Emily Bernard (’15) is a junior English major from Concord, Massachusetts. She has participated in several fiction and poetry workshops at Carleton, and took a trimester off last spring to hike the Southern half of the Appalachian Trail. Here are two of her poems.
My Father The American Hero
My father proposed in front of Mount Rushmore,
he liked to act in the presence of greater men;
when my mother left he beat on her Jacobean door.
He slapped me once, and afterwards made blueberry pancakes,
the spatula grasped by his nicotine nail beds,
in the afternoon we toured Yosemite with headsets on.
On late afternoons he would do the Times crossword,
sometimes leaving the patio to call my mother
while my sisters and I took our baths.
He took us to South Dakota, and quoted from plaques
how men had died from the dynamite, and
how Cary Grant had hung by a rope for Eva Marie Saint,
spraining his wrist.
None of us will buy real estate in Heaven;
we have summer homes down South, we migrate in the winter
by taxi cab, doing our Hail Mary’s in seatbelts–
The showers will be too cold;
the Church we attend will be cavernously non-denominational,
will serve apple juice
in paper cups every Sunday. In its best moments, I imagine
Heaven is a little bit like California, with perfect mangos
stacked up in cardboard displays
by Mexican employees who throw expired
nectarines into dumpster trucks.
My father had a plastic lung and an intravenous
when he apologized for being an imperfect man
he didn’t make his peace with God in time;
The eulogy I wrote alone in his house to the gurgle
of a garbage disposal broken years
ago, all of his travel books still dog-eared.
At his funeral I told about the time he drove us
to a hardware store at one in the morning–
and bought huge, fist-like bulbs to plant
As we were cleaning out the basement
my oldest sister found them, peeling off plastic
wrapping, the receipt sticking out
like a white sunrise.
His car was
out of gas. The sign outside
He has no idea what she wants,
the aisles are hieroglyphic—
the cashier has fermentation
in her eyes
between her cheekbones—
He has one girlfriend
different brands of milk.
Here, in this town
his father used to bring him
to ice cream stores
with tubs the size of small dogs.
Funny what we makes us
carnivores. Funny what we love.