I call for you cultivation of strength in the dark.
in the vertigo cold.
in the hot paralysis.
Under the wolves and coyotes of particular silences.
Where it is dry.
Where it is dry.
I call for you
cultivation of victory Over
long blows that you want to give and blows you are going to get.
what wants to crumble you down, to sicken
you. I call for you
cultivation of strength to heal and enhance
in the non-cheering dark,
in the many many mornings-after;
in the chalk and choke.
From To Disembark (Third World Press, 1981). Copyright © 1981 by Gwendolyn Brooks. Reprinted by consent of Brooks Permissions.
I was newly naked: aware of myself
as a separate self, distinct from dirt and bone.
I had not hands enough,
and so, finally, uncrossed my arms.
In trying to examine one body part,
I’d lose sight of another. I couldn’t
imagine what I looked like during
the fractured angles of sex.
At the river’s edge, it was impossible
to see all of myself at once.
I began to understand nakedness
as a feeling.
It was a snake, loose and green;
it was the snake skin, coiled and discarded.
The shedding chained itself
like a balloon ribboned to a child’s wrist.
Morning’s birdsong reminded me
of the sloughing off of skin.
The rumored beauty of my husband’s first
wife never bothered me before.
I missed the sensation of being fixed
in amber. Then the hair in the comb,
fingernail clippings, the red mole on my
left breast grown suddenly bigger.
I perceived my likeness in everything:
the lines on my palm as the veins
of a leaf, my mind as a swarm of flies
humming over something sugary or dead,
my vulnerability as the buck
I’d kill then wrap myself inside,
my hair as switchgrass, twine, and nest,
a roving cloud my every limb.
Copyright © 2021 by Ama Codjoe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 1, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.