The worst could’ve been in ancient dynasty China, where the fold
Of the foot down the middle and the curbing of the toes formed a point,
A formal shape like a bird’s beak, nothing to walk on, unstable foundation
From which to run from any assailant. Can’t run on a beak.
Can’t run on a foot cracked down the middle, a crippled fledgling,
The point of course to raise a girl who can’t run, a sitting duck,
For whatever violation and pleasure the men devised. Or maybe
The worst is African clitoris snipping, genital mutilation, the slashing
Away any possibility of pleasure, and knowledge, with dull, dirty blades.
Or maybe worst is gender selection, as in Calcutta and Mumbai, preventing
And perpetuating the tragic lives of girls, acid attacks, gang rapes,
And quiet desperation. Perhaps crueler are the Saudis: anyone “raped”
Must muster so many male witnesses. Or maybe the North American
Examples are more awful, the one-in-four or one-in-five, daily news,
Streams of crimes normalized, like tiny feet bound, babies drowned.
Renée Olander’s poems have been featured in the Split This Rock Poem of the Week and The Chronicle of Higher Education Poetry Month blogs, as well as in 5am, 13th Moon, Verse and Universe: Poems About Science and Mathematics, The Café Review, South Loop Review, Margie, Dogwood, Hawai’i Pacific Review, Sistersong: Women Across Cultures, Rhino, and many others; her chapbook
A Few Spells was released by Finishing Line Press in 2010.