working poor


She’s you
Surrounded by the Beast
All the essential aids
To get you through the day
Cigarettes, gum
Power drinks
And scratch-off cards
Ticket to freedom
Through a
If only
The right numbers

I know her
She’s me
Boredom even when busy
Earning those dollars
For clothes and cars
For internet portals
To other worlds
Where everyone is Cinderella
At the ball
With a prince
Willing to ply me with money
To buy the unnecessary
At the mall

I know her
She’s us
Working with a minimum of fuss
Maybe kids at home
Raised by Gran
Or overworked strangers
In crowded day care
And we sip alcohol
Or over-consume chocolate
Puffing on nicotine
To end the pain

But work or not
We must find the passion
Become like the star-sun
Spreading our light
In waves of warmth
Because this is life
And we sometimes wonder
If the struggle
Is worth the distress
The repetitious anguish
But I know you, me, us
And I say

(c) 2020 Clarissa Simmens
IMAGE: Prompt Photo Courtesy of HerStry (Babes Who Write)


*Scroll down for a Joni Mitchell YouTube video*

They unpaved paradise
And took out the parking lot
Old Sims Park
With Canna Lilies and ducks
Some so blasphemously beautiful
With red, white and black faces
Circular sidewalk for dog and walker
Huge wood fort for kids
With imagination
Then a short walk to the
Pithlachascotee River
Leading into the Gulf of Mexico
Paradise for all social classes
People like me
Parking for free
Now no place to park a car
Playground carpeted
And 80 apartments
Soon to be filled
In a tiny idyll
Spilling into a lake clogged
With so-called “boardwalks”
While the ibis and ducks
Dodge cars and trucks
In a town once open and free…

(c) 2019 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)
IMAGES: Orange Lake Canna Lillies, Pithlachacotee River Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi

pithlachascotee river channel to gulf of mexico




I’ve been homeless
And hungry
Merely a credit card away
From being a street person
Fortunate to have
Kind family and friends
Lucky to be
Drug and alcohol free
Favored to have volition
To retain ambition
And always remained sane
In my crazy, madcap way


But I know
The untethered feeling
Of being alone
Unable to cope
Unable to return home
It’s like I went day tripping
To the astral plane
And suddenly the slender, silver cord
Connecting my soul to the body below
Snapped in two, severed
As I trailed the useless, dangling connection
Wanting so badly to return
But unable to do so
My mind, emotions, anger
Refused to permit it


So I imagine
How scared the homeless may be
Like when I lived in Philly
The ones sleeping on steam grates
In twenty degree icy weather
My mom gently placing
Coats and socks
On the sleepers
While I do my part
When going to and from work
With piles of plastic sandwich bags
Filled with pennies
In the days when cash
Was the way
I would pay
And my pockets sagged from the change
One hundred pennies
Each bag
Giving to those still able to walk around
A woman wearing fake fur
Face crawling with lice
Blessed me and
I let her hug me
I don’t care what they spend it on
It’s for their comfort
Wish I could give more


But my heart hardened
Here in Florida
They camp in the woods
Behind my trailer
Owning bikes and designer clothes
They steal my copper pipes and
Whatever else brings money from recycling
And I feel hard
And angry
Angry with myself
For feeling cynical
About just how needy
Are these new homeless
And I think
How their living in my woods
Attracts rats
Because they shit and piss
On the loamy earth
Or toss garbage
And I say
I’m the working poor
I just want my little bit of life:
Internet, a few toys and books
And enough food and gas for the car
I never drive far
And who do they think they are????


So one day I’m strumming
Baritone ukulele
That sounds like a guitar
Strumming out my old folk songs
And wonder how my
Love of humanity
Wandered so far
From the days I believed
We could all live in love and peace
I feel afraid
Don’t want to leave this life
With hatred and suspicion
Enraged and spitting at others
Who are doing the best they can
To survive
What do I know of
The devastation in their lives
The people who hurt them
The cruelty of husbands and wives
Why am I judging them


So I pull on my Wellies
Walk through the eons of fallen leaves
Find their campfire
Now deserted
I place the large plastic crate
With clothes and socks
Sleeping bags and crocks
Of baby wipes, shampoo
Soap, towels, pads
All the niceties I’m sure they don’t have
Hoping when the shelters close
As the weather warms
They will return
And forgive me my thoughts
Hope I can forgive me my thoughts, too…


(c) 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)
IMAGE: Behind my yard


Please see what The BeZine is and consider contributing a post:

ABOUT The BeZine


The Bards Against Hunger 5th Year Anniversary Book is now available through Amazon or the Bards Against Hunger organization.  The project has raised thousands of pounds of food over the last 5 years to help local charities and food shelters in many different states. You may help support them by buying a book or organizing an event in your state or country.

I am honored to have one of my poems included!  It is a true memoir written as a member of the working poor, who also go hungry, especially when money is needed for emergency situations.  One of our fellow-WordPress poets, Denise Fletcher, also has a poem included.  Check out her blog, especially what she calls “Mood Boards”:


Here are the links for the book:



*scroll down for YouTube video*


How in the world

Would parents force a


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.


Some days so herded in

Couldn’t sit

Always seemed to be

A man in the crowd


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  John Lennon, Working Class Hero  (YouTube)



Built to intimidate

Screaming elitism

Old money

No care for new generations

Of loan seekers

Wanting a chance

Willing to work

Just to open morning eyes

Waking up surrounded by

The American Dream

But mortgage payments

Nightmare of businesses

First ten years for interest

Principal stays the same

Family farms, grocery stores

Cottage industries

Swept aside

By the Grim Reaper of Entitlement

So when I look at this bank

I wonder

Where you thought you’d be

And if even the mighty

Will always fall…


© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Philadelphia Industrial Trust, Title & Savings Bank (no attribution)



From medieval times

Romani women

Peering at palms

Some silken soft

Fewer worn and callused

Mapping wet tea leaves

Extracting colorful dyes from

Precious saffron

Strong spices

Local flora, used to

Embellish wood chips

Painted arcane symbols

Touched by the questor’s hands

Anxiously listening to

Forthcoming flutterings

Struggling to earn a few coins

That will stay sewn

Into the hem of the skirt

Lined with tiny mirrors

Reflecting jakhalo

Whether the Evil Eye

Deliberate or accidental

Part of the colorful clothes

An Eastern European version

Of the sari once worn

Before driven from the homeland

Into a freezing diaspora

Scattering all over the world

Some unluckily becoming slaves

Feeding the maw of

Greedy jaws

Until desrobireja


In the 19th century

Freedom once again

To travel the muddy roads

Never escape, though,

From need and someone else’s greed

Saving those few coins of comfort

In a romanticized job

With longer hours

Than nine to five

I, no better than my ancestors

The working poor

Trying to stay alive…


© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE:  A Chance Meeting with a Fortune-Teller, Adrien Moreau 1834-1906




MORNING VISIT TO WALMART (work in progress for protest song)


The sons of Sam

Also the daughters

Walton, that is

Not the serial killer who slaughtered


But what is the difference

How people are done in

Greed can murder

Creating a double sin


Huge super stores

Feng Shui all wrong

The body compass whacks out

While stumbling along


Fifty cash registers

In front of the door

But only three cashiers

Given hours to work the floor


Broken leg veins

Caused by standing all day

Money for the doctors

No longer worth the pay


Oh the workers got a raise

But their hours were cut

Working poor get screwed

While the corporations glut


Two hundred dollars

Above the poverty line

Curse you Walmart

And all your corporate kind


© Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Welcome to Walmart say the gulls


(The USA should have a Boxing Day for all our laborers who had to work yesterday)


Like a troublesome jigsaw puzzle

Life may be similar

But too large to see

The big picture

So I just enjoy

Fitting together little pieces

And forget about life itself


Here’s a segment of history:

Joe Hill’s execution in 1915

Interested me

In 1965

And again in 2015

Decades of belting out

“I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill”

Now, able to magically play it

On my ukulele

(Only four chords, of course)

As the aging voice

Sings the song


So okay, history…

Thought he was


A union organizer

For the copper miners

Executed for a crime

He says he didn’t commit

I won’t belabor that

I wasn’t there

But we know

Thanks to History

How that goes for protestors

Who need to be “disappeared”


Anyway, bored one night

Followed his virtual path


He was a poet and songwriter

(Why didn’t I know that?)

So then I find the I.W.W Songs

You know, the Wobblies

The Little Red Book


And because of my Medicare woes,

Boringly detailed in a previous poem,

Because of that, I

Find myself emerging from the

Underground maze

A place I hid in for years

In silence

Smiling, nodding, tippity-tapping

In order to keep the jobs

Hiding the big secret

That I’ve always been angry

About the injustice of any government

Toward the working poor

Like me

Despite a college degree

In mid-life

Yet always a bottom feeder, salary-wise


So I pull myself out of the underground

Into the open, wild flower field of truth

And I find a song in the Little Red Book

Written by Joe Hill

“Rebel Girl”

Be still my heart

A song written for me

And you who are poor

Despite working more and more

And I know

I’ll always be a rebel girl

Above or underground


All right, I’m getting on with my “thesis”

How the synergy of one topic

One little puzzle piece


I call it


Music, Biography, History, Poetry, Politics

And full-circle to Music

Rebel Girl is back

It’s the 60s, at least in my inner life, again

And yes, for all you readers who

Hung in there with my tiradic poem

This personal dovetail is part of the big picture of

My life

But also yours…

(c) 2015 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)




G           C             G (G7)

Yes, her hands may be hardened from labor,

C             Cm     G

And her dress may not be very fine;

G          C       G

But a heart in her bosom is beating

A7                       D (D7)

That is true to her class and her kind.







Dedicated to all us working poor

I know the pain of a

Rotting car in the rain

Buckets of rain

Wipers refusing to work

Abandoning the car off the road

Running for the bus

The one that only comes

Every two hours

Trying to get to the

Community College

To take my last final exam

After attending four years

To get an Associates Degree

Working, mothering, studying

Running for the bus

No umbrella

Bringing the boys to daycare

Dragging an autistic six-year-old

Having a melt-down

While carrying a three year old

Trying to make that bus

Trying to get that degree

Trying to get a better paying job

Running for the bus

All the while whispering:

“Please, please, please, please…”

© 2015 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)