One morning after begging for my food—
looking down at one more meal
I hadn’t worked for,
hadn’t paid for,
hadn’t earned.

A life of debts I could never repay
pushing in on all sides
like the weight of the sea.

I blinked,
and a
fell into
my bowl.

Would it always feel like this?

Just as the moon rises up
from the bottom of the sea,
a handful of rice lifted
itself from the bottom of my bowl.

And my heart rose with it.

I wish I could tell you how it tasted—

that first bite of food
as a free woman.

— Mutta

From The First Free Women: Poems of the Early Buddhist Nuns by Matty Weingast © 2020 by Matty Weingast. Reprinted in arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc.

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