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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 23: 28 April 2024
Micro-essay: 312 words
By Jo Tyler

Our Colossus


When I was ten, the Statue of Liberty was the only statue of a woman I had ever seen. On our field trip we climbed partway up. She is larger than life, my teacher told us, like America. I didn’t know what that meant, but from such a great height, I was proud to be a girl from America, represented by Lady Liberty, a beautiful copper woman who was a gift from France. She was regal, straight, tall. She was our Colossus: 93 meters high, patinaed, modeled on the Roman goddess of liberty, Libertas. She was meant to be a beacon for justice and an icon for freedom that would inspire nations. I was happy that she stood for something good, and not for fighting a war. I fell a little in love with her.

Fifty-three years later in Paris on a tour of Luxembourg Gardens, the guide tells us, a bunch of Americans, that she has a surprise. We turn a corner and encounter a 1/10th scale model of the Statue of Liberty. It is 2.9 meters high, faithful in detail, cast in bronze. My friends express delight, but by the time we are confronted by this tiny Lady Liberty I am already exhausted by being American. Embarrassed. Ashamed. America was never the America I believed in when I was ten. I am not proud. I know nothing is larger than life. Our Colossus knows that freedom and justice are in cages at the border. She knows we reject the tired, the hungry, the poor; that we blame them for their own plight. She knows we are arrogant, divisive, unkind, inhumane. Our Colossus has shrunk. Her beacon is blown out. She is hiding in the greenery along a gravel path in Paris. She is scarred, and she is scared. I am tired and terrified. I cannot comfort her.

Jo Tyler
Issue 23 (April 2024)

is a queer poet, storyteller, and visual artist. A former Penn State professor and Fortune 500 Vice President, Jo retired into the social vacuum of Covid-19 and returned to poetry after decades of writing prose in academia and business. Delighted to be building a community of creative writers, she holds an abiding belief in the power of small groups to accomplish great things, from achieving social justice in organizations to workshopping a poem that just isn’t quite there yet. A member of the Maryland Writer’s Association, Jo lives in Baltimore with her wife Gail and her dog Moxie.

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