Lotioning My Mother’s Back

Because she lives alone and my hands reach

where hers can’t, she asks of me this favor.

 

It is narrow and soft, my mother’s back.

When I massage in small circles, my mother

 

circles her own mother, who is made

of whatever makes a shadow thin

 

and ungraspable. She wants to touch her.

The bones under my mother’s skin—ribcage,

 

scapula, and spine—feel like sharp winter rain.

Between the clouds, I see a patch of sky, glimpse

 

my aging body: moles like a flicker

of paint, undersides of half-covered breasts,

 

patches of eczema my fingers soothe

with heavy cream. Is this what laying on of hands

 

means? Once my mother touched a garment

and said, full of an awe full of sadness,

 

She touched this, her skin was inside of this.

My mother’s back shines

 

like the hands I wipe on the towel’s face.

Weren’t miracles always beginning this way?

 

Ama Codjoe was raised in Youngstown, Ohio, with roots in Memphis and Accra. She has been awarded support by the Cave Canem, Saltonstall, and other foundations, as well as by Crosstown Arts, Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, Hedgebrook, and the MacDowell Colony. She is the recipient of a 2017 Rona Jaffe Award and the 2018 Loraine Williams Poetry Prize from The Georgia Review.