Emma Lazarus Project

The Emma Lazarus Project explores the story of Emma Lazarus, a fifth-generation American Jew caught in an important turning point in American and Jewish History. The initiative—including an exhibit, curriculum and poetry contest—uses primary sources straight from the archive to encourage students to piece together Emma’s fascinating story, and to join the ongoing conversation about American identity.


by Mary Hutchins Harris




If i am only the mother of my son, do you not welcome me too, and my son in too
small shoes who stands one head taller than his sister, his father’s mother who
stands behind me in the line, the line i cannot cross here, i cannot yet but cross,
here, where the promesa, promise of release from it was, we left, what we left, my
son, his small sister, grandmother with no words, his father lost his father lost in a
swallowing sea, if i am all they have to carry them to the land of bread, bread in
tomorrow, will you welcome me too, my skirt of holes, they are small i am sorry, i
know my eyes spill with questions i cannot speak, i am sorry my tongue is tied in
my throat, my hands to hold, holding to my daughter who cannot see her brother
there in the other line, a line of men in pants, in too small shoes, a line of men in
hats they would never leave even in a swallowing sea, even without their mothers
to stand beside them, a mama who keeps to them safe, safe as she is able, even if
she could not save a father’s hat, but i will find him him one, if you let us in, let us
step over the line, there, here i can sew the holes, the seams will not be showing,
me, here, the bread, the liberty please, for us, take us into this hand filled with light

Mary Hutchins Harris is a published poet and essayist. She is a faculty member of the Interdisciplinary Studies program of the MFA Low-Residency Creative Writing program at Lesley University, Cambridge, MA and in the Downtown Writer’s Center, Syracuse, NY.