Florida

FOREVER FRIENDS

 

Through two decades

A dead Live Oak

Stood upright

Perch for families

Of Florida Black Vultures

What sights I’ve seen

On that stage

Young buzzards courting

Males competing for

The belle of the bough

Married couple kissing

Passing food between beaks

Here they are with baby

Showing him how to perch

And search

For newly-made swamp corpses

Other days watching them

Wings outspread

Drying out stormy feathers

One day the mom and dad gone

Baby sat for three days

Finally the smaller one returned

Maybe dad creamed by a car

While cleaning up the road kill

In the middle of city streets

Then the other day

A muffled crash in the swamp

Perch finally fell

And here I go in pursuit of my “art”

Worrying about Water Moccasins

And other snakes

As I wade through the grass

Snap, snap

On smart phone

That does no justice

To the thumbnails of Nature

Suddenly recalling last week

Vulture in my yard

Broken wing

Hopping around

Looking for a way out

I opened the gate and tried shooing him

But he didn’t get it

He did find a pile of tables and plants

Climbed up over the fence

Relieved he escaped

Yet what are the chances

A bird will live safely

With a damaged wing

Birds

Trees

Life yet death symbols for me

And I recall sitting under

Another Live Oak

Many years ago

And it splitting

For no good reason

Phone ringing, me running

My mother’s voice funereal

My favorite uncle died

The trees never lie

But do I think a tree

Can actually be

A psychopomp?

Birds play that role for me

But would a bird

Lead a bird

To the afterlife

Or does the tree’s soul

Take control?

After all

They were friends for so many years…

FL Black Vulture on my swamp perch

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGES: Live Oak perch fallen in my swamp and FL Black Vulture on the perch in my swamp

 

PENINSULA

 

No earth here

Peninsula of sand

Swampy

Awash in water

Mutable

Change from one

To one hundred in seconds

Over-abundance of fire

Flat and florid

Baking, broiling, lasering the land

Dangerous air tornadoing

Thunder and lightning deluging

Interfering with civilization’s

Grids and grand plans

For living on a land devoid

Of vibrations

Stone, rock

Thrumming to hearts

That need the gentle jolt

Rich soil imported,

Bagged for the DIY stores

But only coquina

Limestone and long-dead

Fossilized remains

Of shelled food for fish and fowl

For humans too

Only coquina

Is underfoot

But that’s not natural earth

And so imbalance reigns

In the state of torrential rains

Where’s the grounding of  Earth…?

 

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Can that tropical storm get any closer to me?

FORFEIT

 

What could be more spiritual than living under a perfect sky

A skydiving sky

People jumping out of small planes

Clouds so quiet, their voices

Screaming joyously

Heard through my open windows

Living above a fresh water spring

Twist the faucet and the purest water

Filled my glass and hydrated my body

Filled my pots and boiled my brown rice

Swirling in summertime miso

Living on the blackest, most perfect soil

Where everything grew in abundance

Home-grown carrots and celery

Onions, garlic and radishes daily dug

Beans on the pole and herbs in their pots

Even the Florida storms would end in

Bright sun

A loving laser of light

Creating the jeweled gift of a rainbow

Sometimes double ones

And one day the magical end

Burrowed down

In my front yard garden

Consecrating the land

Sat beside a track with a train

Barreling past the house

Twice a day

Yet the whistle was a fragment of the romance

And there was a lot of that

A lot of—for lack of a better word–love

For a few years it was paradise

A power spot

Lying on a hidden ley line

Crossing improbable property

Balancing out my life

Until

What?

Did I not maintain it properly

Was I expected to sacrifice some

Unknown object or worse

A living thing

In sorrow I learned

Not to confuse power spots

With sacred sources

Neither elemental elite of

Earth, Water, Air and Fire

Nor dark matter stages of

Solid, Liquid, Gas or Plasma

Changeling Aura

Viciously fooled me

Extracting its vengeance

Whether from an angry spirit

Or malicious evil eye

Jealous gods punishing perceived

Hubris

Or

What…?

 

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Skydive City, Zephyrhills, FL

 

 

 

FLORIDA ANTHOLOGY

The Florida State Poets Association Anthology 34 is now available at several bookstores including Amazon.  They kindly included my poem “John Denver’s Ghost” on pages 127-128.  I’ve just begun reading it and there are so many diverse and wonderful poets featured in the anthology!  Here’s a link:

https://www.amazon.com/Florida-State-Poets-Association-Thirty-Four/dp/1946088498/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1477752837&sr=8-1&keywords=florida+state+poets+association+anthology+34

 

 

 

 

 

WHEN STORMS WERE PART OF MY SOUL (3-13-93 FLORIDA NO-NAME STORM MEMOIR)

 

Driving across the county

Wind and rain our only drug

Laughing and shrieking

In a buffeted Ford Ranger

Red to match our twin

Aries vital force

Didn’t take much for me

To fall into his manic madness

Speeding through the No Name Storm

Meteorologists missing the hurricane criteria

 

At Dunedin Causeway

Sheriff’s deputies took one look

At the wind surfer on the roof

Laughed at us

Sent us back home

Greeted by the vision of my son

Holding up the chicken coop

Teetering on high wooden legs

Like Baba Jaga’s cottage

Fairy tale come true

 

Being forty was fun

Fifty became the crossover

Threshold to fear

Surrounded by storms this summer

I try not to quake

At the dissonance of thunder

But after fifty

Bodies become vulnerable

Hearts alter their rhythm

Minds dwell too much

On helplessness

 

Still, when the next storm strikes

I’ll shake my fist

Under the bleeding clouds

And in howling winds

Scream, “Do your best!”

Bravado, stupidity, courage

Never too old to shovel it out

From the earth of buried treasure

And spend it …

 

© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

OUT OF CONTROL

 

Subtropical summer

Algae all-encompassing

Underwater invisibility

Green not a color but a

Palpable shackle

Cast your net

Fish me out of this prison

Where I can neither swim nor run

Losing my voice

To asphyxiating chlorophyte

Fusing together as one…

 

© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Florida algae blooms, eurekasparks.org

 

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE, NOR ANY DROP TO DRINK*

(Annual World Water Day Poem)

 

Salt scent sending messages

From the Atlantic Ocean

A body of water that might be

The end of the world

Because who knows what’s really through

The vanishing point?

 

Fishy fragrance floating

From the green seaweed

Although the Gulf of Mexico

Has its share of redness

Also known as the Red Tide

Destroyer of manatees and fish.

 

Storm runoff pollutes

Sulphur Springs’ once-healing water

Filling dangerous sink holes

Sucking cars and people

Into shifting sands meant

To be a beach, not a city.

 

Hydroelectric power produced

By a Florida-Georgia dam

Where Lake Seminole and others

Contribute their fresh water

Lovely parks, lots of fish

Share the energizing of air conditioners.

 

Shallow-water well weeps

In my backyard, famous Florida aquifers

Water-filled layers of earth

Over 31,000 areas of known

Groundwater contamination

Better not get mine tested, ignorance is bliss…

 

*Title based on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 

© 2015 Clarissa Simmens, Parallel Universe Café and Other Poems

IMAGE: Red Tide in Florida, dailymail.co.uk

 

 

RIDING THAT TRAIN, HIGH ON CAFFEINE

(An Auto-Train Memoir)

SCROLL DOWN FOR A CCR SONG

St. Patrick’s Day to most

But it will always be the day

I crossed the threshold

And began a new life

 

Kissing bye to my sons and dogs

At six in the morning

Driving my ‘87 Horizon

Every inch packed with possessions

Including a portable tv on the front seat

Wrapped in my ubiquitous sleeping bags

Winter and summer prize

For the homeless

Speeding down Interstate 95

Past the Washington DC loop

To Lorton, Virginia

First and only stop for the auto-train

CCR singing out the car speakers

“I went down Virginia, seeking shelter from the storm”

 

From noon to nine next morning

Rode the train in a sit-up seat

Met other women leaving their broken lives

Searching for peace

In what I began to think of

As the start-over state

Florida

Friend for the broken and lonely

But still optimistic

Pioneer-spirited

People of the States

 

We sat in the club car

Chain-smoking through the night

Telling each other horror stories

Of marriages made in hell

Telling each other our hopes

Of finding a job

And bringing our children down

(We were all Northerners, going down, going South)

Starting over

Starting a new life

 

At Sanford, Florida

We exchanged addresses

No cell phones then

I got in my Horizon

St. Patrick’s Day songs on the radio

Drove toward that line

Route 4 in a packed car

Only windows to see from

The windshield and my driver side

Torrents of tears poured from the sky

Lightning coming to ground inches before me

Never saw such a storm in Philly

Nothing to do but grit my teeth and drive

Change lanes with a leap of faith

 

Made it, though

Lucky to have a welcoming

Aunt and Uncle to give me shelter from the storm

Been a quarter century

Can’t say it’s been a lucky charm living here

But could have been worse

Started over

Steered my sons

Through college

Got more dogs

Found jobs, friends, men for those lonely nights

 

But along with the portable TV

And plastic bags of possessions

Came that same person from Philly

We drag ourselves intact

No matter where we go

No magical changes

When crossing the threshold

We have to change ourselves…

 

© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: AMTRAK Auto-Train

 

YouTube video: Creedence Clearwater Revival, Who’ll Stop the Rain

https://youtu.be/lIPan-rEQJA

HAMMOCK MYSTERIES

 

Two-day old crescent above the

Withlacoochee River hammocks

Not much illumination

Especially for seekers of

Cryptic, everyday

Mysteries

People mysteries

Involving love and life and death

But the hammocks have their own problems

As the sea level rises in this

World of climate change

Trees drown

Fish and wildlife dwindle

So maybe they all seek

Answers in their

Bowers of earth

Castles of overheated water

Crisping nests of dead leaves

No time for love when struggling

To find food and stay alive

We are kin to other species

Suffering alike

On this changing planet

Awaiting illumination

That is in a cycle of deep sleep

How to wake it up…?

 

© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Withlacoochee River Hammock

 

THE ROOT QUEEN

Embrace the heat

Of Winter Solstice

No white Christmas

Not even a cool, Florida day

But the prize is a full moon

Plant those roots:

Ginger, carrots, yams

Throw in some garlic and onions

What a goulash they will make

Hot, humid, but the Earth

Coating my hands as I dig

The sweet-smelling manure

That the dogs try to eat,

Makes up for the heat

Setting of the full moon

In the pink of dawn,

No longer high

Eyes of ginger

Gaze to the sky

Bulbs of garlic—

Vampires?

Prepare to die!

And soon there will be onions

Ready to fry!

 

© 2015 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Flowering ginger from CS garden