LADY FREEDOM AMONG US
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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
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
This poem was read at the occasion of the return of the statue Freedom
to the dome of the Capitol on 23 October 1993.
Copy number one of this edition of one hundred was added to the
collections of the University of Virginia Library on 8 November 1994
as its four-millionth volume and in honor of United States Poet
Laureate Rita Dove, Commonwealth Professor of English at the
University of Virginia.
Copyright 1993 by Rita Dove. The text is Century Schoolbook printed on
Mohawk Superfine at the Janus Press in West Burke Vermont in 1994; the
handmade papers are Sky blue from MacGregor & Vinzani in Whiting
Maine, Gelatin sized white and Mica rose from Twinrocker in Brookston
Indiana. The slipcases were made by Mary Richardson and Judi Conant
in Guildhall Vermont. Images and design are by Claire Van Vliet with
cutting executed by Audrey Holden.
Of an edition of one hundred plus ten hors commerce copies this is
"proof for UVA".
Claire Van Vliet.
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Cataloging The University of Virginia Libraries' Four-Millionth Volume