Thursday, November 11, 2010

A D Winans: Drowning like Li Po in a River of Red Wine

San Francisco 1866 (ten years old)

I was born in San Francisco, and have lived here almost my entire life. I was born at home, premature. My mother said the doctor told her I would not live a long life. I’m now 74 and the doctor is long dead.

Poetry and writing have kept me going all these years. They have been the wife and children I’ve never had. I’ve had fifty chapbooks and books of poetry and prose published and have appeared in well over a thousand literary magazines and anthologies. I’ve given countless readings and made lifelong friends. None of this would have been possible if I had not discovered the magic of poetry. I believe that in the long run my poems and prose will tell you most about who I am. As I said earlier there is no separating my poetry from my life.

I get up in the morning, have a cup of coffee and read the newspaper, spend a couple of hours at the computer, pick up the mail at the post office, take a thirty minute walk, return home, listen to my jazz records, put in a few hours of writing, and then it’s time to go to bed and get up in the morning and start all over again. That’s what life is pretty much about. The growing up, the learning, the wild years, the mellowing, the settling into a routine, and then one day it’s over. I’m satisfied with my life and the way I have lived it. Writing poetry has helped keep lady death from my door. The demons are still there inside me, but I no longer let them control me.

I don’t think any one man’s life is really that important, but what he does with it and leaves behind is. I hope I have earned more good karma than bad karma points. I hope in the end I can look death in the face and say that I’ve played the game honestly and that I never sold my integrity. In the end integrity is all a writer has. Sell your integrity and you’ve sold your soul to the devil. A D Winans

San Francisco 1996

Drowning Like Li Po

in a River Of Red Wine


Selected Poems 1970 – 2010


A D Winans

Publisher: Bottle of Smoke Press

This is a career spanning book of poetry from A.D. Winans, 398 pages. This book covers the period from 1970 - 2010 and contains a selection of poems from all of his 51 books over a period of 40 years. Paperback edition, limited to 100 copies in wraps. Perfect bound. $20.00 International postage add $11.00

NYC 1980, Columbia University Dorms photo by Richard Morris

Here's some of it:

from Straws of Sanity (1975)


where were they when you lay in your deathbed
crippled and dying
where were they when you lay starving and broke?

there was no wailing then
there were no sounds of wild lament
not even a quiet weeping of the soul

no hungry hands knocking at your door
as you lay looking up at the heavens
barely able to talk or move

where were they when the hour of darkness came
when the blackbird sang out in disguise
and the bullfrog in the field silently cried

strange how the vultures gather here like blind ravens
crawling the lonely streets with their cawing
gathering in twos and threes to read their swollen lines
here at north beach where the written word dies slowly

no real sign of emotion in this bought and paid for audience
each poet following the other like a line of corpses strung
out ten miles in a neon lit graveyard each voice rising and
falling the coated sugar on their tongues intent on mourning
down the hours on this moonless evening where terror
and agony are partners and the shadow of your being dances
along the mountains coated in bright enamel.

kenneth patchen

from All the Graffitti on All the Bathroom Walls of the World Can’t Hide These Scars (1977)

(for anne)

she’s there bringing bad memories
like a carnival sideshow freak
she brings you back to
the worst days of your childhood
like a parent intent on making
you pay a long-overdue debt

her eyes are a pair
of vacant suitcases waiting
to take you nowhere

the songs she sings
belong to a forgotten
hollywood matinee idol       

she walks your dreams breathing
heavier than an obscene phone caller
carrying her wounds around
like a harpooned sailor

a bandage stuck to rotting


i seem to remember wantling writing
a poem about how
he never wanted to be a poet that
he would carry a lunchbox just
like the rest of them if only
the strange mutterings would leave
him alone

now at forty
i feel pretty much the same standing
naked as a deadman’s shadow wishing
i had been blessed with
the skills of a union carpenter instead
of these heavy words locked away inside
these aging brain cells

forty years old feeling
like the worn impression on
a buffalo head nickel holding on
to these fading visions
like an immigrant unable to escape
the old country
the moods coming and going
like cloud banks sinking slowly
like the “titanic”
the ghosts dancing on the deck dressed
in words of fire

and as each day brings yet another illusion
harsh as a hobo’s dreams
i sing the song of my chosen grave
the lines dancing
like a ballerina on
a high tension wire

while a friend of mine considered
a success in the business world
tells me that like him
i should make a list of priorities
and stick by them no matter what
but the hooks are too far in
too high up into the gut
to do anything about

a poet is like a train
a romantic trip back into another time
he is good for a laugh or two
someone to converse with/occasionally
sleep with/and always someone to stay
away from/when he is down and out

america is no place for
a poet to grow old in
a poet is not a thing
i would want my child to


I paid $3.00 to see Bukowski read
then went around to the side exit
and got in free
sat behind stage on an old piano watching
the old man sit at the table drinking beer
and facing his enemies
his hero worshipers reading
one good poem for every three
bad ones and
the audience not knowing
the good from the bad
and after it was over after
his admirers had cornered him
for his autograph and whatever else
they could get out of him which
was nothing

he smiled took my arm
and said,
i want to see you at the party
and then climbed into the van with
the young kids who envied him
the young poets who said
his poetry was the shits
the young kids who hated his guts
the young kids who told him how
great he was
the young kids who wanted to
be seen with him
and one or two who wanted
him dead
and so i refused a ride in
the van not feeling comfortable
with undertakers who drive
live corpses to sealed graves
before their time
and got in my own car instead
and drove up across van ness
across the streets of
my home town
and arrived at the party
a half hour late
and “buk” was getting blown in
the bathroom by a pretty middle-
class hostess who probably gargled

and it was wall to wall bodies
and the usual crowd
the young poets who were jealous
of the old man
the young poets who seek instant fame
the young poets who would never make it
and the young women who had made it already
once too often in bedrooms and hallways
in alleyway and in johns with pushed
up skirts and knees scarred from
one too many head jobs

and the old enemies were there too
john bryan edging his way across
the room whispering low key
“you better watch it my wife is here
carrying a knife”
and hank shrugging it off
and saying that was in
the old days in
los angeles
can't you forget?

and of course
he couldn’t because
hank had made it and
he hadn’t

and the poets from berkeley
and the poets from los angeles
and the poets from san francisco
and max schwartz
the only man trying to get into prison
when everyone else is trying to get out
and the homosexuals
and the groupies
and the leather clad crowd too
which included one chick with
her shriveled tits hanging out
and her male slave wearing
a dog collar

and then i grew tired
and started to leave
when i was introduced
to this rich girl from australia
who travels on her father’s money
and lives on

castro street
the homosexuals and fucks those
who aren’t

and she’s got a pair of tits
that stand out
and she opens her shirt and shows
them to me and says that
she can’t drink alcohol that
she’s on antibiotics
and coughs and sneezes
and i figure that
she has a cold
and then she’s clutching me
and shoving her tongue down
my throat
and i’m dry humping her against
the wall
and she has her hand on
my cock
and I have my hand down
her blouse
and she has a half-foot
of hardness threatening
to roll a lucky

and she pulls back
licks her lips
smiles and says

i shouldn’t be wasting your time
you remember the antibiotics
and I nod my head
and she says

i’ve got the clap
it won’t be cleared up
for several days
but I liked your poem

the crazy john postcard
i had given her and
i nodded my head

do you have a phone number
she said
and i nodded yes
and she took it down
and said:

i’ll call you when
i’m well
and left the room
to french kiss this
dude in the hallway
who maybe
she wasn’t going
to tell

and so I went home alone
and beat off on the bed thinking
of this girl from houston that
i had a good thing with
a week earlier
the one buk had paid
$300 to fly to
san francisco because
he thought
he was in love with her
and she thinks
she is in love with me
and me being too tired
to be in love with

the loneliness of
the clock ticking down
the hours
like an old organ grinder playing
the final chords at an unattended

from North Beach Poems (1977)


Paddy O’Sullivan
home again wearing
the scars of the past
like an engraved bracelet
passed on from one lover to another
walking the streets of north beach
in search of old visions now only
memories in the nightmare mirror
of madness—swapping tales
with obscene priests hung over in
the drunkenness of eternal failure.

Paddy O’Sullivan of Kerouac tales
and Cassady visions
Paddy O’Sullivan walking
Washington Square
the bulldozer death lurking everywhere.

Paddy O’Sullivan does your typewriter
still talk to you in
the lonely hours of the night?

Paddy O’Sullivan alone in
San Francisco
city of suicides past and present
waiting for that lady poet
who will forgive you in the morning
for forgetting her name in
the hour of dawn when our needs are soothed
with the power of the written word
that stirs moves inside us
like a runaway express train stalled
on the freeway
like the haunting breath
of a hound dog closing in for
the kill.

Paddy O’Sullivan where
have all the poets gone walking
straightjackets trapped by time
the sun is not as you see it now
everything changes and yet remains the same
the streets are no more or less intense
the lines on your face are the lines
on my face as we move back into
the body into the inner flesh measured by
the amnesia of yesterday.

this town coughs up its dead most rudely
the raw nerves of time returning to haunt me
oblivious to the thirst lying still at
the edge of the river.

the blueprint of our life etched in
the dark shadows of
the soul.

paddy o'sullivan 1976

from Venus In Pisces (1997)


Let the wagging tongues wag
And the loose lipped zombies
Say what they will
We'll sing to each other
In the still of night
While calico cats stoned
On poems
Run through our dreams
And rainbow drenched clouds
Drag themselves across
The sheets with
The falling away of our clothes


9 hours a day at work
Another hour counting down
The hours
Commuting to and from work
Dodging angry motorists
With middle fingers
For brains
And when I unlock the door
And sink down on the sofa
And listen to the angelic voice
Of Billie Holiday
My mind tells me
That I need a drink
Maybe many drinks
Various ghosts chewing on me

Later I tell myself
I'll haul my tired ass over
To the typewriter
Sip on a glass of white wine
Try to pen a line or two
Trying to put off going to bed
Forever forced to remember
Your smell on the sheets
The taste of your flesh
Your warm back on mine
So I hit the typing keys
Trying with words
To still the pain
Of what I need
And never had
My mind my need
My weakness
No different than
Any other man
Thinking of love
Thinking of fucking
Thinking of you
Pounding out my regrets
On the typewriter
Savoring the lush taste
Of creativity
Hot as your flesh
Feeling the weight
Of your memory
Heavy as an anchor
Tied to the tip
Of my tongue.

from San Francisco Streets (1997)


I was looking at my scrapbook
The other night
While listening to an old
Woody Guthrie record
Scratchy as a smoker’s cough
After twenty years of lung destruction
And there I was in my youth
Hitchhiking from California to Arizona
And places further West
Heading in so many directions
That it was like getting lost
In the trick mirrors at the fun house

And there were the women
Then young girls
Free flowing spirits
Who gave their minds and bodies
At the slightest invitation
And nights too laying alone
In tangled sleep
Feeling like a deer caught
In barbed wire
Or sitting bunched-up
Cold and disheveled
At the local Greyhound station
Fighting off the eyes
Of leering men who preferred
Boys to women

Now sixty
I realize I was there and back
So fast
Like a derailed train
Running out of track
Returning home
Carrying my life
In a knapsack
The days the months
The years hung out to dry
Like your mother’s washing
On an old clothesline


I’ve walked these San Francisco streets
Like a cop walks his beat
My eyes taking in her every movement
My brain storing real and imagined changes
In sixty years her changes have not eluded me
She is older now
More wrinkled and cranky
Much like me
But the two of us manage to get along
Like business partners looking after
Each others interest
Market Street once a fashionable socialite
Now a gaudy whore

Mission Street
once the home of the Irish
Now glossed over
Tough looking youths with dagger stares
Where you guard your wallet
Like a eunuch guards the harem door

You have to learn to give and take
You have to learn to adjust
The city is like a cup of strong coffee
Stir her enough
And the flavor floats to the top
I have walked these streets
All my life
In good condition
And broken down physique
Knowing there is no city
Like her in the world
She is like a pair
Of empty shoes
Sitting under the bed
With no feet big enough
To fill them
She is like a squirrel
Running between the live
Wires of a utility pole
She is like the last bullet
In the executioner’s gun
She is like a room full
Of poets crazed with their
Own conversation
She is like Billie Holiday
Drenched in sweat
She is like the face of god
All forgiving
In her insatiable lust
For life



when I worked in Modesto
back in 1964
I’d drive to Stockton
and sit in the park
drinking with the winos
in Salinas it was field workers
in Crow’s Landing it was with
unemployed Mexicans at Latin
in North Beach and the Mission
I hung out with deadbeats and
street people fighting
cirrhosis of the liver
junkie tremors and now
in the Fillmore
I cut my teeth on jazz
let Billie Holiday patch up
my bleeding heart
in the Potrero
I saw the last of the
factory workers
growing thinner
like their paychecks
fearing for their jobs
in the Tenderloin
I drank with whores and
who opened their pocketbooks
as freely as their legs

Market Street
I witnessed panhandlers
crouched like criminals
in open doorways
a short distance from
the Jesus freaks with
billboards on their backs
pointing the way to heaven
at the old southern pacific
railway yard
I saw the last brake man
smoking a cigarette
eyes vacant as an empty
while on the other side
of town
high on top of
Nob Hill
society ladies sat in
chauffeured limousines
white poodle dogs nestled
between their piano legs
unaware of the dredges
of humanity walking third

howard street
drinking cheap port from
brown paper bags
starving cold disheveled
as the homeless are today
waiting for god or pneumonia
to walk them to the grave

from It Serves You Right To Suffer (1997)


The Beach is dead
The blood thin red
Dino the bartender lives
In a graveyard
Chief undertaker
Dispensing pain
Like low grade cocaine

There was a time when
I might have invited him outside
Only the tough guy image
Long ago died

The Beach is dead
The poets have left
Dino the bartender
Walks with spade and shovel
Having found his niche in life

The Beach is dead
The ghosts cry in despair
Mad cowboys rope my visions
Hog tie my poems

The curse of Kerouac serenades
The demons of sleep
The Beach is dead.


Old guitar slung around
His back
Pure country
Singing the blues
In all of us
With eyes that cry out
To be listened to
Nearly 66
Hard as the highway
By the same name
Leaving a message
On Annie’s answering machine
Reading a poem about
A bird that died
In his hands
Remembering the scattering
Of his daughter’s ashes
Caught in the pit of sorrow
This man of music
This one time old friend
Still fighting
Still scrapping
Like the rest of us
For whatever time
Is left

from Pussy To Politics (1999)


dark starry night
fog creeping in
over the hills
raindrops falling
on the window
I see the faces
of old friends staring at me
ghosts from the past
freight trains steam ships
subway trains carrying
their cargo of dead
Rimbaud the mad hatter
Lorca fed a dinner of bullets
Kaufman black messiah
walking bourbon street
eating a golden sardine
Micheline drinking with Kerouac
at the old cedar tavern
Jesus wiping the perspiration
from his forehead
the foghorn plays a symphony
inside my head
I hear the drums
I feel the beat
I kiss the feet of angels


long wailing notes
that run up and down
the spine
makes you shudder
like a woman coming down
from a climax
heightens the senses
sends shock waves
through my body

God, Jesus and the
Holy Ghost rolled
into one

from Scar Tissue (1999)


The last few months were the worst
As if she were under a gypsy curse
Her children near and far
Forced to watch life flee her
Like a runaway car
Seeing her nibble
At each meal
Robbed of all zeal
One eye on the dessert
The other on
The obituary column


A week after Saint Patrick’s Day
You passed away
Yet remained in our hearts
Half smile
Half frown
Hanging around

I still visit your grave
On Christmas
Your birthday
And Mother’s Day
Tied to death’s umbilical cord
That refuses to let me go
Knotting itself like a noose
Around my neck
Too tight for comfort
Not loose enough
To set me free


It took me decades after his death
Before I could write a poem about him
It was as if a small part of him
Had entered my heart
And remained behind the barbed-
Wire fence he so carefully constructed
Over those long years
Stayed there all that time
Building an invisible umbilical cord
Reaching out for un unseen love connection
Sending signals carried on the sealed lips
Of blackbirds circling invisible graveyards
Finding in death
What we had never known in life
Those ghostly white hands scratching upward
From the grave
Desperately trying to cup the tiny flame
Flickering inside the valve of my heart

from 13 Jazz Poems (2000)


An old man stands in
The doorway
Of an abandoned building
Shoulders stooped
Jesus beard
Ragged clothes
Hands outstretched
Begging for his supper
A tote of wine

His prayers unanswered
Spittle on his chin
Holes in his shoes
Walt Whitman’s forgotten


the shrill cry of dead
jazz greats ring out
in the night gliding
on dark rain clouds

jazz notes loud as thunder
burst the eardrums
like artillery fire
the 4-walls closing in
like a police dragnet

jazz luminaries beautiful
butterflies spreading
their wings
reshaping the stars
the universe
cosmic matter waiting
to be reborn

from North Beach Revisited (2000)


Sitting alone at the
Lost and Found Bar
Here in North Beach
Dark skin centuries
Removed from the present
Tapping your fingers to the
Late afternoon music coming
From the jukebox
No longer able to play
Your saxophone now
Sitting alone like you
Forgotten in a
Downtown pawnshop
Tagged for a quick sale

Someone puts a dollar
Into the jukebox and
Billie Holiday sings
Softly in your ear
Bringing an instant smile
To your face

A lighthouse beam
Dividing the thin line
Between sanity and madness
This is your turf
Your veins burning with
The energy of life
Long lines of images haunting
The afternoon hours

Bronzed warrior of old
Sitting here at the
Lost and Found bar
The beat forever going


I weave in and out of North Beach Bars
Ghosts at every bar stool
Drunk with memories of the past
Time capsule glimpses of fallen comrades
Flashing through my head
Lenny Bruce at the Purple Onion
William Margolis jumping out
A third story window
Looking for death and finding
Only paralysis
Echoes of the damned
Ring through my eardrums
Like cash registers
Playing a lonely concerto
Inside my head


from Will The Real Lawrence Ferlinghetti Please Stand Up (2002)

Hey Lawrence
is it true that you said
when asked what you thought
of Jack Spicer,
“Isn’t he the guy who drank
at Gino and Carlo’s Bar?”

I mean I know you preferred
Mike’s Pool Hall
back in the 50s
a much more polite atmosphere
and they made good sandwiches there.

Is it true what Eileen Kaufman says
that you ripped off royalties due
Bob Kaufman
who was too shell shocked
to know the difference?

Is it true what Plymell said
that you sold out his book
and sold the foreign rights to a German publisher
without Plymell seeing a dime?

And Bukowski told me in a letter
that you took 50% of foreign rights
when the standard contract calls
for 25%
He said he had to go to Nancy Peters
to get the amount owed him.

And did you call Richard Brautigan
a “lightweight?”
I remember reading that somewhere.
and did you call the longshoreman
Eric Hoffer the
Rod McKuen of philosophy?

And didn’t you fail to show up
at the Folsom Prison Writer’s Workshop
saying you had never been invited
and laughing to a group of admirers
gathered at the Café Trieste
that “it must have been a figment
of their imagination,” not knowing
I had seen the letter myself.

And is it true that when Neeli
brought a group of students
to City Lights and explained the
history of the store to them
and read them a poem
that you got on the phone
and asked Neeli what the
hell he was doing reading poetry
that you were trying to run
a “damn business.”

I don’t know
maybe I’m dense
but it’s hard for me to understand
how you can call yourself a revolutionist
when you’ve milked the system
like a dairy farmer
owning a prime piece of real estate
in the heart of North Beach
a home in Virginia
and a cabin in Big Sur.
I mean all that is good and well
but please don’t compare yourself
with the likes of Lorca whose only
property owned  was six feet of dirt
and congratulations on City Lights
being declared a landmark
I saw your party celebration list
not a single blue-collar poet listed
on the reading list.

I missed you at Micheline’s memorial
and at Corso’s too
I guess you had better things to do
but then didn’t you dump your old pal
Shig after he had a stroke?
and came back to work for you
at City Lights only to find
his position had been filled.

Well no matter
you’re a master of the PR game
you have the media in your back pocket
the literary crowd at your feet
but maybe you should think about
sending the San Francisco Police
a Christmas card each year
perhaps stuff in a few bucks
for good will
for without their busting you
for publishing HOWL
you would be just another
businessman scratching out
a living.

from Trying To Find A Common Bond (2002)


this young kid visited me
last year
from a small town in
the South or
the Midwest
I’m really not sure
I was half stoned
and don’t care for visitors
these days
and I bought him a drink
and managed to bum him
a joint       
and we talked about
the old days
when North Beach was alive
with creativity
but he wasn’t totally satisfied
he wanted a woman
he wanted me to get him one
as if I were a pimp
and worse yet
I was forced to tell him
I can’t even get one for myself
but he wouldn’t believe it
he had read my poems
he had seen my book
Venus In Pisces
and maybe because
I had been a friend
of Bukowski
he felt that some
of the magic must have
rubbed off on me

when he went to play 
the jukebox
I excused myself
to go to the bathroom
and while standing there
with my dick in my hand
I contemplated telling him
that we all lose it some day
some how somewhere
and that it would happen
to him too
sooner or later
if he insisted on believing
in fairy tales
and when I was through
relieving myself
I stepped out into
the back alley
and breathed in
the fresh air
and there was this dog
at the back
of another dog          
humping away with
his tongue hanging out
and the other dog    
looked bored
more or less
much like me
and I went back into
the bar
and against my better
put two dimes into
the public telephone
and dialed the number
of an older woman
I knew
who liked to fuck
young guys
but all I got
was a busy signal
and I knew as I headed
back to the table that
the kid would return
and write a poem about
how I had failed him
and I would go home
and writer another poem
about how life
had failed me
in this we shared
something in common


Oh how I hated that

third street
My grandmother old and wrinkled
Sitting in the main lobby with withered
Men and women reclining on worn couches
Staring off into space with eyes like
Death warrants
The smell of death
The smell of funeral parlors filling the stale air
My grandmother pale and sickly
Her voice trembling  like an earthquake tremor
Rising to hug me
Wearing her years like rosary beads

Oh how I hated those visits
Watching those old people
Walk in and out of the hotel
On their way to a Sunday walk
Or a meal at a Tenderloin cafeteria
Looking like wasted corpses
On a 24-hour pass from the morgue
Living behind closed shades
In single light bulb rooms sealed
Like tombs
Walking in circles
Like a mad conductor
At an abandoned railroad yard

Oh how I hated those
Visits with death
Seeing my own mortality
In my grandmother’s eyes

The old hotels are gone now
Torn down in the name of progress
But they will always exist
In the back of my mind
My grandmother walking the
Corridors of my skull
Reaching out to me with
Bone cold hands

These transitory images
That won’t leave me alone
Fading in and out
Like a bad movie

Worn down, depressed
I struggle in the morning
To get out of bed
Cursed with an arthritic neck
Waking two, three times a night
With a full bladder
Trudging down the three flights
Of stairs to retrieve the
Morning newspaper

In and out of doctor offices
Taking pills like candy
Seeing my grandmother
In the dark gloom of that third
Street hotel
Death crouched low
Like a sprinter waiting the
Starter’s gun

from With No Place To Go (2002)


I didn’t like it when
My father took me with him
For lunch at Compton’s Cafeteria
On Market and Van Ness
In San Francisco
It wasn’t the food, which was
But the old folks
The cook was fat and bald
And there was no waitress
The bus boy was old
And not a boy at all
And the people who came there
To eat
Were retired people
On low incomes
With death warrants for eyes
Dabbing at their turkey chins
With crumpled paper napkins
Looking like pallbearers
Back from a funeral

from Taking Things In My Own Hands (2003)


No more jazz at the
Black Hawk
No more jazz at the
No more jazz in the
Just ghostly boarded down doors

Gone the clinking of glasses
The waitress who always knew
When your glass was empty
Working her magic on
Your inflamed nerve ends
The black female crooner
Hitting her notes
Like a train
Breaking the stillness of night
With its long wailing whistle
Her sultry smile embedded
In your skin
Long after the closing hour
Leaving you sweating
Like waking from
A wet dream


The more you commit yourself
The more they want
To dine on your flesh
These young Turks
From middle class America
Spoiled by affluence
Spoiled by the good life
Burned out before they turn forty
Taking potshots at you
In and out of print
Their lives strung-out
Like a series of bad dreams
Running through
The heads of defrocked priests
Hate crowded into their minds
Like a handful of sardines
In a fat man’s mouth
Too safe to be anarchists
They talk of revolution
Looking toward tomorrow
But locked into yesterday
How they rant
How they rave
How they preach their
Holy Mantra
Hiding behind thin faces
And shaggy revolutionary
They make love
With butcher knife precision
And when the blood rushes
From the wounds
They pretend the shit
They smell is not their own

from Sleeping With Demons (2003)


sitting here alone with
a perpetual hard-on
4 in the morning
insomnia tearing at my guts
can’t sleep, can’t write
pussy on my mind
and people keep writing
and telling me I’m a legend
so why am I sitting here alone
staring into the dark
like a sniper fingering
a hair trigger
restless, unheroic
waiting on words that
won’t come

from The System (2003)


at Folsom Prison
the guards joke and laugh
as they have me empty my pockets
inside out
taking everything from me
leaving me with only my notebook
and a handful of poems
the guard in the watchtower
eyeing the prisoners
in the courtyard below
his hi-powered rifle
at the ready

the warden distrustful
perhaps even fearful
stations a guard outside
the small room where the
poetry workshop is held

the sharing of words           
barely begins when
I look outside the window
see a bird on top of the
prison wall
free to come and go
as I turn my attention
to the guard in the back
of the room
hiding behind dark shades
looking more the outlaw
than the law

from A D Winans Greatest Hits (2003)


It’s been in the thirties two nights
in a row and my heater went out
and I’m sitting here freezing
my butt off with a hacking cough
waiting for the power company
to come and fix the problem
but it isn’t so bad
when you consider 9/11
the war on Iraq
and that d.a. levy
took a rifle between his legs
and blew his brains out
which has nothing and yet everything
to do with this poem

Thirty-degree nights won’t kill you
but they don’t bring comfort either
the trouble with being single
the trouble with being 67
is knowing you could die alone
and go undiscovered for weeks
with nothing but rotting flesh
to tell your story
and a few poems to remember
you by

from In Memoriam (2004)


You wore your life like a life preserver
Remembering forever the political chaos
Vietnam, George Jackson, King and the
Kennedy brothers
Tongue on fire
Mind carrying the music of Charlie Parker
And Mingus too
You walked the streets with
Edison electricity eyes
Victim of shock treatments
And lies
With matted hair and soiled jeans
Disguising your nightmare dreams

You fired away with satellite precision
And the Gods feared your thunder
Your eyes boring through the
Living dead
Walking unmasked for all to see
While death a circus clown
Followed you about town
Oblivious to the gothic nightmares
You wore like an anchor around
Your neck

You moved through the streets
Of North Beach
The original be-bop man
Poet in residence caretaker
Of the clan
The haunting breath of death
Snapping at your footsteps
Like a hound dog closing in
For the kill
And when the magic
Of North Beach left
You did too
Moving to the Bayview
Black ghetto away from the
Social zoo
A living Bangladesh come true
Your words to the end
Hard as a pair
Of new boots
Echoing across the universe
Like King Tut’s curse
And when death came
To claim you
The angry ghosts of the
Co-existence Bagel Shop
Beat hard in the paper hearts
Of every city cop
The shadow of your being
Dancing from Chinatown alleys
To downtown high rises
Billie Holiday forever singing
In your heart

bob kaufman 1976
"in san francisco he was regarded as the original be-bop poet"

from The World’s Last Rodeo (2006)


The storm
Lets up

The birds
Take flight

Neighbor’s dog
Shakes water

Drops in sprinkler
Like fashion

A cavalry
Of children

Magically appear
In rainbow splendor

Sun peaks
From clouds

Smell of spring
In the air


A microphone inside my head
Static playing mad tunes on my tongue
A lonely grasshopper without wings


Another day spent home alone
Bag lady talks to cracks in the sidewalk
Pope takes his last breath


Kaufman poems rattle inside head
Hunter Thompson gunshot wound bleeds the dawn
Umpire in black sweeps off home plate

from South Of Market (2006)


When I was twenty
It was a ball
There were no thoughts
About the right one
It was just this one
And that one booze music
And fun
When I was thirty the
Search began
It became a bit more than
Flesh and bone
And I began to think
Of marriage children
And a home
Tired of hangovers
Bent retching over a toilet bowl
The searching of the soul
When I was forty
Doubts began to set in
Memories of my mother breaking
A dish over my father’s head
A lover long dead
Young women passing
In and out of my bed
When I was fifty the women
Began to walk it past my door
And the bars became a bore
But the search went on
Now at seventy
My spirit on the run
I no longer play the game
Having escaped the mad house
Having escaped the nursing home
Is a small victory in it self
The graveyards are filled with
Lovers who search for the right one
Only to rot under the
Weight of the sun

from The Other Side Of Broadway (2007)


He walks the streets of North Beach
looking like an old man
with eyes empty as a broken parking meter
Unemployable weighed down by the years
His mind heavy as an anchor
dragging the ocean floor

Forgotten rebel playing old Lorca ballads
in the shipwreck of his heart
His mind destroyed by shock treatments
and one too many police batons

At night he dreams he is riding with Geronimo
Has imaginary conversations with Charlie Parker
Rides the ferry with Coltrane and Mingus
Getting off at

Bourbon Street
to down
A drink with Kerouac

He shares a cigarette with Charlie Chaplin
at the Bijou Theater
Walks the battlefields with Walt Whitman
Rides the plains with Red Cloud
in search of the last buffalo

Walking the streets of North Beach
in search of the elusive ginger fish smell
Death a sightless chauffeur waiting
Like a concubine facing another
Apocalyptic day


Once addiction sets in
There is no stopping it
You become a serial killer
Attacking the keyboard at will
Your mind works in shifts
Strange creatures live inside your head
Show no mercy give no ground
Forcing your fingers to do their bidding
Writing down their thoughts in your
Loose-leaf notebook

The city is your slaughterhouse
Like a wife it accommodates your moods
Doesn’t seem to mind you giving
Her a bad name

You walk her streets a hungry vampire
Lapping up your own blood
On nights when blood transfusions
Are not enough

from Marking Time (2008)


spring flowers in bloom
nature’s wild children

a sailing boat making its way
through San Francisco Bay

water calm
as whispering wind

a flock of seagulls plaintive call
auditioning for God’s choir

two old men play chess
under the shade of a tree

I mark time
like Li Po
mixing words with

from Billie Holliday Me And The Blues (2009)


He was a high note
Of wailing jazz
The spark that ignites
A fire
He was a shot of heroin
A fifth of Jim Beam
A shaman a con man
A vagabond poet
Who shuffled words like
A riverboat gambler
Ravished by illness
Ravished by time
He painted his visions
On canvas
On city streets
In bars in coffee houses
His poems racing across the
Streets of America
Pure innocence
Pure genius
Poor jazz
Spinning words that
Hung in mid-air
Like a hummingbird
Drunk on the
Pollen of life

jack micheline reading
at The Loose Cannon Cafe, Chicago



The old Black Hawk booked the
Best jazz musicians of its day
Getz, Miles Davis, Diz
Just to name a few

I went there but twice
Once with the poet
Jack Micheline
Once with a young
Latina girl
To see Miles Davis
Blow his magic
Forced to sit in the
Teen-age section
Because she was only
Sipping on a coke
High on the high note
Smoke curling around the room
In long lingering lazy circles
Sweet sax
Smooth gin fizz
My hand on warm thigh
Feeling high
Feeling cool
Be-bop rhythms dancing
Inside my soul

from No Room For Buddha (2009)


I’m addicted to looking at pictures
My mother left behind
From assorted photo albums
Bringing back memories of our family
Flat on

Page Street
Teddy the family dog chasing his tail
Like dad chased his dreams
Mother sitting on the sofa knitting
A heating pad on her swollen feet
Or working a crossroad puzzle
One eye on sister the other on me
Dad lighting up a cigarette
Blowing smoke rings across the room
It’s like reliving vaudeville days
My father a grip-man on the
Old Muni Railway
Taking me with him for a ride
Letting me ring the bell
A look of pride in his eyes
When he said to the passengers,

“That’s my son”

May be the only memory
I had of childhood fun
Father and son as one
Riding to the end of the line
That one time when everything
In life was fairytale fine
Now at sixty-five
I feel like a dinosaur
Walking the ends of earth
With nothing but scraps
To feast on



On weekends my father
Worked for Luke Morley
At the corner grocery store
Not for money but for conversations
He never had with my mother
Staying there until late at night
Stacking shelves with canned goods
Coming home with his reward
A pack of two of cigarettes
Sitting alone in the living room
Staring out the window
Blowing smoke rings in the air
The ashes falling in the ashtray
Like bits and pieces of his life


I turn on the baseball game
And Barry Bonds is giving
A rare interview
And in the background
Players are shagging fly balls
And I’m back at Golden Gate Park
And my father is hitting fly balls
Which I’m to catch in my newly bought
First Baseman’s glove
And I circle around reach up
And misjudge the flight of the ball
And it hits me flush in the nose
And I drop the glove and start crying
And my father yells at me
To put the glove back on
My mother trying to comfort me
As my sister, always the tomboy,
Runs out and picks up the glove
And tells my father to hit her one
Which she catches flawlessly
And I see the proud look
In my father’s eyes
The penance I paid
All those years into adulthood
A heavy weight laid to rest beneath
Six feet of cold hard earth

from Love – Zero (2010)


the day after Christmas
I wear you like a pressed flower
recently unwrapped presents spread
out in the living room
the house still surprisingly warm
caught in a storm that needs no words
in a soft place inside the heart where
all language stops


twice we have broken up
and I tell you the next time
like baseball it’s three strikes
and you’re out
but you think I’m like a boomerang
always coming back
as I sit here alone in bed tonight
overcome with a great sadness
thinking of all the times
your body so close
and yet so far away
your eyes telling their own story
like an angry ghost reclining
in a three-legged rocking chair


Old songs with half forgotten lyrics
play with my head
older still movies play on the
bark of my skin
Oklahoma, South Pacific, West Side Story
singing on the tip of my tongue
humming my way back to yesterday
left alone with ghostly echoes
serenading the dead

I can almost feel the ignited passion
lost lovers draped on my bed
tasting the melody riding up and down
my spine
memories of my parent’s old victrola
vinyl records spinning
on a balanced groove
a love affair so fragile
it was like trying to thread a needle
in the teeth of a storm
fading now
like an old flame sipping
on a cup of coffee
at my favorite café
a smile on her face
fingers snapping feet tapping
to the music that made us as one

evaporating in the face of dawn
like clouds taking foreign shapes
like the smoke rings my father
blew my way as a child
Frank Sinatra crooning in the

the way of music
                                                and death
playing to an audience of one

from Dancing With Words (2010)


Alone in my hotel room
Mexico, thirty-six hours
Before my flight back
To San Francisco
A hundred blank pages
Rattling around inside my head

I can turn each one
Into paper airplanes
Fly them to imaginary places
Or write poems on them in vivid old
Mexico song rhythms

If I could draw
I’d draw a rainbow picture
Of beautiful Indian women
With faces brown as earth

Soon I’ll return to San Francisco
City of dreamers drunkards
And lonely lovers
I will turn the blank pages
Into poems fleshed from the
Pond of my memory bank
Baited with the history of old

a d with paddy o'sullivan, 1976, photo richard morris

a d with bob kaufman, 1976, photo richard morris

jack micheline with a d winnans, late 90s, photo linda lerner

a d winan links

 ‘A.D. WINANS: north beach for 3 decades…’ A recent interview [by Evan Karp] 

bob kaufman links

jack micheline links


Anonymous said...

I've read through all these poems, several times over the past week; they don't fade and instead get better with each reading. Good poetry is like that. Each reading reveals another layer, another aspect at play, another depth, both in each of the poems, and in the text as a whole. I get resonance from this piece, these poems. Lovely stuff Al. karlos

Anonymous said...

Love the look and the larrikin lark of this great new issue! I'm in the wars here with both the Shop (but that's a good story of Man's Struggle Against Adversity blah!) and my health. So, as sunshine floods my window here, can I say A D W's Patchen hommage recalls to me the influence he was on me in the 60s --the drawings, the love poems especially. I wonder if there's a biog of Patchen? Awful penury as the poem describes... tho his library in orange boxes attracted me... The long Buk poem outstanding of that kind of thing, the history, the anecdote, and who was that girl from Oz?!! Great line, "standing naked as a dead man's shadow", the kind of image & meaning you feel before wrapping head around it... So much there, including the self portrait, valuable stuff... Will return to this... Many thanks... Kris h

Old Fitzroy - - Dreaming blues, karlos? said...

[the email message below is specifically about the book (artefact),not about the blog piece]

Karl, this comment came unsolicited today. ADW

--- Original Message ----
From: "Jake St. John"
To: ADWinans
Subject: Feedback on Li Po book
Date: Fri, 3 Dec 2010

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy Drowning Like Li Po In A River Of Red Wine. It’s been my companion at the bar the last few nights and the only negative words I can say is that my beer gets warm waiting for me because I can’t put the book down! It really is a book of poems for the people. From the introduction through Mexico 2008, this book captures so many snapshots of poets and people in the streets so vividly! I’ve been recommending this book to poets and non-poets! Well done!
Jake St. John