The Grants Game: Poetry by Fran Ransley

Proposal submitted,
funding requested for a program
that would coordinate services
to benefit substance-abusing
teenage mothers and their at-risk infants.
Money to train staff
to train volunteers
who will provide support
and model appropriate behavior,
parenting skills and problem-solving
techniques, provide child care
so young mothers can go to
job training and support groups.
Vouchers for gasoline
so she can attend classes,
but gasoline doesn’t help
because her car broke down
when her boyfriend borrowed it
and left it parked
on that rutted dirt street by the trailer
they used to live in
but got kicked out of because
he spent the rent on stuff.
A program director
hired to coordinate staff
to train the volunteers
and administer the program,
a master’s degree and five years
minimum experience in related fields,
ninety thousand plus benefits and retirement,
and the teenage junkie mother
gets a gas voucher.
The administrator has never met a junkie
and doesn’t want to;
the volunteers will handle that
with appropriate activities described
in flawless bureaucratese,
designed to enrich the environment
of the junkie mothers
and make sure they get to the baby clinic on time.
And the teenage substance-abusing mother
is eligible for a job-training program.
So, if she stays off the stuff
maybe she can get a clerical certificate,
or she can get on-the-job training
and get to be a Certified Nursing Assistant.
She gets child care so she can attend classes,
if Welfare approves it,
and if she can get the car fixed.
Her boyfriend said he and
his friend would go get the car
and fix it, but somebody
stripped it and smashed the windshield
and they came back with some stuff instead.
The baby is screaming
and she can’t handle that,
the stuff, it makes you forget
the social workers and the fuck-up
volunteers that try to pretend
they’re on your level.
Tell them whatever they want to hear,
they’re just spies for Welfare,
got a file on you bigger than the phone book.
The administrator drives
a silver Mercedes
and keeps the doors locked
when he parks downtown.
Her boyfriend spent the money on stuff
so they took the phone out,
the volunteers can’t call,
there’s no food in the house,
they’ll get kicked out pretty soon
but it doesn’t matter,
the stuff makes you not care
about the silver Mercedes
and all the other shit you’ll never have.
Fran Ransley

Fran Ransley grew up in south central Wisconsin and joined the great hippie migration to California at the age of twenty-two. She has lived in and loved the diversity and beauty of the Northern California landscape for 53 years, 44 years of which were lived in Lake County. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and has written and performed her work at poetry and music events in Lake, Sonoma, Yolo, and Mendocino counties since the early 1970s. Her poetry and essays have appeared in local and regional papers, magazines and anthologies as well as publications with wider circulation. In 1999, she was awarded a grant to participate as a writer in Bioregional residence with the University of California Davis Putah-Cache Bioregion Project. She has published a memoir, “This House Protected by Poverty,” about her life as a single-parent-dirt-farmer in rural Northern California.

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