Back to Issue Twenty-Nine.

Father of the Empty Bowl


I am watching the future of your body
molder. Gristle, wild boar, mole’s fur, apple
core, mulberry, wind-downed leaf.

By now your cells are forest black earth
or the moist dirt in a flower pot.

Father, I’ve waded this far in order
to speak to your smallest ear.
I’ve come to ask some speechless thing.

Time has passed, there are no longer
seasons, and I barely recall the name

for water—often when I say blood I mean
water. Maybe I’ve come to ask forgiveness,
to properly grieve your fatherlessness . . .

It’s hard to tell. My eyes have been
shut for some time. Pieces of me keep

breaking off, shifting, even the you
in me has changed. While you cooked
oxtail soup, I set the table. You sat

at the head, sucked the marrow, twirled,
licked, and chewed the bone. Father,

you left nothing in the bowl because
when there was food you ate the food
and brought the bowl like a cup to your lips.

And I love like that. I call you father
because my arm is finally long enough to reach

across earlier oceans. Farther, you say,
and losing my tongue I stretch far
until I am sky. Father, I whisper, searching

for my teeth. Doves, you say. Mourning,
I repeat. Let the doves do the calling for me.



Becoming a Forest


Not to feel the grasses brush my knees, as if wading
for the first time into the ocean, but a different prayer—

this was after declaring, These trees are my bones,
and I could feel myself loosed from tendons, muscles,
and sinew, a skeleton knocking, as a chime
against nothing, and in my marrow
the blood of sap, the rungs of pinecones,
and myself, inside myself, telling me this—

to make an alphabet of stammering, a song
of a cry, to be anything buzzing with blood
or wings, anything alive, including grief, because
isn’t that—I asked the trees, my bones’ forest
framing me—what my long ago dead dreamed,
tossed in their short allowance of night?

Ama Codjoe is the author of Blood of the Air, 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 poems have appeared in Tin HouseOnline, Gulf Coast OnlineVirginia 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.


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