The Chinese Mother’s Lullaby

By Biddy Jenkinson Biddy Jenkinson

Translated By Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill Read the translator's notes

Pull in your feet, little darling,   
so I can kiss your wee trotters   
while I fold under a toe   
and another one underneath.   
I bend a little piggie.   
I bend another little piggie   
And look at that naughty little piggie   
that is still sticking out.   

Now, now, my treasure,   
there is work to be done here.   
Your toes like fairy thimbles,   
the blossom of the foxglove.   
Like a calf that is spancelled   
or a hobble on a chicken,   
there will be swaddlings of silk   
on the feet of my dear.   

That my daughter now shrieks   
like a blue jay is no matter,   
she will sway in the future   
like a bamboo on a windy day   
or like a willow sapling.   
So I bend under the big toe   
and another toe after   
to form a foot like a lotus   
about to unfold.

Poor Cliodhna has flat feet.   
Maire has huge ones.   
Peggy’s are like spades   
and Niamh’s like two rakes.   
Just hold still, my dearie,   
while I tighten your bindings.   
I’m only your mammy   
doing my very best for your sake

Source: Poetry (April 2009).


This poem originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2009


Biddy Jenkinson (pseudonym) is a poet and dramatist, born in 1949. Her poetry collections include Amhras neimhe (1997); An grá riabhach (1999); and Mis (2001), all published by BÁC: Coiscéim.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Parenthood

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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