Etymology of a Mood


Sometimes I feel like a goddess

with many hands . . . except human.

One hand is amber-gloved, dripping

with honey, and two constantly shoo

the flies. Two hands play “Miss

Mary Mack” while two pairs clap

to “Rockin’ Robin.” In my hand

a dictionary, in my hand the ash

of want, in my hand a teacup

whose emptying bears my face,

in my hands a firefly, a sprig

of rosemary between my thumb

and forefinger, in my hand

a pinwheel resembling the dahlias

in my hand. What is the word

for this feeling? What is the root

of that word? Tell me

what to call a twin who survives

the other—not widow,

not orphan—and why light defines

a shadow. Tell me what year the sun

will fail or when the word moons

began to convey the passage

of time. Sometimes I fall asleep

petting my hair with six hands.

By now, all the hairs in this house

are mine. At night I hear

the spider’s velvet legs crossing

the web that, if disturbed,

will stick to the fingers of one

of my hands. My right hand

holds a bell the left hand rings.

The last of my hands: I am wringing.


Ama Codjoe was raised in Youngstown, Ohio, with roots in Memphis and Accra. She has been awarded support from the Cave Canem, Saltonstall, Jerome, and Robert Rauschenberg foundations, and also from Crosstown Arts, Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, Hedgebrook, and the MacDowell Colony. Codjoe’s recent poems have appeared in Gulf Coast Online, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Callaloo, and she is the recipient of a 2017 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award as well as GR’s 2018 Loraine Williams Poetry Prize, judged by Natasha Trethewey.