memoir

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

 

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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)

EF-EL WOMAN WRITES

 

 

*scroll down for LA Woman youtube video*

 

I still get chills

Listening to Jim Morrison

Seemingly singing to a lonely woman

But really confirming his identity

To a cold and frightening universe

Chanting the anagram of his name

Mr. Mojo Rising

How envious I am

That his name was so magical

His poetry perfection

His voice

His music

His knowledge

Touching the souls

Of confused and frightened teens

Way back while our friends

Disappeared into the door

Of the war

And we took up his chant

Bopping our heads in cars

Or while grasping our new

Transistor radios in bed

Ear plugs connecting us

As we mouthed the words

So our parents wouldn’t hear

And forbid us to listen, through fear

As we sang Jim’s incantation

To the stars…

 

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

 

https://youtu.be/JskztPPSJwY The Doors YouTube video *

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