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:









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)



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



(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




(An Auto-Train Memoir)


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


Friend for the broken and lonely

But still optimistic


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)



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




Two-day old crescent above the

Withlacoochee River hammocks

Not much illumination

Especially for seekers of

Cryptic, everyday


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



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—


Prepare to die!

And soon there will be onions

Ready to fry!


© 2015 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Flowering ginger from CS garden


Central Gulf Coast

Florida cool gone

Along with the orange groves

Zebu humped cattle

Free parking at parks

And the ban on produce stands

We no longer hear

The double sonic boom

From the space shuttle

Landing by the Atlantic

Three hours across the state

As it breaks the sound barrier

And triumphantly announces

Its return to Earth

I miss that the most…


© 2015 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)


Youtube video (1 minute +)




trestles @ creek mineral bluff 2

A photo will not show

Vacation highlights because

How does a camera capture low humidity

A breathable phenomenon

For those who wade through weather

In, for example, the state of Florida?

How to take a picture of utter silence

Broken only by a dog’s bark

Or the crack of a rifle

(My fear I stifle)

Unaware family of deer moving across

The forest floor pocked with

The pecking of wild turkeys

We cautiously find our lost path

Forest giving way to civilization

Dogwoods shelter my dogs from the woods

As we tramp across a wooden bridge

Twenty feet–no handrails–above a frantic creek

Of rushing water like a loud bully

As it pushes over a collection of rocks

Here near Mineral Bluff (Georgia) Depot

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places

But all we find are the remnants of

Rotting railroad trestles

Recycled as natural planters

Raging creek rapids a daily garden hose

At last, the cabin with an indoor

Scent like a forest of fresh wood

Though wet dog odor proves

Nature’s aroma is no match

This power spot is also situated in

Cherokee County, North Carolina

We drive through the American blandness of Murphy

With its identical fast food restaurants and stores

Only to find out that it was once the sorrowful

Start of the Trail of Tears

The site of the Cherokee Removal

When the tribes were forced to move

West of the Mississippi River

I shed tears for them and other forced marches

Even in my own ethnic nightmare of the Second World War

The breakaway state of Transnistria

A place where the Roma and Sinti

(Members of my family)

And Ukrainian and Roumanian Jews

Were deported to their death like the Native Americans

And so many countless groups on our beautiful Earth

But we are a luckier generation

We get into the car and drive to

Copper Hill, Tennessee to see a mine full of arsenic

Eating away at a town of unfriendly people

We thought we would move there, the reason for our trip

But no, too much heartbreak and suffering permeate the air

We stop to see the TVA dam that powers all but my WIFI and cell phone

Two useless-in-the-mountains pieces of technology

Teasing me, not allowing me to communicate

How spoiled I am! Not forced marched out of my homeland

Just forced to be without social media for a few days…

None of it matters, of course, because

The power of four seasons (instead of two)

In a three-state section of the Blue Ridge Mountains

Tempts me by awakening the desire to leave

The impossible temperatures of Florida

To begin a new life

Will I?

© 2015 ViataMaja