Two poems / Melissa Helton Jørgenrud

// Melissa Helton Jørgenrud was born in the Great Lakes region of the US and lives in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, where she writes, teaches, and raises a family. Her degrees span from environmental studies, to creative writing, to education. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Shenandoah, Still: The Journal, Appalachian Review, and more. Her chapbooks include Inertia: A Study (Finishing Line Press, 2016) and Forward Through the Interval (Workhorse, 2021). She is a dual citizen in the UK and her great-grandparents emigrated from Norway to the US in 1904.

Power Outage 

Easter Sunday storms
darken, silence the mountains:
generators growl.

2, 3, 4, 5 days–
no power and no water. 
Everything slows down.

The oil lanterns glow.
Freezer food is defrosting.
Springtime comes inside.

Rainwater fills the
French press, is hauled in for baths.
Clouds wash my dishes.

No light pollution.
We quarantine and look up–
we can see the stars. 

Topographic Map for the Child of Immigrants

I open a computer screen to a bending road in Norway,
the Jørgenrud farm cut from the forest in 1788,                     
the land we had for 200 years, give or take.

Rasmussen. Jörgensdatter.

It feels like Christmas or my birthday 
to see this image of where my name came from,                    
where my DNA twisted into being just northeast of Ski. 

I zoom the map out and out, follow the red lines to Oslo                    
where Johannes and Hilda boarded the boat, left the farm 
and a buried baby, and took the land’s name far away. 

Johannesen. Gundersdatter.

Technology brings me these people, their church records, 
their ship manifests, and this map’s elevation lines trying to orient me 
as I fall, diving landward with each scroll, a falcon falling. 

One generation later, we had no Norsk left. 
No krumkaker. No lefse. No bunad. No hardanger.

Rasmussen. Torgersdatter.

I imagine walking those fields. What bird sounds are there 
in spring to surround me as I wait at that little 
square of a bus stop at the property edge? 

How cold is the water of Gjetsjøvannet? Is it a rocky bottom, 
or thick silt underfoot? I have a favorite tree there, yet to find. 
What stones would I gather and hide in my pocket?

Johannesen. Svendsdatter.

I write out my ancestors’ names on a graph and study them, 
like the Norsk I trace my finger under as I stumble,  
like these images of fjords and zipping green auroras.

The internet tour-guides me through the land I sprang from, 
teaches me my own history, because it did not reach American soil.

Jørgenrud. Halvorsdatter.

I am part of all of this, and not. I wonder if it would feel 
like home, that foreign ground, if I carry our name back?

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