working poor

“TRANSIENT” IS NOT ANOTHER WORD FOR FREE SPIRIT

ONE:

I’ve been homeless
And hungry
Runaway
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

TWO:

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

THREE:

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

FOUR:

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????

FIVE:

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

SIX:

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

 

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BARDS AGAINST HUNGER

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”:

https://poetrycurator2017.wordpress.com/

 

Here are the links for the book:

http://www.bardsagainsthunger.com/bards-against-hunger-5-year-book.html

https://www.amazon.com/dp/194615718X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510504011&sr=1-1&keywords=bards+against+hunger

 

MEMOIR: WORKING CLASS HERO (IS NOTHING TO BE)

*scroll down for YouTube video*

 

How in the world

Would parents force a

Fifteen-year-old

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.

Alone

Some days so herded in

Couldn’t sit

Always seemed to be

A man in the crowd

Dry-humping

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

 

https://youtu.be/njG7p6CSbCU  John Lennon, Working Class Hero  (YouTube)

BANKS BREAK TOO

 

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)

WORKING POVERTY

 

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

Emancipation

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 DOVETAIL

(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

Merely

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

Discovered

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

Online

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

Connects

I call it

Dovetailing:

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)

 

FROM JOE HILL’S REBEL GIRL (thanks to ultimate-tabs.com):

 

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.

 

 

SEE REBEL GIRL SONG SUNG BY CATHY RICHARDSON/ARRANGED BY BUCKY HALTER  (YOUTUBE VIDEO):

 

https://youtu.be/L0Oc-CXJu0A   

 

TRYING TO EDUCATE MYSELF (A THROWBACK THURSDAY MEMOIR FROM 1981)

20130227-MB-Bus

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)

GREEN

Color_icon_green.svg

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

Erred

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

Proving

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)