aging

THANK YOU MAGGIE KUHN

“Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind – even if your voice shakes” –Maggie Kuhn, Founder of The Gray Panthers

At age 34
I sat in the Women’s Congress audience
Enthralled by this old lady
And everything she said
Seemed meant for me
An older student
At the university
I couldn’t even speak from my desk
Without shaking
So although her words performed no magic
At the time
I conjured them up
When I really needed them
Stars and sparkles wreathing my face
Sneezing a bit from the moon dust
And for the next few years
Speaking in auditoriums for my career
No trembling, shaking, or fear
Just Maggie Kuhn’s words
Transforming me two decades later
Now I am old enough
To be a Gray Panther
(Although I was completely gray
By age thirty-seven)
And when once I wanted to be
Abby Hoffman, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez
I now want to age gracefully
Be grateful for aging
Be like Maggie Kuhn
It is not her birthday
Or death day
I just want to say
Thank you, Ms. Kuhn
I hope I can live up to your words
Now that I am on the path you blazed…

“Old age is not a disease – it is strength and survivorship, triumph over all kinds of vicissitudes and disappointments, trials and illnesses.” Maggie Kuhn, Founder of the Gray Panthers

(c) 2018 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

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O HOLY MEMOIR

Why cry
When playing and singing
O Holy Night
I miss my high soprano
Soaring above the All City Choir
I cry for my youth
But hey
Think of that time
Tenth grade
I was being bullied in the girl’s bathroom
Bus tokens stolen
No boyfriend
Unknown autism making me
The school alien
Social Misfit of teenage hell
But that was then
And today, my voice
O Holy Voice
Gone
So I’m strumming the song
Didn’t know how to play
Ukulele in Tenth grade

But

And this is a positive
can play it now

Cracked singing
Like some boy entering puberty
High
Low
High-and-Low
Yet O Holy Night
Makes me cry
And I can’t see the chords
On the songbook by the time
I finish it
But WHY cry
Lost youth
Actually
My life is better than it was
In tenth grade
Yeah, I’m old
Yeah, really don’t do
Social niceties now or then
But a mere thousand miles away
Live my sons and granddaughter
Got enough money
To eat and dress and buy songbooks
So why
Why cry
For times past
When the truth is
Tenth grade sucked
Except for the voice
Soaring into the aethers
O Holy Memory…
(c) 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)
IMAGE: Baritone, songbook, sunflower (planted by birds)

MUSIC ROOM

 

When we met
Couple of decades ago
Heard you play guitar
At flea market bazaars
But you’d never buy one
You’d left your childhood
Garage band
Because your
Stairway to Heaven
Didn’t sound like
Zeppelin’s
Stairway to Heaven
And you never played again

Radio music interim
Interspersed with
MP3 tunes
Did their job
Kept me sane

Then two years ago
Thanks to internet window shopping
Bought a soprano ukulele
With a how-to book
For thirty dollars
And although I couldn’t decipher
Musical notes
Chords enabled this wannabe
To play amid laughter and joy

You listened for two years
And finally picked up the baritone
Tuned like guitar
Playing like a rock star

Love the ambience
Music frequently welcomes
Dawn
Often lullaby away those
Sleepless nights
Most of all
What fun to play together
Voices gritted with age
You picking with a hint of flamenco
Me strumming with a campfire aroma

And although we will never
Be what we were
To each other
All those years ago
It’s a functional way
To segue
Into old age
Making what we believe
Is beautiful music
Together…

(c) 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)
IMAGE: Guitar & Ukulele in the backyard

OVERDRAWN

 

Ways they may fail
Tomorrow’s borrowers
Via multi-withdrawals
Once again cruising through
The drive-through window
At the bank of time
Balance near depleted
Robotic voice
Vaguely sarcastic
Come again
Before the clock tower’s chime
Is no longer heard
By you…

(c) Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)
IMAGE Clock on Swamp Fence

STAGES OF REALITY (ARE ANY REAL?)

 

Before age three

Not much of a memory

Then a new reality begins

As the theater of life

Unfolds

Years of tears and smiles

Love and rage

If blessed, then good health

If lucky, then material wealth

Ah, but entropic biology

States not much can last

All is supersonically fast

As we segue into

That third reality

Mirrors screaming

With altered faces

Losing family and friends

Unable to fill up empty spaces

And we want

We want so bad

To believe that deep down

People are honest

People are true

Especially people like me

Who don’t have a clue

About subterranean actuality

And we hang on

To the old reality

But we are wrong

The sands are slipping

Burying the hourglass base

Filling up with a reality

Devoid of grace

As we helplessly wonder

Who committed this crime

This ravaging by Time

And reality a lie

As we prepare to die

What was I thinking…?

 

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Budapest Timewheel at night, Atlas Obscura

ELIXIR OF FAMILY BONDING

 

Flanked by big, brash progeny

The plucky baritone ukulele

Holds her own

Amid clamorous sons

Sensing no time elapsed

Between early motherhood and retirement

Removing their eyeglasses

Myopically peering at each other

It is 1989

All is fine

As life-long love

Picks up at the point

It left off

Long ago and far away…

 

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGES: My baritone ukulele and their guitars/Halloween in the 1980s

 

(I’m back, WordPress!  Will check out your stuff this coming week)

B, C & M 80s Halloween cropped

“FROM THE BRIM TO THE DREGS”

My Annual Sorta-Kinda Equinox Poem (revised)

 

(scroll down for a youtube video)

 

Not a good idea to mention this

Coming from South Philly and all

But I wasn’t part of the Sinatra cult

Even though my mother said

The only time she ever cut school

Was to see him sing in those swinging 40s

In any event, he does have some okay songs

One of those is “It Was A Very Good Year”

(D Minor, 1965, is his version per Wikipedia)

Loved that song although

Odd, since the lyrics were not “relevant” like Dylan’s

And those of other beloved folksingers

Maybe I was young but

Couldn’t stop the melancholy looping

About being in the autumn of his life

Didn’t even know the meaning of “dregs” back then

No Google, but we did have dictionaries

 

Anyway, here it is

Autumn Equinox

Day and Night Equal

But the harvesting of crops

Or dreams or just general

Digging in for the winter

Signals the beginning of the end

And now instead of being Seventeen

I’m trying to think of my life

As “vintage wine from fine old kegs”

But it’s not happening

I’ve worked at it being healthy,

Life more like Dandelion wine

Little bit of a buzz

Lots of bitterness from picking the wrong weeds

But once in a while

It tasted like spring

No matter the season

I’d love to tell younger people

To try to slow down and enjoy life

But I didn’t listen when young

I screamed about mistrusting anyone over thirty

(OMG, what a wild time!)

 

Equinoxes, Solstices

The sun will insist that we do a self-examination

No matter our age

But dang! Turned this into another aging poem

(My poems often write themselves)

Not surprising, though

Like the Solar Year

I’m aging

Question is,

Will I return

Eternally

As the year so predictably does?

Should have reblogged my annual Autumn Equinox one

It’s a bit more upbeat…

Well, here’s Frankie for your listening pleasure (or not):

 

© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: September Harvest Moon, hpwallpaperpc.com

 

https://youtu.be/-bhNz6saaE8  Very Good Year, Frank Sinatra

 

GIDGETING OF THE “ELDERLY”

 

Hey you guys

Remember Gidget?

Who was the actor?

Sally Field?

Karen Valentine?

Someone petite

Someone “cute’

Hate that word

Applied to me

Tired of being thought of

As another species

I mean, like Jim Morrison said

No one gets out of here alive

And although he left at age 27

Most of us get old

Battle the gravitational pull

So tired of seeing posts about the “elderly”

Holding gnarled hands

With the caption

“Awww, so cute!”

Cute?  Why?

How cute can wrinkled gnomes be?

No matter the age, it is wonderful

To see couples holding each other

Looking at each other lovingly

So while I haven’t been holding hands with anyone lately

Maybe when I go to the Old Age Home I’ll meet someone there

Who will think I’m fabulous and want to hold my hand

(Imagine Beatles background music)

Hope I don’t become a post for some misguided youth

Although, ok, I confess

I was one of those that screamed

“Don’t trust anyone over 30!”

Paybacks, yeah…

In the meantime, Baby Boomers

We’re the ones who tried to bring peace on Earth

We’re the ones who tried to bring truth in politics

We’re the ones getting screwed, now

With impossible costs of medicines

Did you know they’d take our Social Security monthly

For Medicare that doesn’t pay for hardly anything?

So they need to extort more of our (in my case, paltry) money

And use it for “Supplemental Insurance”

I’m still raging against Big Pharma

But it’s easier to yell at you

Warning you not to tell us we can’t wear our hair long

Or wear dark makeup

Or hold hands with a lover

(Yes, we still love sex and rock and roll:

Drugs?  Well, legal ones)

Above all, do not call us cute!

Do not Gidgetize the so-called “Elderly”

We’re forever young

And someday, we’ll be able to go to the moon

With zero gravity

And look lovely enough to be photographed

Then you’ll see who we really are

Just like you…

(Rock on)

 

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Robert Indiana’s LOVE and Philadelphia City Hall

STONE SENSATION

 

Clunky sound

My backpack torn

Grab a flashlight

Palm-sized amethyst

Lying on the ground

Trained since four years

After birth

To think:

What’s it mean?

Deep purple

Lavender

Crown chakra

Spirituality

Wisdom

But not for free

Must think about it

Work for a solution

Can’t shrug it off

Can’t let it be

Wisdom comes with a price

Its reward a spiritual happiness

A joyful noise unto the lord

Or goddess

Or mathematical patterns

Divinely spread through space and time

Or whatever power you choose to use

 

The older I become

The less I care

About the future

Don’t really want to know

I mean, what’s to know?

But isn’t there a reason why

We become smarter with age

Considered a sage

Yet observing elders

Most seem to be arrested

In their soul development

Still whispering about friends they hate

Still picking fights with family or mate

Exploding the myth of

Time healing all ignorance

 

And so I see

Flashes in the sky

Lightning from the north

Bringing the tang of mountains

Burning leaves

A spiritual pilgrimage

Beckons to me

Insisting I go

To where the air is thinner

Where the dense absence

Of angry masses

Enables silence to assist

Clearer thoughts able to persist

By virtue of upward movement

That will fortify, unify

Dreamy thoughts of a

Wisdom and safety

In the now…

 

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Amethyst Wash Basin-Stone Smiths