Back to Issue Twenty-Four.



The playbill is shut and I’m thinking
of the book Octavia Butler never wrote:
how it could begin with the death

of the last black man in the whole entire
world, which is the name of the play
we are about to see: “The Death of the Last

Black Man in the Whole Entire World
A.K.A. The Negro Book of the Dead.”
My date and I share the armrest

and I’m staring at the black wisps
on his forearm picturing the hair no one
else can see: symmetrical except the patch

on his lower back. We stand to let three patrons
pass, press ourselves against the backs
of our seats. Sometimes when I kiss the man

beside me, I think of one of Butler’s
protagonists who had the ability
to feel another’s pleasure. I want to feel

what my lips taste like and how his it feels
really feels. These days, real life
feels like science fiction and science fiction

can be truer than life—or at least
true to life, which is what this novel
would be: more real than local news,

a depiction (spoiler alert) of the fictions
of race and their real consequences.
And—there’d be a plot twist in the first

few pages: with his dying breath
the last black man in the whole entire world
would, like a god, animate a new one.

If Octavia Butler was alive to write it,
the rest of the novel would, in its entirety,
be about that. Mud oozing. The first forms

of life. The lights are dimming
and I see clearly what’s beginning
to move. A large branch stretched

across most of the stage and a woman,
head-wrapped, gripping a watermelon
in her lap. Uncrossing and recrossing

my legs, I take one last look
at the arm beside me, dark and alive,
before another world pulls us away.


Ama Codjoe was raised in Youngstown, Ohio with roots in Memphis and Accra. She has been awarded support from Saltonstall Foundation, Cave Canem Foundation, Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, and the MacDowell Colony. Her recent poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from CallalooVirginia Quarterly Review, Four Way Review, and elsewhere. She is a two-time Pushcart nominee. In 2017, Ama was awarded a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award.

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