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



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




Confessed autism

Honesty not always best

Some non-autistics scared

Think we violently meltdown

Read: murderous

(Witnesses doomed to burn)

At best we seem stiff

Read: weird

(Because we don’t like the touch of strangers)

At worst, we seem iffy

Read: untrustworthy

(Because we don’t march cadently)

How about that occasional

Inappropriate comment

Sorry, I thought it was funny

I see it’s not

Hey, where you going?

(Another friend lost)

So where are all those people

Who want to mainstream us

Struttin’ around

Writing books and speeches

Raising money

But will you be my friend?

Will you hang out with me?

“We’ll get together soon…”

Yeah, I heard that line

From a Harry Chapin song

Read: NO

So seems I was smart

Being in denial for years

No one ever knew

But then, I woke up

Thought I could be true

To me and you

But here’s my realistic view:

Sometimes it is better

Not to emerge from

The autism closet

Unless you have a superpower that others want

Read: fame, fortune

But some days you’ll know

Who the real friends are

And they will appear


To brighten your days…


© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: CLOSET (Pinterest: no attribution)




(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



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?


Or should I say



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


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


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)



YouTube video (this song not recorded until 2 years after the action of the poem but I like the Hendrix-Dylan mix)


© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Café Wha 1966 NY Daily News






Smoked round reed for spokes and braiders

Soak them into flexibility

Cross, pinch, entwine and weave

Humming hymns of tranquility


Zeus breaking off the horn of his nurse

Heracles wrestling a river god of fables

Either led to an abundance myth

Winding up on Thanksgiving tables


Growing gourds, red and green Earth treats

Nuts and flowers complete the increase

Profusion of life’s requirements

Create a still life centerpiece


Magnetic pull of voices from the past

Call and text loved ones far away

Laughter, tears, music of the spheres

The beauty of a traditional holiday


© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Peter Paul Rubens, Abundantia





Ghosts warning me

Do not stay

Go away

But I trust

That friendship will

Conquer all


Trust that kindness

And compassion

Trust that unconditional

Friendship will

Conquer all

Human egotism


I smell Old Spice on the wind

Maybe I’ll be washed out to sea

Salting the wound

Suffocating the spicy me

Turned against for something lightly said

What was going through my head

That I believed

You could be a



© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Bethesda Salt Cave



(Revised Repost)

When a friend is needed

One will appear

When no longer needed

The friend will disappear

Separation anxiety

Work it through

So difficult to know

Unable to read the clues

On a face, in their words

Nothing remains of you

But this explains

The birth of the Blues:

Oh, my baby done left me

What will I do…?



Virtually dumped

Hurts as much as the real thing

Sad simulation


© 2015 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)





I remember decades ago

Sweet sixteen

Twilit window

Youth in shadow

Talking endlessly

About the man we wanted

To meet now

And someday marry

Suddenly blurted

“We’re consumed with guys!

I see us as old ladies

Still talking about them!”

Crossing yourself, you cried,

“No! We’ll be happy, I know.”

No longer friends

Faces now naturally

Chiaroscuro masks

Modeled by time

But I wonder

Wherever you are

If you remember that conversation

I wonder if your prediction came true for you

Because mine is reflected

In my endless aging fantasies

And poetry

About the man I want

To meet now

And someday marry


I ache more from

Missing the sisterhood

Of a close female friend

Who shares my heart…


© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Murillo, Two Women At A Window


picasso contemplative woman

When a teacher is needed

One will appear

But also

When a friend is needed

One will appear

When no longer needed

The friend will disappear

Separation anxiety

Work it through

So difficult to know

Unable to read the clues

On a face, in their words

Nothing remains of you

But this explains

The birth of the Blues:

Oh, my baby done left me

What will I do…?

© 2015 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)



stray dogs creative commons

Pass the baby around

Take turns rocking and lullabying

Give a break to the new mother

Just a small but subtle kindness

Women do for each other.


Open the hood of a car

Men wander out of their homes

Shuffling to the tune of the Pied Piper of motor oil

Staring at the engine

Offering their advice as if to a brother

The male version of kindness to each other.


Children can be disturbingly mean

Yet if one is crying, an innate understanding surfaces

A desire to aid their fellow toddler

Who screams as if about to smother

As their compassion resonates from one to another.


Dogs who dislike each other

Will temporarily forgive and huddle around the loner

The one cowering from lightning or fire crackers

As they remember the pack rule

Of sister and brother.


Are we tribal sociopaths? Or are we capable of

Love and compassion for each other?

The pack is the clue, whether human or not

Revealing a generosity of spirit

That we joyfully rediscover.


© 2014 ViataMaja, Poezija


PJ PARTY MEMOIR (Dedicated to Lynn Sher)

Sixteen will never return

But memories are lasered

Throughout the brain’s cortex

Faces, songs, snippets of conversations


Big PJ party in NJ

After living in PA

Until age 15

Now starting new friendships

What better way than to unite

My old and new friends?


Lynn is my new best New Jersey friend

She wants to be an actress

See her here? Long hair, tall, beautiful

And she actually likes me! Me, so boring

So serious

Writing “God is Dead” in my diary

Copying the Existential JP Sartre

Whose name is unpronounceable

Like is it Sart or Sartray or Sarter?

Yet, I should be writing about boys

I have a crush on. But no, cannot do that

Always have to challenge myself, be different

But my Philly friend Arlene, one of the popular girls,

Is impressed with my words (thanks, Arlene!)

And my Philly friend Wilma is used to my nuttiness

(Thanks, Wilma!) We’re singing partners on long summer porch nights

And Madi, my cousin’s cuz, you may have been there too

Laughing along with me. We both loved to laugh (thanks, Madi!)


Lynn organizes us

She says, “Let’s put on the ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ album

And do the parts! I’ll be Ann Margaret!”

So here are a bunch of sixteen year olds

All kinds of sizes, all kinds of faces

Lined up on the Broadway stage of my parents’ new home

Singing, “Did you hear about Hugo and Kim? Did she really get pinned?

Did she kiss him and sigh? Did he pin the pin on? Or was he too shy?”

Oh, how I secretly craved to have a boyfriend like Hugo who loved me!

Oh, how I now realize we ALL secretly craved to have a boyfriend like Hugo who loved us!


We danced the next hour, singing and laughing

My poor parents had to work the next day

But they battened down the hatches in the bedroom

And let us let loose


After pizza and soda

(No one knew or cared about cholesterol back then)

It was “West Side Story”

I wanted to be Anita

Sultry Rita Moreno

I knew all the words and it was my party

So I was Anita and Lynn was Maria

Then we became the Jets

Shining as we did “Cool”:

“Boy, boy, crazy boy, stay loose boy!”

Broadway, watch out for us!


In order to wind down we did

The “She looks like she’s asleep thing”

One person stretched out on the floor

The rest of us circled the “body”

Dark room, quiet

Each of us repeating from the previous:

“She looks like she’s asleep”

“She may be asleep”

“Do you think she’s asleep”

Finally ending with


Sliding two fingers from each hand

Under the “body” and lifting her up into the air!

Far out! What a magical group we were!

Levitators extraordinaire!


Eventually, most were stretched out on the floor

Gently snoring, eyes dancing in REM mode

I rarely slept and Lynn was the same

We went into my room, sat on the floor

Me smoking, she not

And talked about our futures

I would be a best-selling author, of course

And Lynn would be an Oscar-winning actress


The following week she called me from the hospital

Saying her mouth was bleeding and she had dark bruises

On her thin arms and legs

I went to the hospital next day

And we talked and laughed

Although her eyes were like full moons

Sailing through a purple-bruised sky


The next day another NJ friend called me

To say Lynn was dead from Leukemia

How to bear never to be able to laugh and talk to Lynn?

It will get easier, I was told

But this happened exactly 50 years ago

Why are tears trailing down my cheeks

As if it was yesterday?


© 2014 ViataMaja, Laminas (Poetic Memoirs)