memoir

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

 

 

 

IGNORING THE RIMA ROYAL

Dilemma. Angry with myself. Wrote a poem about birds bringing me news of death but I’m still ignoring them.  Last month I wrote about Crow and Rooster and although I didn’t do another poem about Hawk, my yard’s been plagued by daily visits from them and the cardinals took off.  But in the light of the death of my beautiful young dog Kali last week, I really need to pay attention to what I know and see.  Yet, there is no way of knowing who is next or what to do.  If only I knew.

Here’s my poem written in 2014.  Reblogged last March but I’m reblogging it again…

A LIFETIME OF BIRDS

Rima Royal :  (seven lines in iambic pentameter rhyming ABA/BB/CC. Can be constructed either as a tercet and two couplets [a-b-a, b-b, c-c] or a quatrain and a tercet [a-b-a-b, b-c-c] )

i.

A lifetime acquired for me to see

That birds have mysteriously uttered

In sad song or joyful, words meant for me.

Some came alone and some in flocks fluttered

But I did not mistake what they muttered.

Old age understands messages from birds

Tweetings and twitterings, meaningful words.

ii.

Three year old memory, illness at night

Screaming and scaring my parents with fear

“Pigeons!” I cried in bed, “Birds are all white!”

“No,” says my dad, “See? No pigeons are here”

“Pigeons are gray,” mom’s voice dings like a sneer.

Tears fall yet I hear a song from the flock

“Life is hard, be strong, like crystalline rock.”

iii.

Doctor consultation after sunrise

The overdose of sulfa is to blame

Hallucinations are the mind’s own lies.

Forget the birds, some allergies can maim

Hallucinations only bring us shame.

Yet I can’t forget the pigeons’ sweet song

To be strong in life will never be wrong.

iv.

Ah, age ten, dead bird on the wet pavement

Nowhere to dig a grave in the city

Soggy cardboard box may be heaven-sent.

Oh young bird, with a red vest so pretty

Evoking my sadness and my pity.

Into the box with a bright fabric scrap

Sail down the gutter, an eternal nap.

v.

Not many days later a day of gloom

My dad’s dad passed on to heaven, they said

And next my mom’s gran locked up in a tomb.

Gazing out the window, red bird made me dread

That messages of birds meant someone’s dead.

Book-learned a new word for those who have died

“Psychopomp” leads souls to the other side.

vi.

Time does weave among the waves so swollen

Seagulls dive-bomb us beached humans eating,

Laughing sons watching lunch being stolen

A new quest to calm my heart’s dark beating

Appeasing the birds, death needs some cheating.

Feathers attract me on a sandy beach

Or beneath the el where I easily reach.

vii.

The years fly by like the raven and crane

Feather-filled vases keep sadness away

Emotional change, relationship strain.

New land, new birds, cardinal and blue jay

Alone with many hours in the day.

After three years the aethers hear me say

Stop the loneliness, send someone today.

viii.

I sit by the lake, someone shares my soul

Hawk stares in my eyes then veers to the sky

Peace settles in, I finally feel whole.

Perception in chaos, life’s worth a try

Trust in the hawk’s vision while flying high.

In two months a man named Hawk comes to me

Possessed with visual acuity.

ix.

We partner and life continues to flow

Strange manifestations seem to appear

Older family generations go.

Superimposed gran’s face in the mirror

Dies on my birthday, couldn’t be clearer.

Death warnings now come from my friend, the crow

A Live Oak splits, it’s my uncle, I know

x.

Mother, father, relatives now depart

But warnings of the birds help me prepare

Yet survivor sadness engulfs my heart.

Hot day outside, woodpecker in my hair

I fight him, toss my head, too much to bear.

Favorite aunt off for routine surgery

Blockage in her carotid artery.

xi.

We speak, she sounds strong, I feel I can breathe

Gathering teardrops that fall on the floor

But it doesn’t take long for me to grieve

A shelf falls apart and cardinals soar

Flinging scarlet selves into our glass door

A warning ignored from birds who sing out

Remind me to never show any doubt.

xii.

Weeks later a huge white bird on a limb

Seemingly speaks to me with eyes aflare

Plain as if hearing an acoustic hymn.

Walking toward the deck, she follows me there

She stands four feet tall, I become aware

“Be strong, be prepared, be joyful, be wise

Lessons of the birds descend from the skies.”

© 2014 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja) Madame Sosostris Explains (a poetry patchwork)

IMAGES: adventuresinlightphotoworkshops.com

Here are the poems (warnings I ignored) that I posted

https://poeturja.wordpress.com/2016/11/18/korako-crow-2/

https://poeturja.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/autoharp/

https://poeturja.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/in-memory-of-kali-72612-112916/

WHEN STORMS WERE PART OF MY SOUL (3-13-93 FLORIDA NO-NAME STORM MEMOIR)

 

Driving across the county

Wind and rain our only drug

Laughing and shrieking

In a buffeted Ford Ranger

Red to match our twin

Aries vital force

Didn’t take much for me

To fall into his manic madness

Speeding through the No Name Storm

Meteorologists missing the hurricane criteria

 

At Dunedin Causeway

Sheriff’s deputies took one look

At the wind surfer on the roof

Laughed at us

Sent us back home

Greeted by the vision of my son

Holding up the chicken coop

Teetering on high wooden legs

Like Baba Jaga’s cottage

Fairy tale come true

 

Being forty was fun

Fifty became the crossover

Threshold to fear

Surrounded by storms this summer

I try not to quake

At the dissonance of thunder

But after fifty

Bodies become vulnerable

Hearts alter their rhythm

Minds dwell too much

On helplessness

 

Still, when the next storm strikes

I’ll shake my fist

Under the bleeding clouds

And in howling winds

Scream, “Do your best!”

Bravado, stupidity, courage

Never too old to shovel it out

From the earth of buried treasure

And spend it …

 

© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

SCREW YOU UNIVERSE (another memoir apology)

 

I knew at eighteen

Life would be a struggle

Always too much yin

In with the yang

Maybe a few days good

Then the rest of the month bad

Tried to keep up a good attitude

I still beam out smiles

Laugh at myself

Look for fun things to do

But that pre-dawn

I took the elevator

Up to William Penn’s statue

Atop City Hall

Wrote my name in Magic Marker

On the wall

“CS heart Chaos”

Gazed down at the street grid

That now looked so clean

Showered in pink and blue daybreak

After fleeing Greenwich Village

In a snit

At four in the morning

Because my love life

Was never going to be good

Because of the invisible sign

That only men could see

Those attracted to me

Always the wrong kind

Left New York via

Greyhound bus

Coffee to go

Watched the sun rise

In Philly’s Rittenhouse Square

Hippie male trying to convince me

To come to his pad for breakfast

He was kind, though

As we watched iridescent pigeons flit

He wiped the bird shit out of my hair

With his handkerchief

Do men still carry those white linen squares?

Maybe the Universe was offering me

A good mate for my soul

But I refused both the man and

The Universe’s plan

As I blindly ran down the wrong paths

Time after time after time…

 

© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

Image: William Penn statue, Philadelphia City Hall

 

THE FAULT IN THE GRAMMAR

 

(scroll down for YouTube video)

 

I’m devoted to manipulating

Or at least changing

Ridiculous parts of

The English language

Traumatized when barely 10 years old

Not even 5 feet

Petite

Asking my teacher

“Can I help with…?”

She

Towering over me

Valkyrie metal breastplate

Surely hidden beneath her

Teacherly folds of pre-60s

Color and fabric

“CAN YOU? CAN YOU? CAN YOU?”

She growing in stature

Me shrinking into chalky

Classroom floorboards

Classmates snickering

As I desperately tried

Deciphering why

She sneered

Me struggling with first generation English

With autism, before it was labeled

At home, asked Dad

He knew 5 languages

Could do the NY Times Crossword

Without a dictionary

Emigrated to the US at age 10

Quitting school at 17 to fight in WWII

He clueless, too

Mom, born 1929

Proudly saying she was depressed

Because born in the year of the Great Depression

She wrote little poems suitable for greeting cards

But never tried to publish them

No clue

But In her way, accusing

“What did you do???” she demanded

“Mrs. Donahue was my teacher too.

A good teacher!”

All of us clueless re cryptic

“CAN YOU? CAN YOU? CAN YOU?”

Next day a classmate took pity on me

I hate pity but grateful, this once

“May I?  is what you say,” said he

“Not CAN I.”

What? How’d I miss that?

On the day teachers said

“Today’s lesson is Grammar”

Did I think they meant “Hammer”

And chose to compose poems in my mind

Instead of listening to a lecture on tools?

It was finally nice to grow up

Into a fu*k you hippie

It was finally nice to major in English

And know the rules, but ignore them

I therefore NEVER say “MAY I?”

Only “CAN I?”

Traumatized by a word?

Perhaps

It shows in my poetry

That I call “not-poetry”

And oh, best of all,

I wear my own breastplate now…

 

© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Valkyrie by the bastardson, deviantart

 

YouTube video: Richard Wagner, Ride of the Valkyries https://youtu.be/P73Z6291Pt8

GREEN FRIENDS

 

Growing and sharing my home

Pots of live

Jars of dried

Bottles of extracts

Brewed under New to Full moonlight

Each with their own personality

Hard not to grow a friendship

With such misunderstood healers

Angelica sinensis

Also known by her Chinese name

Dong Quai

A female ginseng

She had Oh Dee’d on her

Utah boy, Ephedra,

Thinking he looked so much like her

China boy, Ma Huang

But the good news

Ignoring the side effect

Of heart arrhythmia

Was that she dropped into a lower baggie size

Saw palmetto

Serenoa repens, in contrast

Is a Florida boy

Serious male prostate herb

He hungrily eyes Angelica S.

But unable to woo her

Until his nature kicks in

Herbs, so good, yet so slow

To heal

Patience required

Capsicum annum

He’s also known as

Cayenne, our favorite chili ingredient

By day

Plant tourniquet

By night

Magical blood hemostat

Saving me from an operation

When I flooded and drank a few teaspoons

Sanguinaria canadensis

Bloodroot

Parts of it banned by the US FDA

All I can say

Is she saved me from a radical

Slash and burn “cure”

Took a while to work

Took a while to heal

But will always be grateful

For Mother Earth’s gifts

Lovingly sharing her friends

With me

And anyone else

Who can see…

 

© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: CS with herb table 1993 or so