Self-Portrait with Afro, Fall 1970

Ama Codjoe

Sister Mary Joseph taught us to respond in unison: an outward sign
of an inward grace. Blue jays loosen the plaits in my hair, damp
from last night’s shower. Angela is underground, changing locations
in the middle of the night. My hair is growing, growing. Scars and marks:

Small scars on both knees. Eyes: Brown. Hair: Black. Mine glows
from the center of my chest, like Jesus’s, except it isn’t a heart, it’s a fist
the size of a heart. I love the fear my afro strikes in some. There are
WANTED posters everywhere: in the post office, at the supermarket.

My brother likes to tell the story of me as a girl, towel-wrapped,
tossing my “hair” from side to side. Flaunting my sadness
unwittingly. Grace is a fist inside me. I’m sometimes mistaken
for the sister I don’t have. Morning light picks through my hair

like a wide tooth comb. Before I am beautiful I'm in the hairdresser’s chair,
perched atop two phone books, holding my ear. My reflection
in the bathroom mirror is a landscape painting. Oil on glass. Fall,
New York City, 1970. My face the night Angela runs through.

Last updated August 19, 2022