The Lotus Foot Dance and the Splinter in the Binding

Author | Emma Lee

She didn’t see a bundle of blue-eyed baby
but porcelain skin and two mirrors
built by her to reflect only her.

To create a lotus foot: take a girl of four,
cut her toenails and break the bones in her feet,

It started a dilemma: the doll
would grow and loosen
from her mother’s bond.

That was not the daughter’s role.
The mother engulfed, put words
in the child’s mouth, smothered

bind tightly, wrapping toes under feet,
so the foot folds. Bandage and sew

her mind. Daughter buried a splinter
deep in her heart. Mother made her someone
to blame. To make her look good

so that the girl cannot loosen them.
Regularly soak and re-bandage once daily

it was necessary to keep her daughter
small and dainty, bind her self-esteem
so she’d think herself unlovable.

Infection might result in toe loss –
a bonus: missing toes, tighter bandages,

As the daughter grew, the splinter grew.
Rubbed rough against her binds,
and strengthened into a boundary.

The daughter never heard praise,
never received hugs, was told she lied,
she misunderstood, her mother loved her,

smaller feet and the gold standard ten centimetres
for a dainty, dancing, perfumed step.

tried to push the daughter back
into her role as mirror.
But the splinter knew who she really was.

About the Author | Emma Lee most recent collection is “Ghosts in the Desert” (IDP, UK, 2015). She co-edited “Over Land, Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” (Five Leaves, UK, 2015). She blogs at and reviews for four poetry journals.

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