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.

Some Questions for You, America

by Lisa Summe




When you said give me your tired, your poor,
did you ever mean the mothers you keep
awake at night waiting for their sons to come home

or not, the sick you refuse to insure?
Can you explain the logic in bootstraps
when so many of us are walking barefoot?

When you turn your head, how
stiff is your neck, please describe
your pain, & who will hook you up

with the right drugs? The numbers
on television, the body counts, the morgues
in vans—what will you do with them

besides roll them around in your mouth
& spit them in our unmasked faces?
How do you expect people to wash their hands

without water? Who should be washing their hands?
Of what? Do you believe in karma?
When another pastor refuses to cancel

the service then dies, who says the prayer?

Lisa Summe is the author of Say It Hurts (YesYes Books, December, 2020). She earned a BA and MA in literature at the University of Cincinnati, and an MFA in poetry from Virginia Tech.