blood binding

December 16, 2017
By kxailiaa BRONZE, Canton, Michigan
kxailiaa BRONZE, Canton, Michigan
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

in the wet dark of the night, just before her fifth birthday,
a girl wakes to find herself drowning,
ankle-deep in a stew of raw herbs and the blood of feral animals
with her limbs bound to the legs of a wooden chair.

minutes later, her sharp scream pierces the
february air. she meets the serpentine eyes
of a woman, whose name she does not know;
the woman pulses her thumbs into the girl’s feet, and
jerks and yanks and twists
as if her flesh is the balled pulp of a wonton.
           do not resist it, dear.
she is the twentieth girl that the woman has sculpted,
and the woman no longer hears the cries for mercy.
          your feet will blossom into
           the golden lotuses dotting the Yangtze,
          and rich men will melt and sink to your feet,
          wooing; then, you will forget all about this, 
          this fleeting pain.
the woman braces her toes with her parched hands and
rips tendon from bone as she curves in the swollen folds of each toe,
birthing four crisp snaps and four desperate prayers
into the cool air.
the girl feels the rage and fear in the blood of her marrow
simmering, boiling within;
but she is powerless to stop the woman,
           as she stains her with
           black and fuchsia and blue.

           as she fractures her arch in two,
           and as she mutates her crushed toes, pressing them deeper and deeper
           into the sharp splinters of her heel;
           swollen carnage against shards of howling glass.

           as she snakes her hand through thick bandages
           saturated with the juices of astragalus and
           suffocates out all remaining life the girl’s feet breaths.

decades after the nameless woman left her
           sculpted and blooming
salty tears still run down the girl’s round cheeks and
join the stinging blood from her bitten lips
to become one with the violent red,
seeping through her bandages.

on sunday night
i rest my feet against the red skin of nai nai’s palms
as she bathes the balmy, peach-bottomed skin of my feet
in honeyed water,
weaving the warm river through the crevices between my toes—
       in and out,
       under and over.

nai nai cradles my feet as she
traces constellations onto the folds of my skin
and tickles the underbelly of my arch.
she kisses my feet four times each,
          four for each caressed toe.


The author's comments:

I was inspired to write this piece after learning about the horrifying tradition of foot binding in China, were women were made to constrict their feet with bandages from a young age in order to have smaller feet. Small feet were seen as desirable and as a social norm, and women feared that no men would want to marry them if they had normally-sized feet.Young girls were often physically forced to have four of their toes broken in order to halt the growth of their feet, and for the rest of their lives, they would have to live with the pain of walking with their broken feet. I hope to share the pain that my great-grandmother had to experience through this poem, and hope to share a piece of my heritage with readers. 

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