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Statues of Liberty

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, …” *



‘I have never told anyone that before.’

One of the greatest privileges of my life is to hear those words echo in my ears. Those words spoken to me by fellow humans, mostly women, who are sharing their deepest tragedies and most sacred stories of pain and betrayal, woundedness or shame is an honor I hold close to my heart. To be confided in for the first time with a secret so deep and so painful is truly a sacred trust.


I’ve said those same words before. To a handful of men and women who welcomed me with sincerity, empathy and care, I have poured out the vile, the unholy and the ungodly acts committed against me. I have born my soul to others who invited me in, much like statues of liberty, holding a torch of freedom as a light that I might unburden myself and find a hospitality for my heart.


Honestly, there is a home among those who share like-stories of domestic violence, intimate partner violence, the after-effects of addiction, child abuse, sexual violence or sexual abuse — a club we would have never asked to join. But there is an understanding. There is a knowing. There is a camaraderie beyond words seen in each other’s eyes, felt in an embrace or met with the quiet pause.


It shouldn’t surprise me, but it still does.


When elderly women choose me as the first holder of their most intimate story, I listen carefully. For in them, often, I see a full life lived without the baggage that focus and attention of their problems could have brought them. Back in the day, you kept things close. You lived on.


These next poems are composites of some sacred stories— the common thread of abuse, the uncommon thread of an orphan’s story— and the prompting to be a statue of liberty to those around us. Young or old, listening to someone’s heart, hearing what they are not saying and allowing their eyes to be the lamp light of their soul— the world needs more of this, not less.


I wrote the poems in tandem, on the same nights and in the same space, so I am sharing them in tandem as well: Statues of Liberty and Survivors, Survive.

An observation I make in one of the poems is that when survivors talk amongst themselves, I’ve noticed that (often) they talk about their abuse like it’s what they had for dinner. Atrocities that would make the next person gasp or weep or shudder is often met with a calm nonchalant rendering of what happened. Lived experiences are just that. Their reality was every bit as common or ‘normal’ to them as what you ate for dinner so chatting about it sometimes exudes and excludes an emotional explanation not equal to its weight,


These poems speak for themselves.


They tell ‘I have never told anyone that before’ stories.

These are stories that lonely souls — afraid of the dark— will tell you, too, if you open your heart, your time and yourself to becoming a Statue of Liberty. A curiosity of spirt can heal.


We all need each other to survive.


We need to become a melting pot of people who care; of people who dare; of people, rare. That someday, we thrive.



Statues of Liberty


My lights are on

My door is open

You knock, I answer

Come in


Everyone is just waiting

To be asked the simple question

And pausing to see if you care

If you dare

If you can handle to see their soul, bare

If it’s safe to share

If you are the one, rare


Who understands what this

feels like

looks like

smells like

sounds like

tastes like


‘Cause it ain’t pretty

My whole soul, my story

All shut up inside my chest

Never waning, never rest

My past wasn’t really the best

I feel like such a mess

I’d rather keep it close to the vest

But you asked, I’ll answer


This is me

I will confess I was an orphan

I will concede I was afraid

I will claim I asked to die at age 7 or 8

I will carry ‘it’ with me longer than I carried anything else so heavy


I’m still scared of the dark

I still remember the bars

It still stays with me

The cottage, the hard

Dad touched me funny

It still haunts me at night

I never told anyone this part


And now, I stay up late

It’s my one great escape

I close the blinds right

Let the fears get too sleepy

So they give up the fight


I’m 75 years old.

Thank you for asking


Thank you

For hanging the sign

From your forehead that says:

Tell me your stories

Tell me your hard

Tell me your worries

Tell me your scars


“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, …” *


May we be statues of liberty

Giving souls a place to unburden their past

Envision a new country

Where their weariness can rest

With a fleeting curiosity

As we listen to their whole selves


May we be beacons of light

Welcoming them to a new place

Of home

Amongst brothers and sisters, fellow travelers,

fellow immigrants, refugees,

orphans, aliens, and strangers in this world


May we ask in order to listen

May we offer an understanding beyond our experience

May we open our hearts to a hospitality beyond brick and mortar


May we be,

The ones rare

Who dare

Who care.


CJZ:sadiespeaks

11/7/22

1/11/23


* The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.


Survivors, Survive

We talk about poison

Like it doesn’t kill

We talk about venom

Like it doesn’t blister the skin

We talk about tragedy like it’s

What we ate for dinner

Because survivors, survive

They stay up late

Close the blinds tight

Get real sleepy

So their fears are too tired

To keep them up another night

She remembers the bars that held her

In the pitch black night alone

Crib bars surrounding the little child

Only an orphanage, no home

Yet she lights up a room with her smile

She thanks God every day

She gifts those around her with goodies

She boasts she’s a follower of The Way

And her husband died

Her best friend died

Her adoptive mother is gone

Her wicked parents, forgiven tho undeserved

Yet she lives on


And she graced me with her kindness

She blessed me with her faith

She taught me real survivors

Are smothered with joy

And laced with thanks

She doesn’t know why she was poisoned

With parents unfit and weak

But she says it with calm and acceptance

Like liver and onions are a treat

Cause survivors, survive

And the way they do

Is sharing their story

With the understanding few


If I have to be in this club

The one that abusers forced me in

I’m glad to be counted

with my dear survivor friends

People of faith

Who live with a countenance

that defies their abuser

Every time they smile

Every time they shine

Every time they rise up

Every mountain they climb

We may speak of our personal tragedies

Like it’s what we ate for dinner

But to live our lives

Like we are at a banquet feast

Celebrating

Laughing

Passing the bubbly for a toast

Choosing victory over defeat

Dining

Talking well into the night

That’s my favorite kind of company

My favorite club

Because I want to be like them

when I’m old

Like beautiful orphan Barbara Ann


Because survivors, survive.

Survivors, strive

And at last, we thrive.


CJZ:sadiespeaks

11/7/22

1/11/23


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