memoir

KEEP ON DANCING MEMOIR

 

*scroll down for a YouTube video*

 

Little sun-struck cloud

Floating on a tutu

Ballet shoes held on

By an elastic strap

She pirouettes

Dreaming of dancing as

The Nutcracker princess

Some day

Suddenly, “No money”

She is told

For lessons

 

Here are little girls

Strolling through school halls

Twisting, Cha-Cha-ing

Across a new decade’s

Boundary line

Ponying, monkeying, limbo-ing

Waiting for the boys to join in

Suddenly almost-teenagers

Arms wrapped around each other

Softly believing

“We could get married

Then we’d be happy”

Oh those boys of the beach

They knew the secret of life

 

Suddenly the dancing stops

As a new genre

From an older time

Takes hold acoustically

Words of protest

Arising from the smoke of weed

Shuttered eyelids

Heads nodding as

Young men and women agreed

 

And then incredible colors

Splash over us, waking us up

As Sgt. Pepper changes rock and roll

Changes us all

And suddenly the world alters

Letting in the Blues

Jazzing us up

Alcohol takes hold

And once again we dance

So close, not even a straw can pass between

And we move across another borderline

Pea coats, bell bottoms, boots

Replaced by Sci Fi platform shoes

Polyester clothes that

Researchers insist cause cancer

And we smoke

And we dance

And we drink

And we do whatever feels good

In this new decade of peace

 

And our faces become pierced

Bodies become a canvas for art

Good and bad

Clothing deliberately torn

Dancing is the banging of heads

Lots of lyrics involve the word “dead”

But we dance

 

Until suddenly, the dancing stops

The music stops

The rhythm stops

The melody stops

There is absolutely nothing

But a horrible chanting

An ending to the sounds we once knew

And loved

Little girl’s hair

Turns to gray

Wondering if

There is a way

To keep on dancing…

 

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Degas, Dancer With a Bouquet of Flowers

 

The Gentrys, Keep On Dancing  https://youtu.be/HhqX_VdQT10 YouTube video

 

 

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MEMOIR: WORKING CLASS HERO (IS NOTHING TO BE)

*scroll down for YouTube video*

 

How in the world

Would parents force a

Fifteen-year-old

On the subway

From Snyder Avenue

To York-Dauphin

To work at an optician’s

Known by her aunt

Five in the evening

(Already dark in winter)

To nine p.m.

Alone

Some days so herded in

Couldn’t sit

Always seemed to be

A man in the crowd

Dry-humping

Virginal me

Winter coats smelling

Of camphor and sweat

Late at night less bodies

Perfected a scowl

Making no eye contact

Best to look crazy

As if I gripped a knife

Under my smelly, heavy coat

But finally able to afford

Denim and faux leather

Mini dresses, jeans

End justifying the means

On the rodent wheel

Of consumerism

To working class status

But no hero, oh no…

 

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Subway entrance, Philly

 

https://youtu.be/njG7p6CSbCU  John Lennon, Working Class Hero  (YouTube)

ANETHUM GRAVEOLENS

 

Ooooh that smell

Not really quoting Skynyrd

Smell of life

Merari, my Gran called it

Dill

Chicken vegetable soup

Fresh merari

Tossed on top of the pot

For the last five minutes of bubbling

Hot kitchen, cold winter

But now

Evening in Florida swamp

Smell it growing wild

Well, seed pods begging to be harvested

Must have blown out of my neglected pots

When I took time off from growing herbs

Planted themselves

And now

An aromatic memoir greets me

In the soft gray

End of day

Bringing the ghosts of Gran and Mom

Aunt Cee and Aunt Are

Bumping hips

While dancing around each other

In a small kitchen

With a huge pot

 

Forgetting I have no pockets

Because women’s clothing

Usually doesn’t include that all-important

Piece of fabric

(Can’t have it interfering with the hip line

Of a voluptuous woman)

But I reach for my pouch

So inconvenient to draw attention

While fumbling with the drawstring

Just to feel the reassurance of

My pocket deities:

Acorn, feather, sea shell and fiery bloodstone

Imbued with my essence

From touching them with

Invisible fingertip oil

Touching, touching

Wanting to keep the ghosts of family

Singing and laughing

Forever happy

Keep those ghosts forever

But soon they fade

And I vow

That tomorrow

I will search the sunlit swamp

For a sprig of dill

Add it to my female pocket

And one day call upon

The memory

Once again

From the scent of an earthen gift…

 

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Dill, Wikipedia

 

AGING WITH ORION

 

Missing Orion, but he will soon return to the Northern Hemisphere skies…

(I) ORION AT TWENTY
After meditating in Neolithic darkness
A tranquil universe is born
While camping at the folk festival
Guitars and violins
Chants and poems echo
With a new moon making visible
Stars and planets joining Orion
In his nightly romp up high
Through the speckled night sky
Venus, Mars, Pleiades
(Those seven sisters smiling upon us)

(II) ORION AT FORTY:
When Orion peels himself off
The black backdrop of the celestial ceiling
And his dog Sirius herds him to my door
I will shake the star-dusted golden glitter
From the halo of hair that I wear free and curly
And as the earthy music soars and sinks
While minor chords weave a robe so warm
I will sharpen the dagger hanging from his waist
And welcome the result of being chased
By the winter Star Man who has come at last…

(III) ORION AT SIXTY
Navy blue Southern sky so reachable
Here he is, once again, tonight
Stretched out, over my head
My legs apart, as wide as his
Dog at my heels
Lift my arms and double high five him
Balance deserts as I stumble into a terracotta pot of ginger
No dignity in old age
But my hands, for a brief blink of time, touched the stars

© 2015 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja), Parallel Universe Café and Other Poems, Wildsound Video read by performer

 

NA, NA, NA, NA-NA-NA-NA NA-NA-NA-NA

 

 

*scroll down for YouTube video*

 

An extra

Four and a half minutes

Revolutionizing music

Before that

Typical two minute songs

Good ones, so good

Motown, Beach Boys

Can’t Help Falling in Love

Even the most commercial protest songs

From a some-day peace prize winner

Are winding down

And the times they are a changing

Because the generation is demanding

And history is made

In a car tuned to AM radio

And here’s a song

On and on

Over six minutes

NA, NA, NA, NA-NA-NA-NA

NA-NA-NA-NA

Hey Jude…

Teen in Nehru mini

He driving in Nehru shirt

Just out of the Army

Germany, not Nam

How’d he get so lucky

And the na-na’s go on

The guitars and drums

Voices and song

In the latest evolution

Of cruising music

And decades later

As that teen-turned-old-lady

Pedals on her elliptical

Singing to sunny skies

Ignoring the feeling

That youth was full of lies

About the future

Because the music remained true

A wormhole to wander through

Hey, Jude…

 

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

The Beatles, Hey Jude

https://youtu.be/cII1jJWDf04

 

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

 

 

 

TIME LAPSE

 

Air potatoes in indistinct moonlight

Like modern Winchcombe Grotesques

Fortifying the overgrowth of summer vines

Chills in the heat, dancing along my spine

Monstrous night

Dogs plastered to the fence

Growling at an undone rope

A rope unwound

Hanging on a spindly tree

Gulf Coast wind winding up to

A shrieking Banshee force

Is it the 3 a.m. heart attack

Or a dream

Can’t recall rolling out of bed

Sliding through the glass door

Suddenly soaking suede cloth boots

I think, Well, that feels real

Surreal similarity of when I was four

High on my uncle’s shoulders

Defying the Atlantic Ocean

Then slapped by a wave

Drowning

But still breathing

Under the sea

Thinking

Well, this is it

Then feeling him find me

Scoop me up

Carry me back to Atlantic City sounds

Of ice cream men walking the beach

Of children shouting, alive and laughing

All a blank after that, like now

And I fall on sleeping red-ant villages

On the beach of my back yard

Mosquitoes glued to skin welting up

My smallest dog jumps onto my back

As if we’re in bed

And suddenly my head

Clears in the darkness

Despite humidity and drizzle

It’s real, I rise

Clap my hands demanding the dogs to follow

Maybe they, as nocturnals, belong here

But no place for me

At three

In the unearthly morning

Of moon madness

Brought on, I surmise

From OD-ing on chamomile tea

And vomit-smelling valerian drops

All in the name of at least

A good two hours sleep

But back in the cool air conditioned bed

Insomniac thoughts reverberate in my head

How’d I get there without remembering

And, most importantly

Who hung that freaking rope

Who hung on it…

 

swamprope1

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGES: Rope in my swamp, medieval Winchcombe Grotesque

winchcombe grotesques

 

CLOTHES DOTH NOT THE GIRL MAKE (MEMOIR)

A SPRING EQUINOX POEM

 (scroll down for a YouTube video)

 

Bonnet, bag and blossoms

Hope to have them for Easter

But Spring Equinox beckoned

Dad woke us in amaranthine darkness

Loaded us into his brother’s borrowed car

Mom boiled eggs and sliced home-baked bread

Tantalizing thermos coffee jolted me awake

Off we took

Navigating strange streets in Pennsylvania

Before the building of obsolete expressways

Automobile slouches through Bethlehem*

Manual transmission grinding

But brakes holding

Me, eyes aglow

Yay!  Forget about Easter clothes

We’ll be baptized in the mist of

Niagara Falls

Between Canada and New York

How good to be me

Front teeth finally filled in the gaps

Able to sing without lisping

Along with Mom and Dad

How happy and young they are

As we sing “Ain’t Got A Barrel of Money”

And I no longer care

About my holey underwear

Although it will be another year

Without

Bonnet, bag and blossoms…

 

*W.B. Yeats paraphrase

 

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

 

YouTube video (ukulele, of course!)  https://youtu.be/f4k4xdTVHGE

 

Image: Double Rainbows, Horseshoe Falls @ Niagara Falls (streetsmash)


TAROT LAYOUT OF THE PAST

 

Endless suns ago

When I bought my first black underwear

Just learning how good it felt

To have my bloodless white lipstick

Kissed off

Hardly aware of the

Dead stars signaling me

As the Old Hickory whiskey plant

Spewed its noxious fumes

Baptizing the Walt Whitman Bridge residents

Frantically driving between

Philly and Camden

To get a fresher whiff of the salt air

In Atlantic City

The last slice of innocence

Endless suns ago

 

Endless suns ago

We laughed as hail hit your

Red ’64 Chevy convertible

Tearing a hole in your prized Chariot

Me, the High Priestess of fantasy

About to be

The Empress of a blighted land

While you

Emperor of nowhere

With side dishes of willing women

Were genetically doomed to click off

Because deep down

You took your emperorship seriously

Much too seriously

“No” it all anger directed only toward me

And our innocent babes

While me

Now the Fool

Stepping into the chasm

That began

Endless suns ago…

 

©2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Homemade Tarot Card (Kham, The Sun)

DEATH WAIL

I.

Women keening

Seemingly without meaning

Here I am at eleven

Beloved grandfather

Sleeping in satin

Soon to be under the earth

Family gathered

For a solemn funeral

II.

When suddenly

Two of my aunts

Dad’s oldest sisters

Begin an eerie lament

These unobtrusive women

Wailing into the darkened morning

Teetering dangerously

On the grave’s edge

Covering the noise

Of the hydraulic mortuary lift

Lowering the coffin

Like lowering a car at the mechanic’s

III.

Eleven year old me

Trying not to cry

As their voices tore

The fabric of the sky

Suddenly the aunts

Throw themselves atop the coffin

Screaming in their native tongue

Their husbands and brothers

My dad included

Pulling them away

And here is me

Suddenly

Beginning to giggle

A nervous hiccupping

Trying to stifle it

Before mom sees and slaps my face

She, however, face buried in lacy hanky

Shoulders shaking in grief-struck crying

Looks at me

And I saw her eyes

Through dark lenses

Eyes crinkled in her own nervous laughter

And we hold hands trying not to laugh

Trying not to cry

We are a disgrace

But nerves care not who has died

And the machinery and keening and prayers

Drown out our insane sadness

Because crying and laughter

Are twin emotions

IV.

Later, dad says

I hope you laugh at my funeral

Much better to laugh than cry

But I think he didn’t understand

Despite his kindness

That keening wasn’t only a shrieking

But an ancient emotion

Tangled in female DNA

Tears or snorting laughter

Hysteria, like the word

Hysterectomy

A double X chromosome

Related to reproduction

Love, birth and death

V.

And some years later

Listening to Janis Joplin

Wailing at Monterrey

My neck hair tingling electrically

As I recognized her keening

For lost love, a lost man

And decades later

As Brittany Howard

Let out her wail

Not wanting to fight no more

I recognize that chain

As I keen with my sisters

Crying

Laughing

Singing

To release the pain

Of female loss…

© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)