Conscious, Unbound

‘Round Altruist Square, in Say-We, the Red city,
Half bent down in prayer a grey crowd of half pity.
So hungry, so helpless, yet aimless and still,
They waited Mao’s spirit to bow to His will.

For far below ground there He turned His dark wheel
To grind up their grain, as His flesh, for their meal.
And with eyes swerving inward and hands against breasts
They beat down their doubtings of He-Who-Knows-best.

Up on a low wall hung the image of Mao,
With face of loose rubber, rough plastic His brow.
His eyes were deep shallows, His limp lips intent;
“I am what you make me”—-that’s what it meant.

And bound underground there, on knees and on hands,
Around and around men plowed through the sands.

They were weighted with chains of the chant of “Deny!”
They were bitted with guilt for the ill of an “I”;
They were drilled into drudges to do without dreams
And tear, while Hope trudges, smiles above screams.

From first step to last step, all night and all day,
Mao’s message rolled through them to “save’ and to slay.

“Your dreams,” he admonished, “breed violence, hate,
And only the ignorant dare to beat fate.
And song,” he commanded, “must only be sung
To pound into union the souls of the young.

“Now virtue,” he told them, “is duty to need,
And the first ones must hold them the last ones to feed.
And height of attainment,” this ruler extolled,
“Is sigh in contentment whenever you’re told.

“But vice of all vices, and lie of all lies,
Is to do your own thinking or ask any whys.
For thought is a jungle you cannot control;
Much safer one leader to thrust up the soul.

“Close eyes and breathe deeply, then tone down your mind;
Tranquility waits you when thought’s far behind.
Those ‘beasts’ are not wiser, nor happy, nor free,
Who think that they’re thinking or dream that they see.

“So give up, good people, these urges to know,
For I will be with you wherever you go.”

From first step to last step, all night and all day,
Mao’s message slid through them to slave and to slay.

The wheel ground slowly, it groaned through the wall;
The plastic and rubber seemed laughing at all.
The whole crowd of pity half-lowered their eyes,
A half-blank within them and no strength to rise.

But to lift up light eyelids and to trust that first sight;
To shake off the shame-belt of the rust-reign of fright;
To lash back with tethers of cowing now done,
Swear life to Sharp Focus and rise with the sun;

To grasp a sound vision, sound here and sound there,
And boast, in defiance, “I’m beating the Square!”
To turn on false faces, false places, false ways,
And follow one’s logic straight through the maze;

To break through the wall there of “damned till you die”
And know that its “iron” was always a lie;
To pry out the sin-wire they stuck ’round your birth
That not one desire could climb to bright worth;

To reach down inside you, reach deeper, attain,
And rip out the sentence “Life is but pain”;
To level right Anger’s pure curse on Mao men
And vow not to ever know “nothing” again;

To walk with eyes open, one’s self as one’s guide,
And claim, as a master, the hard ground of pride;
To switch on the sacred high beam of man’s light
Till all that seemed sunken soars into sight;

To clasp, in grave rapture, grand sign of Ayn Rand,
And squeeze out the essence of all that was banned;
To drink in completeness, in sweetness, in youth,
Of choice that is reason and life that is truth;

Then raise, with rare measure, thine egoist tone,
And, glad-mouthed with treasure, set out—-alone.

This is man’s promise, conscious, unbound;
His sure staff—existence, his clear brow—his crown.

No fist can take it, no laws thereof bind;
The claws of the ages cannot change the mind.

So, under the death-round of Altruist Square,
The mind, though in torture, saw what was there.

Then out of the duty-to-people defeat,
From under Red hammers that crush with their beat,
From under Red sickles’ soul-slit control
Where self-love is hated and no love the goal,

From deep in the wasteland of cant against man
In the souls of the “sinners” daylight began.
And down underground there, by candles’ dim glow,
Those thinkers were speaking, clearly and low.

“My evils are many, for I thought and I thought;
Each day a tough question for those who knew nought.

“I asked, why is giving a blessing, but trading a sin?
If all are all-giving then who is to win?
And why is there giving if all men are nil?
Each year there’s more beggars, but nil is still nil.

“And who shall give lastly, and how shall who choose?
And why are they heroes who life learn to lose?
If all would have virtue then all men must die,
And if this is life’s meaning I now ask you, ‘Why?'”

“My sins, my fellows,” another held forth,
“Was working with passion for all I was worth.
I outsped the daylight to finish each task;
I loved to be competent, joyed to be fast.
I did more than any had e’er done before
And planned a way faster to make even more.

“They told me, ‘Go slower’, and sat down to pray.
I said, ‘I am working, get out of my way.’
Then shifting a lever and getting up steam
I roared into midnight and left them to scheme.

“This sharpness of tongue, this swiftness of hand,
This is the thing for which I am banned.
Yet I have bequestioned this ‘virtue’ of ‘slow’,
For if slower is better then why ever go?”

“And mine,” said the youngest, “my evil is one—
I wrote a great poem of me and the sun.
Just me with the highest, just me in the light,
With no brothers nigh us and no things of night.

“No guilt and no shadow, no meekness, no shame,
Just sunshowers laughing with ‘Me’ the refrain.
So great, and I knew it, so perfect, so pure;
And this, my own judgment, they could not endure.

“They said I was vicious to praise my own soul,
That they were my victims whom I must make whole.
But I begged not forgiveness, nor sought them to please;
I sang for my happiness, alone and at ease.

“They said, ‘Someday surely the proud ones will fall’.
Then why are they angry who have none at all?”

Then one, who’d ne’er spoken but through hard eyes of coal,
Put things together and set down the whole.

“Men’s thoughts are their conquests of all they can scan.
This earth and that starway take spirit from man.
He gives to all forces, all things of all kind,
The touch of first purpose—-the aim of his mind.
Their use for his living, their use for his bliss,
This use is their heaven and man creates this.

“His motive’s pure profit—for no men the same—
But no creed of needing and no need to blame.
Hard work, and so challenging good men may rise,
While he who is masterful draws up their eyes.

“Yes, men can be heroes if work is man’s heart,
And if each end accomplished strikes another to start.
For men of high virtue each morning is one—-
To stand up in gladness for the things to be done.

“The raking of oceans, cutting down trees,
Exploding through granite—his hands are for these.
Scooping the earth up for truckloads of ore;
This, too, is his virtue, to take, and take more.

“Pipe lakes into deserts, turn rivers around;
Give them direction, ‘For market you’re bound!’
Bend steel over chasms, sweep concrete o’er streams,
Plant signs on the highways—DRIVE FOR YOUR DREAMS!
Raise towers and statues and smokestacks and light,
Then lift up new cities like gems in the night.
Like gems, and like silver, like gold pile high
On the desk of the trader with proud spark in his eye.

“If these would reach climax, if triumphs you’d see,
Then one thing is certain—man must be free.
For no man can prosper, and each man must need,
If he’s not the reaper of this, the soul’s creed:

“MY work, MY achievement, my worth without strife,
My strength and my nature, their whole cause—-my life.
Self-love is my virtue, self-will is my right,
My reason my standard, my pride and my light.”

Now sharp eyes grew sharper, and firm lips more firm,
And many heads nodded to thank and affirm.
Then softly, through whispers, they lofted a plan
To shine on the people the spotlight of man.

And when the nightwatchman had drunk a drunk’s meal
He dreamed a ‘twin brother’ was bound to the wheel;
He dreamed there were angels who rose against Mao
And felt something human in his ‘twin brother’s’ brow.

And up ’round that Square came the rebels of light,
Wrenched shoulders half-lifted, scarred faces gold bright;
Some struggling, some gasping, some covered with blood,
Some weakened with famine and fleshed with fouled mud;

Yet all with eyes hardened ‘gainst pity and fear,
And only “My will’ the wisdom held clear;
And over the canting of man-eating Mao
A gale swept rising, “I, I avow!”

These words filled their mouths with music
Till the whole square rang to the sun!

And they swung to the stunned in spirit,
And to children who had never seen good,
And with stern eyes steeled to the future
Bid rise who still should.

“Oh grey-beyond-greyness faces,
Oh slow-dragging ocean of fear,
Oh bent and half-breaking people,
Are you not swoln to hear?
Then hear but this once in your lifetime,
Hear but this once for yourselves—-
Prepare a desire self-seeking
And never betray it to others.

“For the spirit of life is not kneeling,
Nor slighting your sight for the blind,
Nor crawling, nor serving, nor giving,
Nor waving your wants behind;
Nor smiling for any man’s mercy
(His ‘kindness’ in begging the same),
Nor purging your mouth with praying
While twisting your soul with shame.

“The wailing of praise for a Mao-false
Is only a death-wish turned,
And the earth-loving grasp of reason
Is ever the hope you’ve spurned.

“Somewhere by a lake or a mirror,
Alone in your days of youth,
The light of the sun was in you
And you gazed on the face of truth.
And the gleam of that gaze was selfish
And your eye sought nothing beside,
But you turned away, soul-shaken,
Out of fear of the love of pride.

“Sometime in the night, unsleeping,
When no one around you stirred,
You saw how a shadow flickered
And wondered, ‘A Mao or real bird?’
And you crept to the open window
To see for yourself ‘what’s true?’
But fancying scorn from others
You doubted the real clear through.

“At the edge of an everyday field,
Where the lines of a road ran straight,
You ached with a longing to follow
And vanish away from your ‘fate’.
And the tears on the road were not sorrow,
And the end of the road was not pain,
But you stood there hearing the thunder
Till ‘try it!’ was washed out with rain.

“Again, in the silence, the stillness,
Again, when no one could see,
You touched the glow of your beauty
And thought but a gold word—-‘Me’.
And you savored the concept ‘sacred’
Till it thrilled your heart to its core,
But then savaged your joy for a ‘saviour’
Till you could not love anymore.

“This only one life you have going,
This final sole chance that is yours,
If you pass it or find it not worthy,
Or shudder in tight your mind’s doors,
When your last days walk in to take you
And the last hour looks on you clear,
The dreams you forswore will forget you
And sing not one note in your ear.

“Now, in the low wash of failure,
At the bottom of life knelt down,
With all that is left you of living
And all that was free that is bound,
For the love of the thought of ‘I can”,
With never a thinking but yours,
Make real one desire self-seeking
And never betray it to others.”

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