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The Machine

by John W. Steele


The gears in its mind began to turn
Like a stiff and rusted cogwheel
In a broken mechanism.

Its heart, little more than a nest of mud,
Quivered in anticipation,
For the awakening was at hand.

In lungs of leather, flowed breath;
Through the tubes of the body,
Blood filled the heart
And the blood was spirit — Life.

Light twinkled in the eye of the machine,
Mind-mirror reflected form and color,
And there were stars and glory
Endless dreams and imaginings.

The machine rejoiced.
Oblivious to the curse,
Its face shone with wonder
At the eternal mystery
Now naked and exposed.

Like a drunkard content with fantasies,
The machine danced
Content that it had squandered its birthright
For an eternity of illusions and concepts
And endless craving.

The machine spread wide its arms of clay
And embraced its prison
Proclaiming in a loud voice,
“Behold it is all mine!
I am mind... I am self.”

And the machine felt great things.
Pulleys and levers
Became muscle and bone,
Thoughts and desires
Fathered will and deed,

But the machine was now separate and alone,
Once unencumbered by shackle
Of birth and death,
Now cursed with burden of self and other,
The fetter of time, the manacle of eternity

Locked forever in mind created realms
Inside and outside
Now broken and separated.

The power of awareness
Disturbed the machine.
Perception was pain,
Suchness reduced to matter and fear,
Reflections void of meaning,
Made of magic
And subject to decay.

In a fit of rage
The image stomped its foot
And raised a fist to an azure sky.
A lamentation issued from deep in its heart
Resounding like thunder through heaven and earth.

“Why have you forsaken me?
I am lost in phenomenon
From which there is no escape.

The beginning is now the end
And the end the beginning.
What was me is now mine.
I knew not good or evil.
Now it is my life!

When placed in the balance,
Truth is defiled
For it is now dependent on lies.
Once there was freedom
But now I am born to die.

For this I defiled the sacred trust?
I would sooner cast this knowledge
Into the abyss
And plunge headlong
Into the pitiful ocean of oblivion
For it would be more merciful
Than to dwell forever
Shackled in the chain of becoming.”

The machine held its head in its hands.
In its hands it held its world
And it wept bitterly
For a long time.
And the machine became man
For, with the awakening of tears,
Man is no longer a machine.


In the bowels of a mountain,
By the light of a torch,
Man grasped a reed.
Tears and blood
Flowed into the reed
And symbols were born.

With a trembling hand,
He scratched the symbols
On a wall of mindless granite,

An endless chronicle
The long journey home
Revealed in a saga of dreams
And regrets, called memories.

And it does not matter
Be it reed, or quill, or brush, or clay
Or particles of energy
Careening through the vastness
Of hypercosmic infinitude
The lamentation will forever
Remain the same.

The heart concealed
Within this shell
Knew life eternal
Before it fell.

Copyright © 2009 by John W. Steele

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