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From the Diary of Emma Lazarus

November 2, 18-something

Today was wild. I was eating gray toast on an icy bench in Union Square with Sandy. (The Sandy who’s always coughing up a little bit of blood into a silk handkerchief, not Sandy from the fish market.) In between blood gurgles, Sandy says, “Emma, you’ve got to submit to this contest to have your poem on the Statue of Liberty.” I was, like, “Oh, yeah. Right. Me. Sure. A Jewish woman. What year is this, 18-something? Just eat your gray toast, Sandy, and get a new handkerchief every once in a while, will you? That one looks like a canary exploded in it.”

Sandy was a little miffed about the canary comment, but I stand by it. Should I submit a poem? I think I should, because this statue could be meaningful to immigrants, and I’m very pro-immigrant. I honestly think a lot of other people are just phoning it in. Whoa, did I just invent that phrase? Maybe. I mean this is 18-something, phones are pretty new.


December 4, 18-something

Sandy took my note and now has a few handkerchiefs in her rotation. It’s really made lunch with her less like watching a novice magician regurgitate a dove and more like watching a seasoned magician manage liquefactive necrosis of the lung—much classier.

Oh, also, I wrote a poem and submitted it to the thing! It’s called “The New Colossus” and it’s, well, it’s really good. That poet James Russell Lowell said he liked it more than the statue itself, but I don’t know if he was just trying to bang me or what. I still can’t believe we had to have an auction to raise money for the base of the statue. It’s très bonkers. Listen, I love passive-aggressive metaphors as gifts, but not when they’re the size of nine Moby-Dicks.

Big news: at the auction, someone bought the original copy of my poem, for fifteen hundred dollars! That’s a lot of money for the year 18-something, so you’d better believe I’m going to brag about it. Yours truly helped solve Lady Liberty’s pedestal conundrum. It just goes to show you, if you’re a writer, submit your shit! Submit, submit, submit your shit. You never know what’s going to happen.


November 19, 18-something

Today I died on a boat. I guess I only had two trips to Europe in me. Well, four boat rides to and from Europe. You get it. Anyway, I’m a ghost now. Also, that whole poem-on-the-Statue-of-Liberty thing didn’t pan out, so that’s a double bummer. They unveiled the statue and didn’t even mention me, or my sonnet.

Ugh. I feel so off today. I think I might be in a bad mood because I died. But I’m sure things will change—life is change. Oh, crap, if life is change, what if death is . . . same? I hope death is change, too, like a fun change. Like that time Sandy gave me a haircut. The Sandy from the fish market. Remember, I got that haircut when I was nineteen, because my hair was to my ankles? Well, I never got a second haircut, because I died from boat flu. I guess that’s just the way things go sometimes. You get one haircut and two trips to Europe, and that’s it.


February 2, 19-early

Haunting my friend Georgina certainly paid off. I’ve been whispering my name into her ear every night for the past decade and a half, and it worked! Today she found the original copy of “The New Colossus” in a used bookstore. How in the Ralph Waldo did it end up in there?

Anyway, I hopped into Georgina’s body and sprang my sonnet. It felt so good to hold it in my hands, even if they were Georgina’s hands, possessed by my cold, foggy little ghost fingers. Georgie, you’re so close to being able to sleep at night without me spookily spooning you. Just, please, for the love of Henry George, stick that sonnet somewhere near Lady Liberty’s feet. Like, way at the bottom, so people can read it, O.K.?

May 6, 1903

Wow, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Georgina can have her body back now, because “The New Colossus” is finally where it belongs! On the Mother of Exiles’ pedestal, the one I pretty much built. It’s perfect. I’m crying. Both Sandys are going to flip. To all of you writers out there, I cannot stress this enough: you’ve just got to get your shit out there.


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