of course. we all want to be free.

Punnika the Slave

In the early morning,
well before dawn,
I would go down to the river.

It was my job to carry water
up the hill
to my master’s house.

Of course.
We all want to be free.

But what good is freedom
when your sisters remain slaves?

I used to imagine an old man down there by
the river.
I used to imagine what I would say to him.

What does it mean–
to own another human being?

What does it mean–
to feel your own skin,
to touch it,
and know you are not free?

We all have bodies.
My sisters, I don’t have to tell you.

But where did I get this body?
Who made me a slave?

The old man and me–
standing here,
watching the river.

Waiting.
But for what?

Over the years,
this round
heart
has been
pounded flat.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel safe–
to feel anything at all.

Don’t give up my sisters.

Whatever you have to say,
now is the time to say it out loud.

All our dreams of the past.
All our dreams of what will be.

Come.
Reach out your hand.

Some rivers we must cross together.

the first free women:
poems of the early buddhist nuns