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The Stairway to Freedom

The Stairway to Freedom
by
Anthony Marr

One who dwells in the bottom of a well
will say that the sky is small.
Another may even insist to tell
that there is no sky at all
but a hole in The World's ceiling overhead
through which the light from Heaven is shed.
 
Of a great dried well was indeed what I dreamed
on whose bottom I was born and raised it seemed.
So dried this world of a well had become
Two hundred ponds were all that remained in sum,
each claimed and owned by one walled estate
who regarded its neighbors with jealousy and hate.
 
The wall of the well was high as the sky,
surrounding the World Village an unbroken cliff,
to try scaling which many have died falling,
and some by leaping, all understood why
who have sought an escape, no "but" nor "if",
as they heard again their freedom's calling.
 
For though of mansions our well-world was full,
and magnificent they could all be deemed,
yet the barbed-wire spoke of peace unachieved,
and feuds amongst families raged bloody and cruel.
To their gods they prayed, of palaces they dreamed,
but few for what vision had yet to be conceived.
 
Our world, sadly, was not brimming with wealth.
Fuel and building materials were in short supply.
Sooner or later we would surely kill
for the last wheelbarrow of coal, by force or stealth.
Afterwards, they say, "I'll suffer their orphans' cry."
Meanwhile, there's no doubt if they won't or will.
 
Still the root cause of this predicament persisted –
to out-luxuriate the Chans and Wongs bar none.
A few spoke of consequences but none had resisted
this tradition passed on from father to son.
To honour this cause entire generations had insisted,
a purpose upheld, if not fulfilled, by everyone.
 
It was certainly not fulfilled, if still upheld, by me.
Examine my purchasing record, and you'd agree.
My estate was still in grandeur, but grandeur in decline.
About the only thing new was in this garden of mine –
a giant question mark, paved in stone.  But then,
what eyes could see it except those in Heaven?
 
Besides, what eyes in this world would even care?
It came as no surprise, therefore,
when Raminothna descended into this world-at-war,
the landing was made here and not over there.
She told me about the boundless universe beyond
this miserable little world of which I was not fond.
 
And I was told of the myriad living things
inhabiting those wondrous realms above,
and of the spiritual freedom that knowledge brings,
and universal truth, and peace, and love.
Like a caged tiger I began to pace
within my confining, confounding space.
 
Finally, I confronted Raminothna, saying,
"What are you here for?"  And her reply:
"To bring you deliverance.  To set you free."
But her discarded wings I could plainly see.
In ill-concealed skepticism I continued to pry:
"And how do you plan to accomplish that?  By staying?"
 
"By persuading you to build a stairway, my love,
one leading to the domains above."
"What with?  Do you realize what that would demand?
And that supplies are stockpiled, but none by me?"
"I see building materials right at hand,"
said Raminothna, "and supplies aplenty."
 
Following her illuminating eyes I was shocked to see
they're fixed on this mansion of mine.  I replied in dismay,
"I would gladly take my house apart, stone by stone,
and transform it into a stairway to Heaven, on my own,
if I knew that the last stone would set me free.
But plainly, it wouldn't take me a hundredth of the way."
 
"Then let it be the foundation of your stairway to Heaven."
"After that, what then?  I have nothing else, not even a dime."
"I see more than enough, considering all your brethren."
Following Raminothna's eyes again, I saw this time
they were sweeping the mansions all around, stone and gem.
"I see.  And how do you propose to persuade them?"
 
Thereupon, Raminothna's penetrating gaze
moved to fix itself upon my face.
So shocked was I the dream ejected me
but then, in the dawn light I see
in the mirror misted in the morning chill
that her gaze is fixed upon mine eyes still.

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