This Week, I Read Gabriel Oladipo: Emma

Image Credit: Pietra Schwarzler via Unsplash

Emma, by Gabriel Oladipo, is a series of voice poems from the perspective of a teenage girl, Emma. She is addressing those who are close to her, in a sort of confessional. Whether she’s actually telling them, or this is a journal is unclear.  

The poem, “White Teeth,” is my favorite. It reads:

 “My severed arms sit on the scale like

Dried worms. I sold them for

White teeth. And it worked. Chloe,

George, Mom—they all love me.”

It shows a sense of both longing, for someone to love her, as she is. Yet, she has paid dearly to have perfect teeth—trading her arms, with which she could embrace, for something which can be used to smile, or to bite. The white teeth are both a shield to hide behind as well as something which can be weaponized. Emma seems both sad about it, as well as kind of triumphant, that she’s acquired that which she wanted—love, on any terms.

This collection captures the experience of being a teenage girl in a way that I found to be realistic. Like most teens, Chloe and Emma seem to roam, on the grounds of a hospice, on the beach, and on Craigslist, where they attempt to find wedding dates.

It took me a few days to write this review, because there’s so much subtlety within Oladipo’s poems that whenever I re-read them, I discovered something new. These poems are visceral, brutal, vulnerable, and so, so very good. Emma is a part of Ghost City Press’s summer chapbook series, and is available on the press’s website.

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