words

IN THE SHADOW OF SCRIBBLERS

Shakespeare covered
Every human emotion
In existence
Turned them inside out
Shook them over the
Straw-strewn floor
And we learned life from him

Woolf and Joyce revealed
The constant stream of consciousness
Speeding through our brain
Tunneling like a dark train
Finding form in summer fields
And we learned thought from them

Plath confessed it all
Words tinkling against
The cracked bell jar
Climbing the bars of poetry
Hearing Shakespeare’s
Be true to yourself
She was
And we learned about the fine line
Between fiction and reality
From her

Ginsberg and the Beats
Howled all over the world
Shoving ugliness down our throats
As they ushered in love and peace
Bleeding all over in City Lights books
Ideas never in print before
Overcoming obscenity trials
Changing the word itself
And we learned emotion from them

So what is left to teach?
What can we writers do
To make life easier for you?
To make you see
That we, like you
Suffer and love
Cry and sing
Hurtle through life
Slowly uncoiling
Writing:
A lifetime search
An outreach
To teach
And learn from you…

(c) 2018 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)
IMAGE: My notebooks & guitar

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LATIN LESSON (MEMOIR)

*scroll down for a YouTube video*

“Gallia est omnis divisa in partes quattuor”
Only Latin offered at the junior high school
I’d wanted to learn French or even Russian
But here we were, with a dead language
Can’t remember what the book looked like
Hardback, small, all in Latin
But the first lesson was
“All of Gaul is divided into four parts”
And the words seized me
Black letters on white background seduced me
I needed to know
What was its meaning
As I marched with the Centurions
Proudly carrying a flag
Emblazoned with huge letters
SPQR
“Senate and People of Rome”
Words opening a new world
Togas and bloody gladiators
Pounding their chests
“We Who Are About to Die Salute You”
Pre-AC/DC days who sang
To my delight
“For those about to rock we salute you”
And now, so many decades later
When I can’t remember
Where I put something
Or what I was saying
Five minutes ago
I still see Mrs. Layton
Who brought life to the dead words
I still feel that book in my hands
I still remember sitting in my bedroom
Memorizing Latin vocabulary
I still remember the magical days
Of learning and
Being part of the Legion
That would conquer the world
A mere year or two
Before I’d be carrying signs
With a new–English language–flag
Reminding us all that
War is not healthy for children or
Other living things…

(c) 2018 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Wikipedia Commons

https://youtu.be/8fPf6L0XNvM AC/DC YouTube video

 

PANDORA’S MORE FORTUNATE DAUGHTER

Working

Mothering

All the usuals

Happiness

Sadness

All the emotions

The real me

Kept boxed up

Until one day

Retirement

What to do?

Collection of boxes

Containing nothing but

Sparkly dust

Poured a bit into my palm

A sonnet appeared

Oh, sure, not Shakespeare-worthy

But each day it grew

Until there were twenty-two

One for each symbol

Of the Major Arcana

Then there were twelve

Terza Rima

For each Zodiac sign

And each box

Had its own lines

Until there was a

Rima Royale

Of birds

And a tiny box of Haiku

Slightly larger box of Tanka

But in a special box

Of the loveliest cloisonne

Shone silver Moon dust

Mixed with golden Sunlight

And Stars of blue and every hue

They whirled above me

Then gently drizzled down

Covering my head, lips, shoulders

And as I grew older

I became bolder

Free

Free at last

Poetry that had no use for rhyme

Stream-of-consciousness

Confessional

Memoirs

Gutter talk

A touch of erotica

Words made up

Words spilling from a box

Filling ten books

Of words hidden inside

For decades

The real me

Then one day

Those magical boxes

Were empty

I’d open the lids

In the three A.M. shadows

Whispering, “Where’d you go?”

So, I bought more boxes

My collection growing

And one cloudy morning

Something sang out

From a new box

And there

As I hastily opened the lock

Was a different dust

Sparkling? Not quite

Sparking!

Like electricity

And poetry melded

With musical chords

And songs were born

Euterpe with her magic flute

Pushed open the lids

Danced with her sister

Terpsichore

And I wrote

And strummed

And sang

And hummed

But I see

The magical dust

In my box collection

Is once again disappearing

And so I say

Today is the day

I shop for a new box

And begin an unknown

Collection…

(c) 2018 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)
IMAGE: Some of my magic boxes

“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)

OCD-ING FROM A THOUGHTLESS SENTENCE

 

In the space between the moment you say,

“You probably won’t like this but…”

And the actual telling of what I won’t like

A blink of the second hand:

I am crawling through honey

Tiptoeing past the angry bees

Avoiding the hell-bent-on-death lightning

Headlight-struck like a deer crossing a new highway

Paralyzed from a dirt-encrusted boulder tumbling

Down the crest of a craggy hill

Mushroom cloud sucking the oxygen

From all surrounding life

As I mentally stumble from the

Potential catastrophes

Your sentence awakens

In my imagination

I hear you, from an indiscernible distance say,

“I have too much to do

And can’t go with you

To the supermarket”

Does he do this purposely?

I ask my mirror image

Suddenly noticing the additional gray hairs

And rutted crow’s feet

Etching my aging skin

Signs that weren’t there

A minute ago…

 

© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

 

 

 

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

MEMOIR: WHEN MY SONS DISCOVERED POE

 

(part of a personal history for my granddaughter)

 

Many years ago

My DNA finally kicked in

I’ll tell you about it:

Separated, living in an

Affordable apartment complex

Unknown to me

A drug street

This was a time

When my aura was white

Encompassing me

After being scrubbed in the

Painted Desert and

Petrified Forest

Pure and still I was

Moved in, owning only

Card table and chairs

Cot and a Salvation Army

Chest of drawers

That I painted blue

Fridge from the years

Before the birth of my boys

Knock on the door

Five tall men—neighbors

All walked in, inhaling weed

One said,

“Damn! You poorer than we are!”

Missing my true wealth scattered through the rooms:

Jars of herbs and brass dishes of crystals

They nodded and left

But my aura affected them

They became my guardian angels

Worked two jobs: 9 to 5 at the university

Entering strings of T’s and other letters

Into a MAC for a cancer researcher

6 to 10 at a real estate

Typing long contracts using

An old Brother typewriter

Inevitably making a typo in the last few words

Had to redo so I did

On the Elevated each night

Then a bus

There were my five angels

Smoking weed on my steps

Nodding good night, they left

 

So Poe, what’s with the title of the poem

If it doesn’t include the tortured genius?

The apartments were 4 to a building

Lining both sides of a city street

One day everyone moved out

Except me

Rats!

I mean, that’s not an expletive

Like the “Peanuts” characters say

Rats for real

They never came in my space, though

That white aura protecting me

My sons, living with me some days

Or several blocks away with their father on others

Squatted in an apartment above mine

One night, climbed the stairs

They were cross-legged on their sleeping bags

Surrounded by candles

Fourteen-year-old autistic son

Eleven-year-old younger one

Sweet voices, trying to growl and sound scary

Taking turns reading from my old book

Together, in unison:

“Quoth the raven, nevermore…”

My heart, a shooting star of pride

Watching from the shadows

The joy on their faces from century-old words

Making the best of their poorness

Perhaps not realizing the true horror

Surrounding them

As they reveled in the beauty

Blossoming from rampant imagination

Thanks, Poe, you kept us all sane…

 

© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: with my sons, about 1991