working poor



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)



She looked at the car

For the billionth time

It was advertised as

Hunter Green

But there was an unmistakable

Tinge of chartreuse

(Reminiscent of diaper changes)

No doubt the paint chemist

Who may have been texting

His cheating wife

Or working through

A Sunday night drunk


And the color stood

Worth the price, though

Can claim the color is unique

Beggars can’t be choosers

Mom always said

So she took out her

Five hundred dollars in cash

Earned by standing on her feet

By the street

US 19 South

Waving a giant foam hand

For a pawn shop advertising gold

In the freaking Florida heat

Dancing and singing to tunes

On her MP3

Music saving the day

And so she bought the car

Whose paint job was the best of it

Because under the hood

Horrors lurked

For a poor mother of two


Mercury Retrograde

Was not the time to buy

Someone will have to be blamed

Might as well be ol’ Mercury

God of Communication

God of Travel

He just must have his revenge

Even on the innocent…

© 2015 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)