folk music

THE LET IT BE UKULELE & JOHN DENVER’S MINIMALIST CHORDS

 

Finally found a ukulele

That enhances the Beatles song

Or a hymn, really

Of acceptance

With a touch of

Unconditional love

Mother Mary

Or whomever you want to name her

A comfort when needed

Song sounds accurate

Thanks to the

Chensheng hand-made one

Seems I have ukuleles

That specialize in

The songs I love

(Because I can’t read notes

Can’t adapt the melody

Can’t figure out the capo either)

The Luna peace concert one

Perfect for my own song-writing attempts

While Vincent

Forever encapsulated

In his starry, starry night

Resonates on the Ibanez concert

Just love Ronstadt on the Oscar Schmidt tenor

As I twang about love

Or the lack thereof

Yet the song that can enthrall

Can play perfectly on all

Is “Leaving on a Jet Plane”

Underrated John Denver

Whom I once hitched a ride with

From the Philadelphia Folk Festival

Before he was famous

Singing with the Mitchell Trio

What a friendly, happy man

So kind to us young ones

Zooming along the roads

Glad to find coffee and real bathrooms

After a night of no sleep on the muddy pastures

Where music built a crochet chain

Linking all the people responding to

Acoustic folk guitar

Voices hoarse from our singing

Around nomadic campfires

A time when

John Denver was yet to write

The 3-chord song

One song fits all

My ukuleles

No matter my mood

So simple

Play it and see:

G…C

G…C

G…C…D…

 

 

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: My tenor ukulele with late winter berries

SCARING KORAKO (CROW)

 

No exaggeration

Fifty-plus crows

In my backyard oaks

Noisy and cawing

How they croaked

Despite the dogs

Barking and leaping

The crows intent on

Hysterical cardinals

And doves scared out of sleeping

They never react to crashing noises

Screaming or begging

Or my Romani words of magical ploys

So tried the peaceful way

And walked around the yard

Me with my ukulele

Playing and singing

“Leaving on a Jet Plane”

(Don’t know when YOU’LL be back again)

And really, they quieted, discussed my words

Took wing, darkening the still-daylight waxing moon

Feeling best to go hungry

Than put up with that screeching, plunking loon

And I heard the collective sigh

Of backyard, hiding birds, no lie

How useful I feel

Scarecrow extraordinaire

Guess I finally have a brain…

 

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: My tenor ukulele with berries

HISTORIC WALLS OF RITTENHOUSE SQUARE

 

How can it be?

Generations of posteriors

Warming Rittenhouse Square’s walls

Feeling tall and superior

 

Now it’s a crime

To perch with friends

Glad to see it’s ignored

Youth refuses to descend

 

I played my kazoo

Sitting on those walls

While guitars and voices

Rose above traffic squalls

 

Listened to anti-war speeches

Drank my first beer at fifteen

Handed up by a bearded hippie

Tore my first bell-bottom jeans

 

All the years after

The Square played its part

An island in the midst of the city

Sitters the park’s heart

 

Take down those signs

Philly, it’s a mystery

Why you ignore the beauty

Of an unbroken line of history…

 

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Yong Kim, Philadelphia Inquirer Daily News

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20170113_City_puts_up__no_sitting__signs_in_Rittenhouse_Square__targets_weed.html

 

 

LYRICAL ARCHAEOLOGY

 

*scroll down for YouTube video of S&G*

i.

Wish I’d studied archaeology

But could never see myself

In desert, jungle or ice

So stayed content

Wandering through silent museums

Or looking through picture books

From free libraries

Food crumbs and oily fingerprints

Pressed between the pages of mystery

Left by others interested

In ancient lives

But archaeology exists in music

Sure, we have bios about a few

Composers from centuries ago

But think of lyrics

From songs of the last century

ii.

Paul Simon’s America

If we weren’t alive yet we now know

In the early sixties

Men traveled by bus wearing suits

Belted raincoats worthy of the finest 30s detectives

And bowties!

Smoking cigarettes and eating Mrs. Wagner’s pies

We also know, though,

That like today

People were empty and aching

Yet moved by the moon rising over open fields

All that information in a three-minute song

We learned that Bobby Vinton’s women wore

Blue velvet

Before blue denim

And black leather reigned

And Joni Mitchell fell in love

Dancing in a torn stocking

We know Joe Hill and his men

Drove around the country, writing union songs

Being profiled by small town law

Torn out of their Depression-era cars

Beaten, hung

Bob Dylan sang to us about pellets of poison

Flooding our waters

As Phil Ochs refused to march again

To another war

And Richie Havens

Asking for freedom

In the Garden of Music

At Woodstock

Best of all

We have that visual

Of a head with hair

Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen

Hair down to there, shoulder length or longer
iii.

So each and every one of us

We who memorized or heard a lyric

Has dug through the sands of time

Discovering treasures

Greater than dead gold artifacts

Or mummified bones

We are the culture archaeologists

Owners of rhythm and melody

Alive music in harmony

Part of our historical quest

Forever in our hearts possessed…

 

© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)
YouTube video Simon & Garfunkel “America”  https://youtu.be/W773ZPJhcVw

ALMOST EIGHTEEN WITH HENDRIX & MANTRAS FROM THE BEAT POETS

(A Lengthy Memoir for Family and Interested Friends)

*Scroll down for YouTube Video

Well-meaning promises girlfriends make

When almost eighteen

Trip to Greenwich Village

Four dollars a night room

Oozing weed, house on fire

Herbs inspire

We vowed

To stay together

When meeting guys

If one doesn’t like hers

Move on to the next

Together…

 

Seemed like thousands of hippies

In search of the music

(and weed)

(and sex)

Took over the streets of

MacDougal and Bleecker

Almost eighteen

Lovely lasses, although

I wouldn’t realize that until

Reaching old age

Two guys hitting on us

Not sure if we used that expression

Back then

I liked mine, she didn’t, moved on

Another two guys

Same thing

 

 

She liked the third pair

But I didn’t

Sorry, says she, I want him

Hated his friend

I just wasn’t existential enough

To like someone who bluntly said,

“I want to f*ck you”

Come on man, I think

Lie a little

Reach into your bag of romantic words

Say you can really love me, or something

Because the truth is

I’m a virgin at almost eighteen

 

 

We’re now at the Café Wha

Begging her, saying, “You promised”

“Oh please,” says she, “I think he’s the one.

Go find another, the place is crawling with guys”

Walking around alone

Meeting interesting possibilities

Watching a band set up

Black man with electric guitar

Electric guitar?

Isn’t this a folk music club?

What?

Or should I say

Wha?

 

He twangs

We roll our eyes

Continue talking

Noise level bursting

My not-known-at-the-time

Autistic brain

But suddenly

The guitar

The voice

OMG, I mean, Groovy

Fog of silence muffles the audience

Only the voice

Only the guitar

“What’s his name?” I whisper

To the enthralled guy next to me

“Hendrix, the sign outside said,

Jimi Hendrix”

Heaven must have sent you from above

Jimi Hendrix…

 

So then the set is over

And I just want to be alone

With my thoughts

And the electric sound

That I swore I’d never listen to

Again

I leave the Café Wha

Never understanding left from right

Find myself on the edge of

The Bowery

An Edward Hopper Nighthawkish

Coffee shop

Not hip like a coffee house

Counter the only place to

Drink stale, black coffee

Wow, I think

Looking around

Everyone is male

Everyone is beaten down

Hazed in alcoholic poverty

Can’t even claim to hear

The Beatles singing

“All the lonely people”

Because they’re still singing

“Yeah, yeah, yeah songs”

That’s how long ago it was

 

 

Eyes drawn to the window

Neon-lit sign

Backwards, blinking

Holy sh*t! my mind exclaims

Bickford’s!

I’m sinking all night

In submarine light

At Bickford’s

Paraphrase of Ginsberg’s Howl

Is it my karma to relive

All the sad songs and poetry

Of the universe…?

 

 

Outside again, lost in the dark

But manage to find

Fourteenth Street & Seventh Avenue

Roaches on the walls

Lonely weed smoke in the halls

Shove my stuff into a duffle

Leave a note for the friend

Manage to find the subway

After a conversation with, I’m sure,

A serial killer who wants to take me home

Three in the morning

Subway roaring

Greyhound Terminal

(didn’t Ginsberg write a poem about that too?)

Two hours later

A new dawn in Philly

Just another day in the life of

A lonely teenager…

 

(for a continuation, see my poem Screw You Universe written previously)  https://poeturja.wordpress.com/2016/07/31/screw-you-universe-another-memoir-apology/

 

 

YouTube video (this song not recorded until 2 years after the action of the poem but I like the Hendrix-Dylan mix)  https://youtu.be/TLV4_xaYynY

 

© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Café Wha 1966 NY Daily News

 

 

 

P’HABENGI RAT, CHERNOBYL STYLE (folksong work-in-progress)

 

Moonlit walk along the swamp

Dark pre-dawn

Dogs surrounding

A lone man

Silvery hair like mine

Tight black jeans

Hand stretched

Doggie demented howling ceased

Trotting away

Leaving me, unconcerned

Leaving me alone

With this handsome dream man

 

Says he:

I was born in the woods by Chernobyl

A healthy Canis lupus lupus

One day…so terrible…I wanted to pray

Sick for weeks

My family dead

I lived, though

And when the moon is full

I become a man

Pain-free radiation mutation

I am immortal

I lust for blood

But I lust for love, too

 

Found money and flew

To your safer country

Where the kind of food I crave

Is readily available

And no innocent is harmed

 

Tonight, I walk upright

In the comforting swamp

And here you are once again

After watching you for months

Day and night

Observing your kindness, beauty

And sadness

I want to make you happy

Will you be my eternal comrade?

 

Says I:

For a few days you are a man

But what of those phases

When the moon waxes and wanes

Who do you become?

No longer a maid

I have acquired wisdom

Leaping into lust

Maybe love

Is never what it seems

 

Says he:

I will join your pack

A silvery wolf I’ll be

Content and tame

Able to understand

Who I sometimes am

Yet by virtue of form

Unable to do what a man does

Until the orb waxes full

 

Think I:

This, after a lifetime

Devoid of love

Here I stand

Under a Hunter’s Moon

Silver wolf proposing to me

Alone and half dead anyway

Trust is impossible but

Come what may

I’ll live then die

No trace of me

 

Says I:

In honesty, I do not know you

Do not know if I will love you

But I am willing to try

Is there a way for me

To gain immortality?

 

Says he (as the moon moves closer to Earth):

Yes…

 

Says I (as the moon and stars shower flowers of sparks):

Yes…

 

TO BE CONTINUED, PERHAPS

 

© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Chernobyl Wildlife Returns (no identification)

“HOW MANY TIMES…?”

 

Oh, the outcry

About Dylan’s lack of

Poetic language

Since when

Has HOW something is said

Become more important

Than WHAT is being said?

Beautifully-crafted words

Versus

The convocation

Leading to freedom

Perhaps a national trait

At least, since 1776

What good are Wordsworth’s words

About Daffodils

If they are poisoned by

Monsanto?

For biblical fans

You’ll understand

There is a time for beauty

But also

A time for action…

 

© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Troubadour (thuleanperspective.com)

FINALLY!

Congratulations to Bob Dylan for winning the Nobel Prize in Literature! I remember saying in an English class (1980s) that Bob Dylan was the greatest poet of our time. Not only the class, but also the instructor, laughed at me. I’ve never changed my opinion. He set my life path when I was 15 years old and I’ve never regretted it!

Many of his songs seem to have arisen from literature.  I noticed that A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall is a lot like the old Irish The Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel.  There is the repetition of “what did you see” and other elements of heroic folklore and folk music.

Literature comes in many forms and nothing is greater than the traveling bard singing the poem…

(c) 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

CAJUNED IN PHILLY

*scroll down for a BeauSoleil youtube video*

Last night I wandered into
A YouTube video
Or so I believed
Hometown visit from
The quiet of my Florida swamp
To the screeching insanity
Of the city I love
Straddling the past littered with ghosts
And an unknown future
Metaphored by vultures
Surfing the air currents
So the evening in World Cafe
Was already a bit unreal
Learned that videos are
A poor substitute for reality
Learned that the moon
Isn’t the only celestial magic wand
Learned that the sun not only
Bestows life to listeners
But also radiates its own
Energy
Via voice, violin, guitar, percussion
Live music
Palpable magic spell
Weaving words and melody so well
BeauSoleil creating its own place
Shining between time and space
As I willingly drifted
In their musical embrace…


(c) 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)
Image: BeauSoleil Avec Michael Doucet

UNCONSUMMATED GUITAR

(scroll down for YouTube video)

 

Began my love affair with you

A twenty-five dollar acoustic guitar

Gifted for my sixteenth birthday

Six wild months of passion followed

As I learned all my favorites in a

Peter, Paul and Mary song book

But like many flighty teens

It was merely a flirtation

And I met a twenty-five cent kazoo

Who was not as high maintenance

As you

Requiring no lengthy practice time

Just blow and hum

Eventually, gave him up too

Stuck to the radio until MTV entered my life

But just didn’t get the videos

And the music, well,

No real Janis or Jimi-worthy singers

By the 90s

I was buying 60s and 70s CDs

Screw trying to stay current with music

Music?

Fifteen years into the new century

Began a new love affair

His name is ukulele

Oh, the excitement!

And after a full year

I’m still in love!

Playing every day

Writing silly songs

Singing off-key

My ukulele and me

We’re one

But no,

Under the sign of Virgo

I’ll be traveling 1000 miles

To see my sons

How will I part from my

Long-term lover ukulele?

He’s too much to drag

Along with a suitcase, back pack

Laptop, phone, kindle, and two

Pairs of black boots

Epiphany

Doesn’t my son own a guitar?

Tremblingly, I ask via phone

May I borrow it while you’re at work

The full week I’m alone in the home?

Yes, yes he says!

And this feeling

That I kept secret for a week

But am now confessing on social media

This shocking feeling is called LUST!

I’m LUSTING for my old lover

Willing to cheat on ukulele

Throwing it under the bus

To have one last dance with guitar

But I will pay for my sin

I’m a die-hard acoustic-lover

Once booed Dylan at a folk festival

When he hauled out his electric guitar

Oh, how can I play one?

But I will

I will play my son’s electric guitar

I will probably pretend to be Joan Jett

Singing, “I Love Rock N Roll…”

(Oh, wish I was skinny like her)

And I don’t care that I’m hurting ukulele

I don’t care that I’m selling out my principles

Trading wood for plastic

I can feel guitar

As we embrace

I can hear guitar as we duet

My heart is racing

Consummation at last…

 

© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE:  B.C. Rich Warlock Metal Master

 

 

https://youtu.be/gd6CqLyiGJU  Joan Jett, I Love Rock N Roll (YouTube video)