Three Poems by Carlene M. Gadapee

“Yet, If I Picture the Face of Jesus, I Can’t Shake the European Blue Eyes”
after Shane McCrae

I know it to be false              this image Godhead
with flowing blond locks     sad blue eyes, searching

the face should be of a man whom I know is Semitic     I look around
no one else seems troubled

it’s not at all like the wan, somber, bearded face
of someone who is deeply disappointed        or
pained by a loss I didn’t cause      this face makes little sense
in the sense that it’s not historic, but
it’s the one I grew up with, framed, burning heart
looking like it might burst             that open heart
surrounded by flames scared me

when I first heard the phrase heart burn all I could think of
was this picture on the wall            electric blood glowing

I wonder aloud: what do you see in me?   There’s a silence
a long pause             

my own burning heart          is it sacred


Nana Cleans Out Her Desk

Old, scarred, and scraped, chipped veneer flaking
from corners rimmed with dust and broken, beaded
edging. There was treasure: pens and pencils,
paperclips, old metal curlers, red elastic bands. Tiny
pearl buttons rattled in the center drawer alongside
dark wheat pennies and brass fasteners. The only drawer
off limits was the bottom one, stuffed with old bills,
punched time cards, a few letters, and flimsy
air mail envelopes, the ones used for overseas.

Nana sorted papers, sitting on the worn rug, making piles.
She checked razored-open envelopes, one by one,
each as empty as the last. What she was looking for:
Support money.
Just in case.
She might have missed some. I didn’t know
what abandoned meant, I didn’t know about divorce.
When I think of loss, it looks like empty envelopes.


I didn’t tumble down the stairs, my wrist caught in the grasp
of a boy-man I’d just met. Get to know you a little, let’s get out
of this crowd seemed reasonable. Inexperienced, a little more
than a little drunk, too easily led. I remember a muddy parking lot,
sheets of rain, oily grit in my hair. Blurry streetlamps weakly
illuminated the bumpers of the cars, rusty rocker panels,
my friends’ reaching hands. Are you okay? Here, eat this.
Give you something to throw up. I didn’t throw up.
Self-disgust doesn’t come up that easily.
(My fault?)
Did I know how I got there? Yes, a car load of us went.
Did I know where I was? No, I didn’t drive and
It was dark. Do I remember the date? The guy’s name? No.
Did I ever see him again, anywhere? Everywhere, nowhere.
No. I don’t remember, sorry, I don’t remember. I remember
the gravel, and which was rain and which was tears.

Carlene M. Gadapee is a high school English teacher and community college adjunct instructor in northern New Hampshire. She shares her small New England home with her husband, a bossy Chi-pin dog, and a few beehives. Carlene is a devoutly sports-addicted bibliophile and her work has been published in the Aurorean, Postcard Poems and Prose, the Northern New England Review, and Sojourn (UT-Dallas).

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