Cellular Memory

Follow me

Karen Emanuelson, who wrote this excellent poem, said of it,

“I never, ever write autobiography. It’s self-serving. Why should anyone care about my life? This, however, is in honor of my ancestors & my Disir—the female ancestors who have become divine.”


My ancestors speak,
handing stories to me
as faint hints of tales.Toss me a sail line
which I miss. Dragon-ship
creaks beneath my thoughts
and passes in the night.

Fanciful imagined drawings in a book
Metal corsets, horns on helmets
never real.
Pillage & burn
stories gone flat and stale.
We were ever wretched,
the dread barbarian plague.
Oh God (which god?) protect
us from the Northmen,
they prayed.

I drifted away, feet touching
earth, dirt, water, walking
paths of someone else’s
closer ancestors.
Not my own.
Not home.

Still, the voices of my disir
sang, growing louder,
their voices vibrate through
a near lost tale that winds
through desert sand,
a foreign, angry path,
cocked and twisted

filters can’t bury the truth
flashing sun on silver helms
warriors mounted on ancestors
of one small mare who exhales
her stories to me, nostrils
shimmer with truth, soft
warmth reflects Sunna’s rays,
my joy in coming home.


Glacier water glitters with spear points,
repeated a thousand times,
dazzles jewels in Freyja’s divine necklace.
No meek women, my Disir.
A warrior’s axe, a sharpened plow,
each fits snug
in hands that spun tales
and pass to me a horn
that brims with mead
of poetry, stories, the lives
of my ancestors.

They reach to lift me
tier through year
centuries unfolding
a living book.


By Karen Emanuelson


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