POET: Karen Finnyfrock
PIECE: Newer Colossus
Population, Urbanization, and Environment
Karen Finneyfrock’s reworks the sonnet “The New Coloussus” through a critical gaze of United States immigration as told by the statue of liberty.
“I am the new Colossus, wonder of the modern world,
a woman standing watch at the gate of power.”
The Statue of Liberty serves as a conflicted voice of the United States, struggling to embrace the promise of refuge with the realities of capitalism. This iconic symbol, once optimistic about immigrants contribution to her nation, finds her inscribed words to be untrue. In the face of globalization, she observes the United States to be more unwelcoming to immigrants, despite their conditions and the promise of their acceptance.
My feet have been wilting in this salt-encrusted cement
since the French sent me over on a steamer in pieces.
I am the new Colossus, wonder of the modern world,
a woman standing watch at the gate of power.
The first night I stood here, looking out over the Atlantic
like a marooned sailor. Plaster fell from my lips parting
and I said, “Give me your tired, your poor,” like a woman
would say it, full of trembling mercy, while rats ran
over my sandals and up my stairwell. I was young then
I didn’t know how Europe and Asia, eventually the Middle
East, would keep pushing their wretched through the bay like
a high tide. I am choking on the words I said about
the huddled masses, they huddle on rafts leaving Cuba and we
turn them back. They huddle in sweltering truck backs crossing
the desert and we arrest them. I heard about a container
ship where three Chinese hopefuls died from lack of oxygen,
pretending to be dishrags for our dollar stores. How can we not
have room for them? We still have room for golf courses.
We still put swimming pools in our backyards
and drive around with our back seats empty.
I am America’s first liar, forget about George Washington.
My hypocrisy makes me want to plant my dead face in the
waves. The ocean reeks of fish and tourism, my optimist
heart corrodes in the salt wind.
“Give me your merchandise,” I should say.
“Give me your coffee beans. Give me your bananas and
avocados, give me your rice. We turn our farmland into strip
malls, give me things to sell at our strip malls. Give me your
ethnic cuisine, your cheaply made plastics, give me, by
trembling boatload, your Japanese cars. Give me your oil.
Not so I can light my lamp with it, but to drool it
from the thirsty lips of my lawn mowers. Give me your
jealousy, your yearning to crawl inside my hollow bones
and sleep in my skin made of copper.”
over there is New York. Doesn’t it glow like the cherry
end of a cigarette? Like a nebula from the blackness
of space out here in the harbor? Wait with me. Watch it
pulse like a hungry lion until morning. I should tell you to
enjoy it from here. You will never be allowed to come in.
Follow-up Sociology questions:
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