Three inches was the desired length. Bound in linen
and by law it was accepted. The cloth was laid
around the four smallest toes, wrapped around the heel
and pulled tighter daily. One by one they bent to the will
of others, folding under the pressure until the arch breached.
Tiny, delicate shoes were cobbled for tiny, delicate feet.
China dolls teetered on lotus-feet meant to attract
suitors, worked jobs requiring little movement,
and their mothers-in-law would see their suffering
as a sign of compliance: a suitable bride.
Live life en pointe as a porcelain ballerina,
toes crushed into the ball of the foot
and the heel scrunched toward the toes.
They do not need toe shoes to keep pointed feet.
The shoes that hide silent pain are silk and wood
and beauty, shoes fit for dolls not young girls
and women. They outlawed the practice
in 1912. The old do not wish to bare
their feet even to their families.