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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, March 12, 2018.
About this Poem 

“This poem is from a series addressed to unconceived/unborn children whose imagined desires align and compete with those of the speaker. I wanted to create an image-system held together by longing and sound. Much of the poem is concerned with constructing the ‘you,’ these unreal and fleshly beings.”

—Ama Codjoe

My Nothings

You, who have bowed your head, shed
another season of antlers at my feet, for years

you fall asleep to the lullabies of dolls,
cotton-stuffed and frayed, ears damp with sleep

and saliva, scalps knotted with yarn, milk-breath,
and yawns. Birth is a torn ticket stub, a sugar

cone wrapped in a paper sleeve, the blackest
ice. It has been called irretrievable, a foreign

coin, the moon’s slip, showing, a pair
of new shoes rubbing raw your heel.

I lose the back of my earring and bend
the metal in such a way as to keep it

fastened to me. In the universe where we are
strangers, you kick with fury, impatient

as grass. I have eaten all your names.
In this garden you are blue ink, baseball cap

wishbone, pulled teeth, wet sand, hourglass.
There are locks of your hair in the robin’s nest

and clogging the shower drain. You, who are
covered in feathers, who have witnessed birth

give birth to death and watched death suck
her purple nipple. You long for a mother

like death’s mother, want to nurse until drunk
you dream of minnows swimming

through your ears—their iridescence causing
you to blink, your arms twitching.

Even while you sleep I feed you.

Copyright © 2018 by Ama Codjoe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 12, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Ama Codjoe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 12, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Ama Codjoe

Ama Codjoe

Ama Codjoe received a 2017 Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award to support the completion of her forthcoming first collection, Iterations of Being. She lives in New York City where she serves as visiting assistant professor of social justice and inclusion at The New School.