Ama Codjoe

As I lay on the prickly grass, grasshoppers chattered
in my hair. I stroked the ground like a beard. No one
sang. The whole sky was watching. It’s animal
piss in the dye pot that makes indigo blue. Blue
seeped out of me, but I wanted to make it myself.
I was obsessed with making. The yellow leaves
browned; the sugar pine needles refused
to shed. I couldn’t get the pigment right, it kept turning
to mud. I had attempted this before, making wine
from another’s body, stamping and stomping
my grape-stained feet. When I rose, I left the print
of a woman behind. I noticed the pear tree, how it gave
without question; I asked anyway, was asking
again, collecting broken seashells and tiny
elephant figurines. I needed a herd of blue.
I soaked black beans for the color they leave. My blue
was a habit, a kind of river I stepped into—sometimes
crossed—because it held the sky so perfectly.
I swung the axe. I swam with my arms. If I had a sister,
I’d have hid my breasts. I hammered nails—though
crookedly. Timber was my sacrum, timber were my
metatarsals, timber was my lungs’ pink flesh, timber
was my skull. I was a blueprint, blue on blue, mapless
but for those warm bones and my red heart barking.
—And when I turned without making my skirt
a basket, when I turned from all the fallen
pears, the sky was full of shaking: wet
with river-water. It wasn’t rain that fell—whatever it was
I collected in the cups of my hands.


Ama Codjoe was raised in Youngstown, Ohio with roots in Memphis and Accra. She is the author of Blood of the Air: Poems, winner of the eighth annual Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize, forthcoming from Northwestern University Press in April 2020. Ama has been awarded support from Cave Canem, Jerome, Robert Rauschenberg, and Saltonstall foundations, as well as from Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, Crosstown Arts, Hedgebrook, and the MacDowell Colony. Her recent poems have appeared in The Georgia Review, Gulf Coast Online, Virginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. Ama is the recipient of a 2017 Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award, The Georgia Review’s 2018 Loraine Williams Poetry Prize, a 2019 Disquiet Literary Prize, and a 2019 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship.