring me your tired…Bring them to me;
Your worn and your spent and your weary;
Give them to me and I will give them rest.”

And they came.
In their thousands and in their millions, they came.
And with them they brought their idle and their indolent,
Their work-shy and their feckless,
Lieabeds and layabouts of every dusky hue and dark race.
To hang, sink stone, about the throat of my people,

Dead weight, limp and languorous, drawing our spirit down.

Thus have you punished me for my charity.

Yet still I oiled that flame and forced it bright, a beacon,
And threw open its lantern,
Calling into the darkness… “Bring me your poor…
Bring them to me;
Your ragged and your hungry and your pitiful;
Give them to me and I will grant them succor.”

And they came, a rolling human tide,
Surging and heaving and eddying, they came.
And with them they brought their mendicant,
Their sponging, their grasping and their greedy,
Scroungers and freeloaders of every creed and dark color.
To cling, parasitic, infesting the skin of this noble and generous land,
Leeching, sucking and gorging, bleeding it of its tender will.

Thus have you punished me for my benevolence.

But higher still I turned that wick and flared the flame,
Casting open its sheltering window,
Loud, out into the gloom I cried…
“Bring me your stateless… Bring them to me;
Your scarred and your oppressed and your dissident;
Give them to me and I will give them freedom of speech.”

And they came.
Limping and broken, legion and hopeless and debased, they came.
And with them they brought their criminal and their fugitive,
Their murderous and their sociopathic,
Gangsters and warmongers of every state and nation.
To prey, insatiable, a cancer consuming the very heart of my people,
Whoring, child mongering and dope dealing, sapping us of our strength.

Thus have you punished me for my humanity.

Still brighter yet I strained that flame,
Fanning it ever higher with my best intentions,
Strident into the murk I pleaded… “Bring me your persecuted…
Bring them to me; your faithful and your defiled and your denied;
Give them to me and I will give them freedom of faith.”

And they came, debased and defamed,
Clinging to their holy books and their broken gods, they came.
And with them they brought their fundamentalists and their zealots,
Their fanatics and their pedants,
Bigots and blasphemers of every faith and fashion.
To terrorise, debase and threaten the very soul of my people,
Bombing, murdering and mutilating;
Sickening them in their fragile faith.

Thus have you punished me for my tolerance.

Tomorrow and tomorrow
That single flame will burn no more in my open window,
And no voice will cry then out into the darkness…
The doors hang loose on their hinges now,
But no one passes through;
For I have nothing left to give.

And they come no more, not the tired or the poor,
The stateless or the persecuted; no one comes.
For when they came like ticks on cattle
They brought their fanatics, their miscreants, their dogmas,
Journeying with them, on scar-crazed backs,
Those very things they had sought to flee.
Brought them to tire, impoverish, oppress and persecute
This gentle and humane host, to bleed it of its charity,
Its benevolence, its humanity and its tolerance...

Thus will we be punished all. For our cowardice…

© Sullivan The Poet 2008


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