When I was thirteen
I met a noblewoman on the streetcar
as I climbed those three high steps
and she was waiting to get off.

I thought she was old; her hair was gray
under her Forties’ hat
and that’s every last thing I know of her.
But for a second our eyes met
absolutely and spoke.

“I know. I see you. You’re not alone.”

I’ve kept the kindness of it all these years
with never a doubt that she, too,
took home a treasure.


The Fed has cut off the $350 thou grant that, in past years, has helped to support our Santa Cruz Homeless Services, an absolutely necessary and beautifully-run group, which has been housing the most fragile homeless people to keep them from dying on the streets (and also saving the city a lot of money in other support services to these poor folks).
They have offered food and shelter to hundreds each day,
people who have no way to pay the outrageous costs of living
here–and probably nowhere else, either.

The Raging Grannies are singing at a benefit for Homeless Services on Saturday evening, June 13, at the Long Marine
Lab. Please come hear our heartfelt songs. You can print
them out and sing ‘em with us!

No Place to Roam
(Oh Give Me a Home)

Oh, what’s with the Fed?
Do they want us all dead?
They have weakened our one link to life
What will we do now
since that piddling few thou
has been cut by the bureaucrats’ knife?

Where, where can we go?
Our lives are so hard, don’t they know?
We’ve no place to roam
Santa Cruz is our home
We have friends here who comfort us so.

The Shelter is more than a roof and a floor,
It’s a place for the desperate lost
For a woman and child
who’ve been hurt and defiled
It’s a haven from life’s stormy shore.
(Repeat chorus)

Oh why can’t they feel
How we all need a meal
and a place to lie down when it’s night?
There’s an old Golden Rule
that you should not be cruel
when you know somethin’ just isn’t right.


(Over the Rainbow)
Somewhere, out in a meadow
by a stream
There’s a home with a bed,
Oh why is it just a dream?

Out there, people are welcome
though they’re broke
If they stay clean and sober,
Careful of what they smoke.

Someday, I’ll find a cozy tent
where I don’t have to hide my face and weep nights.
I’ll keep my space all nice and neat
and rest my poor exhausted feet–
That’s where I’ll sleep nights.

Somewhere there‘s sanctuary
for you and me
If they build it we’ll come and live there in dignity.
When the winter is cold and raining
we’re warm and dry
In our home in the meadow
watching the storms roll by.

In spring, we’ll make a garden
growing our peas and beans
think how healthy we’ll be
how luscious our home-grown greens.

We used to look around and see
that other folks have homes to be secure in
They watch TV and never think
Hey, I could very quickly sink
to lows that you’re in . . . .

Somewhere there‘s sanctuary
for you and me
If they build it we’ll come and live there in dignity.

If folks in Santa Cruz will care
enough to build a camp—–
That’s where we’ll be!

(Bye, Bye Blackbird)

I left home at sweet fifteen
Mom was drunk and Dad was mean
Now I’m homeless.
Drifted down to Santa Cruz
Life is hard, I sing the blues
But I’m not hopeless.
Folks out here don’t stigmatize and brand me
I found friends who love and understand me.
I’ll get a job and learn a trade
Show ‘em I can make the grade–
Homeless, no more!

Me, I’ve been a drunken fool
Hated school, acted cool,
Now I’m homeless.
Got no place to lay my head
Got no bread, should be dead,
But I’m not hopeless.
Found a place I’m happy to work hard in,
raisin’ flowers in the Homeless Garden
Clean and sober now and then,
Hope I won’t slip back again,
Homeless, no more!

We had a house in San Jose
Then our jobs were shipped away;
Now we’re homeless.

B of A foreclosed tout suite
Threw our kids out in the street
But we’re not hopeless;
In the Family Shelter we have aid now
Still together, we’re not so afraid now.
Homeless folks are just like you–
Soon we’ll have our own place, too
Homeless, no more!

We’re all folks who need a place
To take a leak and wash our face
We’re all homeless.
Anywhere we try to roost
Cops arrive and we get goosed
But we’re not hopeless!
Now the city’s talking sanctuary
Someplace safe that’s warm and sanitary.
If Santa Cruzans have a heart
We could get a brand-new start–
Homeless, no more!

Poem: Lucia and Me, May 2015

Lucia, May, 2015


Lucia sits with me
my wrinkled cheek pressed against
her old tabby backbone

soon she’ll be all bones
under the avocado tree with her older brother
and other short-lived friends

while I’ll be ash, tossed, I hope
around my garden–maybe in
a newly-dug socket for a small fig tree.

Lucia knows, I think:
she jumped into my lap and purred
as I rocked and nuzzled her
something she’s never done before.

As for me, I adore each day of my life
and look ahead joyfully to my death.


Freezing Here in Santa Cruz
TUNE:(Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?)

All I need is a sheltered spot
warm, dry blanket, a pad or cot–
But that’s what I ain’t got–
I’m freezin’ here in Santa Cruz.

Need a place I can store my stuff’
Lay me down when the nights are rough
I just ain’t warm enough–
I’m freezin’ here in Santa Cruz.

When I traveled to California,
It was warm and bright
Never thought I’d freeze to death
some terrible winter night!

As you sleep in your nice warm bed
Think of me when you rest your head.
Pray I don’t wake up dead
Just freezin’ here in Santa Cruz.

If they make us a Warming Shelter
I’ll be first in line
Save a space for me and some poor
ho-omeless friends of mine.

We don’t need something soft and plush
Just a pad and a bowl of mush
and one clean pot to flush,
and keeping warm in Santa Cruz,
Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz,
Santa Cruz,
Santa Cruz.



Good Habits

I always floss. The last time I had my teeth cleaned, the surly dental hygienist–whose ministrations must be, in this age of painless dentistry, the most dreaded part of any visit to the dentist–laid on me the inevitable, rhetorical question, always delivered while one’s mouth is full of plastic-coated fingers and sharp instruments of torture: “So do you floss every day?”
Without a pause or a blink I answered sturdily, “Eh, I oo.”
She did not take her deadened, colorless eyes from the size 14 crochet hook she was poking into my gums, as she droned, with blatant skepticism, “Every day?”
“Erry ay,” I mouthed resolutely.
She rolled her eyes, shrugged, and dug even harder into my tender, pink gums. Clearly she did not believe me. Nobody believes me, but it is true. I floss every night before I go to bed.
This hasn’t always been the case. Actually, until I was thirty or so, my dentists were pretty casual about suggesting that I floss, and nobody was ever really expected to do it every single day. You were supposed to eventually get gingivitis and lose all your teeth, as both my parents did by the time they were forty. Still today, the set of false teeth is a staple of ageist humor, though I think the baby boomers will all have caps and crowns and bridges and die at very advanced ages with their own nearly complete sets of much-mended choppers.
I did not always floss every day, even after I understood that, if you let even one 24-hour period go by without dislodging those nasty little bits of plaque, germs will begin to grow and gum disease, cavities, and root canals will inevitably follow.
I have in the past gone for long periods without even giving a thought to floss. After my first divorce, it was two or three years before I had the heart for it. Eventually, though, I became a sort of sporadically regular flosser. I’d do pretty well on weekdays but on weekends and vacations I tended to let it go. For years, my flossing depended on how the d.h. delivered her message. If she was a sweet and kindly person, and seemed to understand that I was only human and would sometimes slip up, I’d set to with an earnest wish to make her proud of me next time I came in for cleaning. But if she was menacing and officious, I’d get my back up and rebel by flossing only when I damn well felt like it. I’m proud to say I finally got over that childishness after only five or six years of intensive psychotherapy, and now not even this last sour and cynical dental health professional– who, incidentally, never opens her own thin, pale lips wide enough for me to see what’s going on in there–has been able to shake my resolve.
I like flossing. I enjoy the wholesome sense of oral purity, the awareness that I am a member of a very tiny, superior class of beings who floss every single day. I’ve flossed with unflavored waxed, unflavored unwaxed, cinnamon-flavored waxed, mint-flavored unwaxed; I’ve flossed with a hanging thread broken off from my own or a nearby person’s ravelling hem. In a pinch, I’ve tried flossing with my own hair, but it breaks easily, and leaves an unpleasant sensation in the mouth. But I’ll always find something to slip in between these precious pearlies. Even though they aren’t particularly white or nice-looking; in fact, they’re more kind of yellowish-gray-green. But nothing can make me give up my good habit. I floss, and you can’t talk me out of it.



Seen my glasses?
The computer ones,
not the ones I keep by the phone–they’re missing a lens.
My reading chair pair might be under it–haven’t seen ‘em for days.
Not the bed ones; they’re bifocals; I only read
through the lower lenses in bed.
The computer ones are red, I think.
they’re not so scratched.
I really need ‘em but
they’re not in the pocket of my robe or under the desk . . .
No, not the purse ones! I’d never remember to put ‘em back.
The pair in the bathroom belonged to my Dad; they stay right where they are.