“… a torch whose flame is the imprisoned lightning”

In 1903 Emma Lazarus famously wrote “The New Colossus,” a poem the Statue of Liberty that concludes

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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

In 2019–specifically, earlier this week—Ken Cuccinelli infamously edited that poem to say

Give me your tired and your poor
who can stand on their own two feet
and who will not become a public charge

In addition to being offensive, ignorant of history, and—coming from the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services—outright dangerous, Cuccinelli’s words are, well, terrible poetry.

Which got me wondering: What would happen if other classic poems were revised from a similar perspective?

Possibly something like this.

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

if you really
wanted them
you should have come here legally

(Original: “This is Just to Say,” by William Carlos Williams)

And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, don’t despair,
We can raise taxes on the poor until
This monument stands forever in the
Sand, beside the casino and housing
Development that also bear my name.’

(Original: “Ozymandias,” by Percy Bysshe Shelley)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer,
But it isn’t my fault that freeloading falcon
Didn’t work harder and buy health insurance that 
covered better hearing aids.

(Original: “The Second Coming,” by W B Yeats)

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I—
I fracked and mined and dug a pipeline beneath the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

(Original: “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost)

It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
‘By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin—’
‘First show me your papers, ‘ the Mariner said,
‘Then maybe I’ll let you in.’

(Original: “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

And of course, music is poetry too.

This land is my land this land is my land
This land is my land this land is my land
This land is my land this land is my land
This land was made for me just me

(Original: “This Land is Your Land,” by Woody Guthrie)

Have any other updates to suggest? Share them in comments.