Month: July 2015


my cayennes small pixels

Seems every culture has their Nine-Herb Charm

It is said that Odin hung upside down on Yggdrasil

For nine days to gain wisdom

He learned of the charm

And passed it along to the mortals.

The British have their Nine-Herb Charm

Etched on the Tenth Century Lacnunga

A manuscript that is reproduced online

They claim it works on snake venom

Citing Beowulf’s fight with the dragon

Also known as a serpent

Although if the charm was used

It was far from a proof of its efficacy

Since Beowulf died.

We Romani claim to be the earliest users

Those who know me know I used to make a salve

In fancy tins

Giving them away as gifts

Somewhere along the line

As herbs gained in popularity

It became more cost effective

To buy ready-made from internet sources.

It contained almost all the same herbs as mine.

What a wonderfully spiritual experience

To prepare an herbal potion, salve, tizana, poultice

It is like cooking a healthy meal

For those we love

The Zen-like feeling of handling ingredients

Mixing them together

Greenery from the Earth

Water to cleanse the food

Fiery transmutation of chemical properties

Air to cool for eager lips.

Preparing the Nine-Herb Charm

Whether for snake bite, insect venoms

Or whatever has invaded the body

Is spiritual too

Three times we sing

A thanks for each herb

The final mixture is strained

Then added to melted beeswax

Cooled in tins or jars

And depending on the recipient

Sung three times as we gently

Place the mixture on needy skin.


Ah, the one herb

Most secret and powerful of them all

Is Plantago lanceolata: Plantain

Plentiful and super strong

Used, by me, to get the Recluse spider’s venom

Out of my body

Or painful wasp stings

Or even splinters

Best of all, boils and even basal skin cancer

Respond to the Green Goop

As it magically removes body offenses.

(Plantago, we ask you, in humbleness

To use your power and pain repress)


Artemisia vulgaris—Mugwort—very European

A nervine that “cureth the shaking of the joynts”

That protects against diseases and misfortunes

Especially if used on St. John’s Night

An emmenagogue for female flow

Encouraging the venom to vacate.

(Mugwort with double protection

Help us heal misfortune and infection)


Nettle or Urtica dioica

Stinging plant of glasslike slivers

Inflammation reduction


An additional herb to oust venom

Of one sort or another.

(Stinging nettle who brings pain

Remove the worst of this terrible bane)


Gentle Chamomile: krasulko (daisy)

In the language of the Romani

Matricaria recutita is anti-inflammatory

But also anti-bacterial, aiding sleep and

Removing stomach upset

(As Peter Rabbit’s mother knew)

(Gentle krasulko, so full of healing

Return us to a healthy feeling)


Betony, Stachys officinalis, is protection

Against jakhalo, the evil eye

A cure-all for headaches and anxiety

But my phuri dai, Granma, replaced it with garlic

Unimpeachable Allium sativum or “siri” to us Romani

Hanging in garlands around the neck

Vampires? Dragons? Serpents?

Cut up and rubbed on the soles of the feet

Eat, eat, eat it with everything.

(Siri, powerful garlic, tasty and strong

An herb used for everything that is wrong)


Thyme, or mushtin, Thymus vulgaris

Promotes perspiration in fever

Pain alleviation

And the ointment takes away hot swellings.

(Thyme, a delicious enhancer of food

Also an herb when we need to be renewed)


Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare,

Wards off evil spirits and damages the “eye” of the adder (serpent)

Antispasmodic for respiratory passages, stomach and intestines.

(Fennel fights the poisonous snake

Our body is right when we finally awake)


Crab Apple, phabaj in Romanes

Malus sylvestris in Latin

Makes a strong poultice

For inflammations and ridding the body of toxins.

(Phabaj, eat an apple each day

For prevention or healing, so the wise say)


Cress is Nasturtium officinale but

Nasturtium flowers that we call dzuche

Are Tropaeolum majus

Or perfect for Florida: Nasturtium floridanum

With antimicrobial and antibiotic properties

Eat the full flower in salads.

(Nasturtium, lend us your power

Queen of the Earth, a healing flower)

NOTE: My Grandma only used several Romanes words for the Three-time chant. I do not remember the exact words but I do remember the idea and have reproduced them in English couplets.

© 2014 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja), Poetic Alchemy: Talking Blues



See lightning flash

Count until the

Crack of thunder

Is heard

Divide by five

That is how to calculate

How many miles I stand

From where lightning struck

How many miles, but also

What made me select you

When there are different types:

Sheet, cloud-to-ground

Ground-to-cloud, Intracloud


I wonder while

Waiting for the strike

Dreading the pain

How much will it hurt?

Is it better to hide


Than take the chance

Of sky-soaring


Sizzling among the flashes

Elated by the sight

Excited by the might

Emotional, death-defying


Chancing electrocution of the heart?

Or is it better to bury it

Under the floorboards

Stay inside

Avoid the lightning

At all cost?

Either equates to the end…

© 2015 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)



Clip-on automatic chromatic ukulele tuner

With ukulele, of course

Blank index cards and color markers

To create the tarot

Seed packets of cayenne pepper, blood root

And plantain : must-have natural cures

Live aloe for everything skin

Lap top and/or kindle fire

Note to self: must be in library walking distance

Lots of thick, palm-sized spiral-bound notebooks

Lots of ball point pens

Eight black tunics

Eight black leggings

Two pairs of boots

Huge back pack

I’m off…

(Is this what Henry David Thoreau meant

When he said:

“Our life is frittered away by detail…

Simplify, simplify”)

© 2015 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)


karlevi runestone in courtly metre

Sometimes, as a poet, one must return

To the early forms studied as students

Meter and rhyme, now a time to relearn

That straight backbone of all those rudiments


What fun wandering among the free verse

Protesting confines of old school of thought

Poetry dancing in song so diverse

Ignoring the boring frame we were taught


Writing merely in free is not diverse

Similar poetry becomes dry rot

Grudgingly, I turn my head and reverse

Weaving carefully through the common knot


Perhaps I must commit to higher rhyme

Singing syllables to have a good time

© 2015 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)




You are mine

He whispers

Hands tangled in curls

Tender nerves

Tingly skin

Darkness gentle



Gray dawn douses

Desperate dreams

Left is light

Shadows stain the right

A chimera gone…

© 2015 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)



View of the head of the Statue of Liberty, designed by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, on display on the Champ de Mars, Paris, France, 1878. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

View of the head of the Statue of Liberty, designed by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, on display on the Champ de Mars, Paris, France, 1878. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Growing up in Philadelphia

Home of the Declaration of Independence

And that wildly independent founding father Franklin

I pondered the meaning of Independence

At a very young age

Countries become independent of their oppressors

But people can become independent too

And that was what I tried to do

I became self-sufficient

Didn’t hurt to read Thoreau at age sixteen

Yet, of all the words he produced for us eager hippies

I fastened on what may be his saddest quote:

“I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude”

Countries really cannot live in solitude

As we see by the history of United States wars

So much for the Monroe Doctrine


Well, here I am, meandering between

The idea of an independent country

And an independent person

Does anyone dread

What’s waiting ahead?

Our presidential election

Lying and promises

Slur-slinging and anger

Tossed between the candidates

And we, the voters, surrounded by

The circle of hate

Like children in a game of dodge ball

Will we unfriend our friends on social media sites?

Click out of their opposing posts of rhetoric?


I was taught to not talk about

Politics, religion or money

With any but family and close friends

Being an independent woman, however,

I couldn’t stay away from activism:

Feminism, racism

All in the name of peace and love

“In order to form a more perfect Union”

As the Preamble to the Constitution states and,

“Dedicated to the Proposition that

All men (and women!) are created equal”

Thanks to Lincoln

While I asked what I could do for my country

In answer to JFK’s challenge



So important

Yet we can independent ourselves

Out of friendship and love…

© 2015 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)



Legendary lightning

Striking a tree

Burning wood

Captured the imagination

Of Homo erectus

Who recognized the

Precious commodity

And carried the embers

Lovingly in an animal pouch

Because who could start a fire

Without the life-changing cinders?


Embers eventually fade

As different tree woods

Not as strong as the original

Burn out faster than previous

Prized pieces of the godly gift

Who will breathe life into

This fading fire?


Needed to revive

Before the fire

Turns to cold ash…

© 2015 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)