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2001-06-24

Emma Lazarus
B. 7.22.1849 New York, NY / D. 11.19.1887 New York, NY
Cancer

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
If I were tall, bronzed, and Texan—one of those long torso’d types whose very presence cries Event! Event!—then I might approach a crowd with higher expectations.
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.
Although I call her Lady, each time I sight her blueness from the window of the train, or when I catch her waves down the intersection vistas of Fifth Avenue (Brooklyn), in my mind I say, Lady. Thank you Lady.
From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
So I was finally on my way to a Dyke March yesterday when I fell into conversation on the F train platform with a 43-year old black woman from Harlem whose life as a lesbian began at the age of 14, picked up speed during her multiple imprisonments for drug dealing, and continued until her breakup with Yolanda (“the forbidden fruit”), after which she married a man who plays the saxophone on the subway for change. He was moving among the cars as we rode into Manhattan, talking. I missed a glimpse of my Lady from the curve past 4th Avenue—bad luck, but I didn’t like to interrupt my companion, who was pointing out the bullet scars above her eye. At West 4th street we embraced, and parted. I’d never hugged anyone who’d been shot in the face before, though I did have sex (once) with a woman who claimed to have been struck by lightning (twice).
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips.
I figured I was on a roll, having already talked to someone and all, so I meandered with the lazy confidence of fortune’s favorite through Washington Square Park to the Dyke March finish line, where I took my place on the sidewalk next to an elderly Jewish woman wearing an expensive orange suit and an air of pronounced disapproval. We watched the parade go past. When it was over I turned to her and remarked that it had been much more sedate than I’d expected. And she said she didn’t understand why these girls have to go around with their tops off, and I said I’d never understood it either, and then she said, “You can be a lesbian and still be a lady!” I agreed, and wondered whether as a fellow lady I should mention to her she had lipstick on her teeth—but I didn't, and so we parted; and I didn’t talk to anyone else before I came back home.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,”
Of course, what I should have said was that it wouldn’t be so bad if any of them had nice tits.
“The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me"
I just can't seem to get my timing down.
“I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
But this must be the place.

Consolation Site: The Current Tenant

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