A Conversation With Lady Liberty

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You’re awful good looking for 235. You wear your age well

I said and she blushed…a little

I found you along the way, on a journey from another place

Sailed under your face with the whole human race

You’re modest, I can tell. A woman of few words

That’s OK. I don’t mean to make a big deal

I just wanted to thank you, you know, for welcoming me and mine

We fled tyranny and you invited us in

We were tired for our journey, and we found rest on your shores

under a Golden Gate on a golden coast

She turned, a little surprised, methinks, to learn our route

not the traditional passage to Ellis under her green gleam

She tipped her glass and winked. I wanted to salute

but I just smiled and she smiled back

And I thought, what a great lady she is

sitting here with a glass of California Cabernet

I asked her if I could buy her a drink, and she said no;

that I and my kind had done enough

She offered to buy my drink, and I asked for bourbon

ah, Kentucky she said, knowingly

I prefer rye, she said, and I said, of course you do

And Chevy’s and apple pie and mom?

She stared at me and said

Cadillacs, Key Lime and baseball games with dad

but don’t tell anyone, OK? she put her finger to her lips

Her smile was infecting, and I felt warm and happy

as you do in the company of great beauty and intelligence

She dropped an arm down to her lap, and I noticed

a flag with some stars and red and white stripes

I saw some scars, little white lines on flawless skin

Are those new? I asked. And she flashed angry

for a moment and then it passed and she was quiet

I wished I hadn’t asked the question

Many moments passed and she said

There are many signs of aging in a republic

Iraq? Afghanistan? Libya? I asked

She smiled and held up the victory sign

These scars are not external, she said and showed them to me

The were, on closer inspection, like cracks in fine porcelain

age doesn’t set upon you like putting on clothes

it evolves within you, a relentless march of time

I listened, and she told me of  the decay that comes

on the shoreline of manifest destiny 

sipping Chardonnay at the end of the world looking west

at sunsets and green flashes and every unfinished dream

like civil rights and Mississippi and still-segregated cities

and Interstate 5 and modern slaves sold town by town

and stop for burgers and a shake near the levy at dusk

or Big Two-Hearted River and Brown Dog’s America

She rolled her eyes at my insinuation and show off

I’m not as easily defined by literature

Or perhaps Mr. Clemens might not have to wonder

about golfing or cigars in heaven or God

She smiled, and I laughed out loud

she bought me another drink

And somewhere off in the distance beyond the smoked glass

came the sound of fireworks and she winced a little

Are you all right? she didn’t answer me for a while

and I wondered about this place my ancestors envisioned

Will you excuse me? Of course, I said, and I stood

Such a gentleman she said, and smiled. Proud

Do you have to leave now? I asked

A lady like me doesn’t get to 235 without knowing when to retire

I looked at her for some deeper meaning, but she smiled

that disarming smile, and I bowed a little, unsure of formality

She turned one last time and said

Don’t ever forget why you came to these shores

I couldn’t if I tried. But it seemed hollow

and I knew I’d need to ponder that one for a while

Then she was gone, and I was alone in that bar in the paintings

the one titled “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”

What a lady, I thought, sitting there with my regrets

and my gratitude and a host of washed out Hollywood types

In waking up, I realized that she was strong and resilient and beautiful

the kind of thing that doesn’t go away easily or without consequence

And if I ever get the chance, I’m going to buy that lady a drink

and tell her about my kids and the things they want to do

I think she’d like their version of America and the fact

that I won’t ever let them forget why we came to these shores

T.A. Akimoff 

July 4, 2011

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