Rita Dove (born 1952)

Poetry on Freedom

Rita Dove:

Lady Freedom Among Us (1993)

Edited by Peter Y. Chou


don't lower your eyes
or stare straight ahead to where
you think you ought to be going

don't mutter oh no
not another one
get a job fly a kite
go bury a bone

with her oldfashioned sandals
with her leaden skirts
with her stained cheeks and whiskers and heaped up trinkets
she has risen among us in blunt reproach

she has fitted her hair under a hand-me-down cap
and spruced it up with feathers and stars
slung over one shoulder she bears
the rainbowed layers of charity and murmurs
all of you even the least of you

don't cross to the other side of the square
don't think another item to fit on a tourist's agenda

consider her drenched gaze her shining brow
she who has brought mercy back into the streets
and will not retire politely to the potter's field

having assumed the thick skin of this town
its gritted exhaust its sunscorch and blear
she rests in her weathered plumage
bigboned resolute

don't think you can ever forget her
don't even try
she's not going to budge

no choice but to grant her space
crown her with sky
for she is one of the many
and she is each of us

Rita Dove (born 1952)
"Lady Freedom Among Us"
This poem was read at the occasion of the return of the statue
Freedom to the dome of the Capitol on 23 October 1993.


Web Links:
Academy of American Poets: Rita Dove
Rita Dove Vita
Rita Dove Biography
Audio: "Lady Freedom Among Us"

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