Lady Liberté

In the way Eugene Delacroix captures them
This mismatched army of the starving
Avalanches their way through the narrow rues while
Liberty stands with a gun in one hand, a flag in the other

Her orange gown drapes around her waist with
Her breasts exposed like a Mother Goddess,
Like she was ready to suckle the future of a new nation
But, for once, a pair of breasts aren’t the sole focus of men’s attention.

She is centered like an icon and looks back
At the madness behind her that will soon overwhelm her.
It’s the kind of painting I’d expect to see in an info shop
Full of subversive posters, radical pamphlets and books by

Marx, Bakunin, Proudhon, Goldman, Zerzan,
Schumacher, Godwin, Kropotkin, Gandhi,
Chomsky, Bookchin, Malcolm, Trotsky,
Durruti, Shelly, Gurley Flynn, Malatesta and Guerin

As an inspiration to those still struggling for freedom.
But instead she lies engraved in the Louvée
Surrounded by bland white walls and being shot at
By tourists with cameras hung around their necks like nooses.

And leaving after looking only for a few moments.
I stare at her unblinking, in awe, until my eyes
Strain so much that the army turns to nothing and
She turns her head and looks directly into me.

I see her face again in a painting made a century later at
The Musee D’Orsay, Luce shows her surrounded
By two men lying face down in the shadows of a sunny day,
Laying in wait to be taken away to a freshly dug mass grave.

I can’t tell if it’s meant to be before or after the summary massacre
Of thousands of nameless French Communards, but regardless she lies there.
The eyes and mouth that shouted out in courtrooms and battlefields now
Shut and stuck due to rigor mortis asserting its rigid domain.

This, our history is so dusty, the particulars blinds eyes,
Makes lungs cough up blood, covers the ridges of fingerprints,
Temporally disorients and leaves us forever unsettled.
These inky leaves left to us by those who came before us are

Such weak protection from the wretched elements;
Their bright bronze shifts into a verdigris that,
Though striking then rusts away into coarse edges
That gash us as we take up defense and to fight for ourselves.

And I wonder where I will be at that moment when
The earth drinks up too much
Blood of the people and feels drunk and ready for action
And then Liberty pulls out her sword to slice and scales to measure
Love-handles against bones
And then evens out the balance.