My eighth grade year was the Bicentennial year, and to celebrate our class put on a play. Our ever-enthusiastic music teacher Mrs. Enright put together a musical revue of U.S. history. The only part of the play I remember was singing the give-me-your-tired-your-poor portion of Emma Lazarus’ “New Colossus.” I can still sing it today, every note and every word. I thought it was beautiful then and I still do, the way the song builds to that grand last line: “I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” (You can hear it here.)
We’ve come a long way from the golden door. These days I’d be singing, “I lift my lamp beside the silver cage.” Or as a host on Fox News put it, “walls made of chain link fences.”
I spent the afternoon driving around looking for chain link fences to post a bunch of poems, quotes and song lyrics I hadn’t used from the last go-round with a hot-button immigration issue. Surprising how many facilities use chain link fence and in how many different ways. None of the fences I found, obviously, are as horrifying as the ones in the news.
I’ll post my pictures without much comment.
On the fence enclosing a high school football stadium I left the poem mentioned above, Emma Lazarus’ “New Colossus,” which is the poem engraved on the Statue of Liberty.
The line “Send these, the homeless, tempest-toss to me” is lovely to sing when you know the melody.
On the fence of a dog park I left excerpts from “home” by Warsaw Shire
Warsan Shire is a British-Somali poet. You can hear her read the poem in its entirety here.
On the fence of an abandoned loading area for a big retail store I left Seamus Heaney’s “Mint.”
“Like the discarded ones we turned against
Because we’d failed them by our disregard.”
On the fence surrounding the tennis courts of a local park I left words from Pope Francis.
The Pope delivered these words back in 2013 on the isle of Lampedusa which 166 African immigrants had drowned trying to reach.
On the fence surrounding a cemetery I left a portion of James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
Johnson wrote the song in 1900 in celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. (Listen here.)
On the fence of a school for disabled children I left William Stafford’s “Experiments.”
“I whine . . ./ when the wind carries what is out there/ too near the room where my comfort is.”
Finally, I left a selection from the gospel of Matthew on the fence surrounding a country club golf course.
Jesus of Nazareth, the most famous of all asylum seekers.