Florida

Hallowed Swamp

Ghost of a song
Echoing down dirt lanes
Ectoplasming past my tin home
Dead-ended in the swamp
Classical Spanish music
Evolving into Flamenco
Three in the morning
More dangerous than midnight
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Proclaims it the ruling of lungs
Emergency Medical Services
Named it the heart attack hour
Both are right

Call and response
Tenor guitar slung on my shoulder
Wisp of a ghost, maybe two
No fear from me
I strum with the shadows
Exercising my lungs
In the dark, I sing
That moment
That moment one’s percussive heart
Keeps time with the melody
Music taking wing
Jolted by the strings
Controlled by invisible fingers
Chords seducing their
Gaggles of ghosts
Who suddenly surge
Down the road, into the muck

Last Quarter Moon glimmers
Through a pellucid sky
Glitters on wet swamp earth revealing
A crucifix, dirty yet untarnished gold
Wipe it on my long black shirt
Treasure forced to the surface
From heavy rain
Overflowing swamp

And I see a long line led by
A history book explorer
Hernando DeSoto, I’m sure
Once memorized for a test
In a long-ago inner city school:
620 men from 9 ships
220 horses
Priests, farmers, soldiers
Up from Tampa Bay
Hiking through Safety Harbor’s burial mound*
To the Weeden Island Cultures’ mound**
A few miles from me
In New Port Richey
Mound to Mound

Looking down on the ground
Kicking with my black combats
Scattering pottery, human remains
Two skulls head to head
Holding hands
In moldy bed
Since 1539
Buried in a swamp of time
Forbidden love?
Oh, yes
In the shadows
An armored man
A doe-skinned woman
Holding hands
As a priestly spectre
Waving a crucifix
Shouts heathens must die
And they collapse
To the tune of soldiers’ muskets
Loudly exploding, drowning out the music
And the lovers become history
In a piece of Florida swamp
Encroaching on my future backyard
As earth is kicked over
Hiding the pair
Guitar notes evaporating

And the moon silently wanes
After a final wail
From wraiths
I pale
Among ancient bones and faded gold
Alone and not dreaming…

(c) 2018 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)
IMAGE: Hallowed Swamp and Tenor Guitar

* http://seesafetyharbor.com/Philippe-Park/Indian-Mound/
** https://www.pascocountyfl.net/1193/Oelsner-Indian-Mound

de soto expedition map

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TANKA (Ananas comosus)

(Morning surprise in my compost pile)

 

Fresh pineapple stems
Tossed in fertile Florida
Treat for backyard birds
Silent, self-rooting surprise
Pineapple fields forever…

(c) 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)
IMAGE: My pineapple “field”

THE ROOT QUEEN

Re-post from 2 years ago (so we are in New Moon, not full as the poem states so the planting will take place around New Years).    Today’s pre-Christmas eve weather is 93% humidity and 79 degrees F. temperature.  Wishing you all healthy, happy, and fun holidays ❤

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

“ROCK YOU LIKE A HURRICANE”

 

*scroll down for a YouTube video*

Make sense, make sense of scariness by structure

Journalize the fear

So I mind-say Dear Diary:

 

We know each other

On the strength of our poetry

Generously offering me

A place to stay, words of comfort

On this horrible day

Invitations arrive from

Friends and family

In overwhelming kindness

Yet, I cannot see bringing

Three dogs with me

 

Hours before Irma comes ashore

Heading for the motel

Driving down deserted Main Street

Might be the coming of

The Zombie Apocalypse

But it is merely a Category 5 Hurricane

 

Settled in sanctuary

Dogs dreaming on strange beds

Tapping my tablet

Social media taking away

The dread of loneliness

People care, even if we never met

So as I sweat

In a hotel without electricity

I think about the positives

Of Facebook, WordPress and Twitter

 

Dogs need trees

To lift their legs

So in the dark we walk

Incessant rain jabs the skin

Like plucking a splinter

With a pin

And as the wind becomes wilder

A cold, preternatural sensation

Lifts my curly hair above the nape

 

Twenty-four hours after

Prime bands from Irma

Begin to dissipate

A half rainbow appears

Been too many years

Since I believed that

Rainbows are a sign of happiness

And love to come, staying forever

Whether we go over or under it

But I ask for health and strength anyway

Always wise

To compromise

Never burn your bridges

Believe until the end

For we never know

 

Trepidationally driving home

Wondering if a Live Oak fell

Onto my tin trailer roof

Or if a long-term power outage

Renders my water well pump fruitless

My air conditioner within silent reach

Streets blocked by fallen trees

Flooded with muddied water

No humans seen in this continuing cataclysm

 

Will all end in anarchy

Without electricity?

But oh, as I bump along my dirt road

Pull into the marshy drive

Delicate banana trees broken at the spine

I see a beautiful sight

On! On! The outside light!

 

So grateful because I know

Many people lost their lives

Lost their homes

Maybe even lost their faith

In the battering wind and rain

This time, I received a gift

Thank you, thank you, thank you…

 

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Hurricane Irma, Naples, FL (cnn.com)

 

*YouTube video: Scorpions, Rock You Like A Hurricane https://youtu.be/Ypq1FsSXdbE

 

 

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