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 has been awarded support from the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Cave Canem Foundation, Blue Mountain Center, and Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop. Her poems are forthcoming in Narrative Magazine and Four Way Review and have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Callaloo, pluck!, and elsewhere. Codjoe received the Rona Jaffe Graduate Fellowship from the creative writing department at New York University, where she is poetry co-editor for the Washington Square Review. She was raised in Youngstown, Ohio, with roots in Memphis and Accra.