Gina Marie Bernard is a heavily tattooed transgender woman, retired roller derby vixen, and full-time English teacher. She lives in Bemidji, Minnesota. Her daughters, Maddie and Parker, own her heart. Her chapbook Naked, Getting Nuder was a 2018-2019 Glass Chapbook series finalist, and is under contract with Clare Songbirds Publications. Her chapbook Taxonomies was a finalist for Thirty West Publishing House’s 2018 Chapbook Contest. Her chapbook I Am This Girl was a semifinalist for the Headmistress Press 2018 Charlotte Mew Poetry Chapbook Contest, and was published by Headmistress Press in October 2018. Her work has recently been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, and the Pushcart Prize.
W. Nowell Street
Rain tapers as the Burlington Northern cuts across S. Main, adding its weight to the ponderous humidity.
I pad barefoot from the bedroom at 5:00 and move the fans about strategically, a feat worthy of pool hall hustlers. Still, I’ll never get back to sleep. Water from the new fridge perspires onto the living room floor as I double knot my Asics. I swipe at the moisture with my palm, and press its coolness to my thigh.
The world is empty at this hour. From a neighbor’s backyard a dog barks, but only once, and without conviction.
It takes me several minutes to synchronize my posture, the swing of my arms, a scything motion in my legs. I hold my breath as I pass the cemetery on my right—a childhood superstition handed down from my mother.
The pavement ends. I feel the pitch of this first graveled incline—the pull in my quads. Horseflies sense my heat; they bumble into my hair, seek the sweat at the back my neck. My path now tracks west for nearly a mile, hugged closely on both sides by common milkweed, carpets of wild strawberry, and nodding ox-eye daisies. In the damp soil near the ditch I note I am not the first traveler of the morning—deer have minced cautiously from a deep brake of speckled alder. Farther along, dozens of navy blue swallows knife above my head, their fleet wings slicing the heavy air.
I swing back east at a 90-degree turn in the road. A sign proclaiming “Brush Only” guards ever-growing mountains of bramble. Racing toward dawn, I meet a pickup pulling a goose-neck trailer freighted with branches. The driver raises a finger from his steering while sipping coffee from an oversized travel mug.
Into town, up the block, down the sidewalk, and I arrive home to my cozy cottage—its mustard yellow paint peeling into the yard. I sweep mosquitoes from the screen door; they whine away to hide amid the nightshade.
Then I come inside and sit down to compose this ode to New York Mills, Minnesota, and return once more to a course I’d never run before.