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.