Self-Portrait with Braid


In the morning my eyes look thirsty

like a willow leaning toward

its reflection. My mother waits


inside the circles. One day

I will remember her at her last age

and see her peering from the windows


of my face. Motherless, without a second

mirror, I will part the back of my hair

with the third side of a comb, blind


to the crookedness of the line. My black

hair, brown against a raven’s wing, will know

the habits of my hands adding and subtracting


until my fingers make small pirouettes.

I will open the bobby pins with my teeth

and secure two uneven braids to the place


where my mother’s hands cradled the weight

of my head before I was strong enough

to carry it on my own.

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.