Memoir Poem: Spencer: (Part One): The Hotel Royan in San Francisco

this is not me :),

this is Not Spencer :), image courtesy of

Spencer lived the high life

at 16th and Mission

in the Hotel Royan,

a fashionable *SRO haven

in its own imperfect way.

The infamous residents

added a crazy, marginalized vibe

a San Francisco carnival atmosphere.

One guy looked like a human ant

with homemade antennas

sticking of out his head 24/7.

I’d see Ant man in the elevator and hallways

or there he is again at SFPL where I worked

at the heart of everything.

Derelicts and politicians all in one space

City Hall was across the street from the library.

Another Royan resident looked like

the evil Warlock from Rudolph’s animated Christmas story.

He angrily wrote “gorilla” on Spencer’s doorway

because he wouldn’t sleep with him.

Another infamous resident was Chubster,

a young adult who threatened to bomb

the nearby IMAX movie theater and was awaiting sentencing.

Spencer spent his days

jumping through public assistance hoops

meeting social workers

counselors and probation officers.

His afternoons were spent drumming

at the Drum Circle on hippie hill

at Golden Gate park

he and I lounged there on weekends

in the sunset fog in puffs

of summer of love smoke

where drop out mentality never ended.

Bliss of momentary dullness

pillow of dumb relief

among wake and bake stoners

winos up all night to blue tvs flickering

video lights amped on Hollywood pretend.

Psychotropic resin slurred blur

tongue twister thirst

maybe that’s what dehydration does

swirling saliva into desert dunes of dusk.

At 16th and Mission bottles broke

like bones shattered angrily

by drunks out all night howling.

Somebody please

bless the vampires with water

cleanse them of the shame of falling.

No one else but Spencer

could amaze and inspire me

to laugh and weep at life’s uncertainty.

Through him I could vicariously live through

and intimately see this scavenger society

and see it’s imperfect worth.

I never knew poverty until I met him.

And I never loved anyone else as much.

Love will make you a willing pauper.

Love cannot be bought or sold.

Love is more precious

than all the world’s gold.

*SRO stands for Single Occupancy Residence (or something similar, it’s where otherwise homeless people have an assigned housing unit. The units are usually very tiny studios with a sink installed in the room, which gives a prison-like feel to the unit. Residents are allowed 1 or 2 overnight visitors and day time guests have to sign in and out on a visitors log).


    1. Thanks Sue. The Royan Hotel was both sad, comical and eye-opening to how people live/survive in poverty. I only had a glimpse of it through my ex-boyfriend’s life, (he was bipolar), but the impact still stays with me. I’d like to write a mini-novel/novella about the experience someday.


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