Lotioning My Mother’s Back

By Ama Codjoe

Because she lives alone and my hands reach
where hers can’t, she asks of me this favor.

It is narrow and soft, my mother’s back.
When I massage in small circles, my mother

circles her own mother, who is made
of whatever makes a shadow thin

and ungraspable. She wants to touch her.
The bones under my mother’s skin—ribcage,

scapula, spine—feel like sharp winter rain.
Between the clouds, I see a patch of sky, glimpse

my aging body: moles like a flicker
of paint, undersides of half-covered breasts,

patches of eczema my fingers soothe
with heavy cream. Is this what laying on of hands

means? Once my mother touched a garment
and said, full of an awe full of sadness,

She touched this, her skin was inside of this.
My mother’s back shines

like the hands I wipe on the towel’s face.
Weren’t miracles always beginning this way?

From Bluest Nude (Milkweed Editions, 2022). All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of the author.