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January 2013, vol 8, no 4

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Frederick Lowe

Father's Teats

Thirty years ago, the house in Maine. It sits in a pasture, has the aura of a steamship sailing across a wavy sea. The pasture itself is embedded in a dark forest of birch and fir that crowds down-slope to a pair of black-eyed lakes.

Nobody mows the fields nor has in many years. The pasture is consequently a mass of grassy tussocks, treacherous to walk in. They are of a bright, supple grass whose blades swirl close to the ground, heightening the illusion of waves.

There’s a full moon. It’s grown cold, maybe cold enough for a frost. It’s long after midnight, how long none of us knows because we’ve been drinking all night – nothing too unusual about that. I was a Buddhist back then – one little Buddhist headed off the back porch to pee.

I’ve peed. I’m shivering, staggering among the knee-high tussocks, exulting for mysterious reasons. The moon is a sweet white eye, a smile of clear light turning the dew on the grass to milk. The house steams somewhere alongside me.

The inevitable: I stumble, fall. I sit, cold and empty in the creamy grass, a happy baby at his hirsute father’s breast. Maybe also inevitable. A poemt spurts out:

Oyasama1, above, below:
in the grass:
father’s teats are not dry.

The Buddhist nun Chiyo-ni was carrying a bucket in which the full moon danced on top of the water. She was enlightened in one stroke when the bottom of her pail fell out. For me it was the opposite. My pail was empty, but when I looked down, I had a bucketful of moon.

1. Oyasama is a phrase of invocation in Jodo Buddhism