Excerpts of Poems

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
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 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.


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



Book Launch        

  A D Winans     

A. D. Winans is a native San Francisco poet, writer and photographer. His poetry, prose, book reviews, and essays have appeared in over 1500 literary magazines and anthologies, including City Lights Journal, Margie, Rattle, Poetry Australia, the New York Quarterly, the Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, and the Beatitude 50th Anniversary Anthology. He is the author of numerous books and chapbooks of poetry and prose. In 2002 a song poem of his was performed at New York's Alice Tully Hall. In 2006 he was awarded a PEN National Josephine Miles award for excellence in literature. In 2009 he was given a PEN Oakland Lifetime Achievement Award.

by A. D. Winans 
((7" X 10") Paperback, 190 pages)

San Francisco Poems


"A. D. Winans is the poet heart of San Francisco. He tells it like it was and is. This splendid collection of his nomadic movements through the city through the decades is like no other. His eye, sense of the observed detail, his empathy for the ruin and resurrection, is unique. The melancholia of the old days contend with sharp updated quick shots of the city on the move.  A rich offering." 
    David Meltzer 

"A. D. Winans set his poet's eye on San Francisco, native ground, with all the passion of a true elder in the art of poetry. Here are the sounds and sites of a city of poets, wonderfully knit. A reader will find the deep humors of San Francisco alive and well in the hands of a master." 
    Neeli Cherkovski 

"As a poet, A. D Winans is one of the best writing in the U.S. today.  His work is powerful, human, humane and deals with primary issues." 
    Hugh Fox 

In his Introduction, Charles Plymell, writes: 
     Feminine force has sometimes been assigned to that beautiful City by the Bay, so it's natural it undergoes periodical changes. It is sometimes forgotten that it's a port, and, one it seems for every stormy life that landed there. A. D. Winans is the first person I know who was born in San Francisco.  During my love affair(s) there, it seemed I lived on all her streets, climbed her hills and while high on top of Twin Peaks, marveled at her jewel-like lights strung on streets below. She is almost surrounded by water; a fact the poet Lew Welch often reminded me of.  Fog could intertwine in the breath of sailors sipping martinis at the Top of the Mark, as I watched ships pass each other as lovers in the night, a reminder of the old Barbary Coast, or Mammy Pleasant building her neighborhoods through sex slaves and transients, newer captives with each experience a lifetime etched in memory. I certainly left my heart there, at least the presentiment that makes the heart see quicker than the eye. It demands an extraordinary vision to record this city. A. D. Winans has brought its inhabitants to life again for another look, however quick, however deep.  
    My sister, who died on the street there in front of an Indian bar was a transient, I was a transient, certainly the people of the tribes were transient as a Chinese lantern of the western moon, but the city always gave up its special feeling of home with all that implies.  I met the Frisco Kid back east at a book convention some years later. It took until this day to realize he was a native to this city, and in his poems he identifies places he went as a child that I was to know later and stake a claim to the magical image that always changed yet remained steady.  
    As presentiment is to heart, sensitivity is to creativity and the transient nature of this most beautiful city became the fiction that shed periodically like the snakeskin, the lines of itself.  Crooners claim to have indeed left their hearts there. Soul singers and philosophers worked on the docks. Jazz claimed it; Opera claimed it; Movies claimed it; Detective Novels claimed it; Rock and Roll claimed it (even built on it) Religious Vision claimed it; Madness claimed it; and yes Poetry claimed it! Even the Police claimed it. A. D. Winans lived it.

"His mind destroyed by shock treatments
And one too many police batons."

It was always the large canvas artist forever recorded lines where the real and unreal blurred and sometimes struck. Winans warns,

"Never place your hand over
your heart the
Marksman might think
you're marking his target..."

    There were/are many different kinds of poets who gravitated into that feminine energy. Like fish they traveled in two, even in schools, or more notably cliques. San Francisco was a natural basin for poets and was even known for destroying itself at times. When I arrived there, older poets I admired like Rexroth and Patchen were closing shop. On arriving in the city, Dave Haselwood, a fellow Kansan, gave me a copy of John Weiner's Hotel Wently Poems (which A. D. Winans says was an influence on his own writing).  It was during a short stay there that I had an altercation with a sailor and Neal Cassady in Anne's room and would eat a rather naked lunch with Leary and Ginsberg below the hotel at Foster's Cafeteria in "Polk Gulch." Events in that city seemed linked, too, a fishnet never quite ending. 

    Rexroth organized the famous reading of Howl in the '5Os that led to the famous obscenity trial where Ginsberg's vision of Marlon Brando, the Icon of the year, led to such hyperbole, even the best minds of San Francisco became forever obsessed.  To this day, City Lights Bookstore enjoys the tourist trade from the publicity of the trial. While the author certainly didn't "abandon" his moloch and had no reserve for taking thousands from " Moloch the stunned governments," it changed lives with such force as to create a Beatnik millionaire from a Navy officer and graduate of the Sorbonne, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. A similar institution arose in the Fillmore by another NYC city cat Bill Graham who saw fame in the old Palladium and plunged his vision to the depths of this city. To imagine being a poet who was born in and grew up in this city is to see a history that A. D. Winans records so accurately through his poetry.   
    While poets protested against money and government while building religious and sexual constituencies in visionary fervor, or became jaded, or "trippy" Winans kept his style. Jack Spicer frequented and conversed with Winans at Gino & Carlos. Jack Micheline, his friend, who had the chops, wanted to really turn over those ash cans of millionaire dollars seen prudishly by Ginsberg as "Filth! "Ugliness!" before the politically correct safe, academic mainstream took over. Turf also didn't bother another of A. D. Winans' friends, the late George Tsongas.  Tsongas wasn't a political poet, but he talked politics every day. I, like them, didn't care for the labels.  I could see as much in a Wyeth as in a Blake. The scene shifted again towards the Haight Ashbury (where A.D. Winans grew up a child).  The Go-Go clubs flourished while Sonny Rollins played at North Beach dives for a two-drink minimum. At the old Avalon Ballroom I saw a handful of hippies turn out to hear an "unknown" Bo Diddley. Meanwhile, if one looked closer at Winans' poetry, there were constants.

I have observed old women
fumble in broken down purses
for non existent dreams."

In the city where Winans was born, he grew up with those truths that were etched in faces that changed as well, but probably not what the tourists were seeing.
    I don't know if poets see differently than other folks. I have certainly been in the presence of some who missed what I saw, and I've certainly seen things I didn't want to see. It's obvious some poets are compelled to write what they didn't want to see in the first place. That was the impression I had from Bob Kaufman, one of Winans' companions, who took a vow of silence.

A. D. Winans and Bob Kaufman

A. D. Winans (left) and Bob Kaufman (right) 

In San Francisco Poems Winans records a lifetime of the streets.  They are photographic in that they can see a line in a face added by time, even the atavistic lines, that might cause one to avert one's eyes. For his is the city of many poets, and as Robert Peters offered, "poetry munchkins." So there is definitely turf. But Winans reminds us  
"...that every meat packer 
And fisherman, every waitress 
And construction worker, knows more 
About life than your average poet."  
     I connect with Winans' poetry in memories when I walked the streets south of Market down to the docks always in pairs, if not in groups, with our longshoreman hooks prominently displayed in our belts, for it's an area a tourist would go at his peril, and poets, not that many.  But Winans is one of them who did.

"You can see from the 
Look in his eyes the 
Scar on his face 
That he's someone 
You don't want to mess with 
His eyes survey the scene 
Like a periscope 

He's a two-bit thug 
Looking for action 
An old beat cop looking 
For a head to bash 
He's Boston Blackie 
And Al Capone rolled into one..." 

    In these lines, Winans not only reveals the faces on the street, but the tragedy therein, where a transient, like Jack Black could find a home. Where the hoboes, hookers, "rounders," and finally hipster poets came to the tenderloin, walked on Turk Street, and ate at Compton's Cafeteria. Her history keeps sucking up the changes, the tragedies of every phony, every dreamer, every hero, and every loser. And Winans' city is unique with the many poets it has embraced. Harte Crane didn't have that situation in Akron. And within that change, that turf, that carnival, that mainstream of visionary-cum-academic, there is an importance to me that I claimed as my home, that space no matter the physical changes, there was the emotion of that space, the space Winans keeps occupied with his poems, that street where my epiphany is his and the poets he knew. It's the hometown he saw both as a child and as a grown up, that very scene that must be read by its inhabitants, its tourists who run into the bookstore, or its poets who must live the boundless postcard, however briefly. 

"I have sat 
One too many evenings watching 
Old men and women 
Eat their last meal 
One eye on the desert the 
Other on the obituary column"      


This book is available online at www.littleredtree.com, but for your convenience you can use the link below:

   Buy Now 
by A. D. Winans       

($4.00 shipping within the US. Overseas orders will be
invoiced separately with additional shipping costs)

Michael Linnard
Little Red Tree Publishing, LLC
635 Ocean Avenue,
New London, CT 06320 

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this poem is for you Roberto
and for Ed “Foots” Lipman too
this poem is for every poet
who ever paced the cellblocks of San Quentin
Folsom, Attica, and Neil Island
or fought the people’s struggle in Chile
Cuba or Nicaragua

this poem is for those who walk
the dream of freedom
with guerilla visions
in their hearts and eyes

this poem is for those
who gave their lifeblood
to wash the streets free of oppression
for those who rest in heroic
and not so heroic graves
in the struggle for human dignity

I sit here in my seventy-fifth year
thinking of young boys
who have fought the real war
of grieving mothers and widows
thinking of young girls with color-book eyes
young women in black suspender belts
and knee high leather boots
with revolutionary roots

thinking of how the words come too late
and never say enough
knowing that in the Buddha Temple of life
all things must die
knowing there is no survival
no tarot cards horoscopes or incantations
to bring back the dead

I walk the midnight supermarket of death
thinking of Lorca and that long dirt road
thinking of the execution wall

the hangman’s noose
ethnic cleansing ovens
and genocide
hearing the gypsy ballad
that sings to the heavens
knowing there is a strange code
to this language
we are addicted too
as Gene Fowler pointed out
evil spelled backwards is live
being made into a State
automated robot is evil
but dying is not evil
for it is in its whole
the disintegration
the bacterial feeding which
in turn is a live process
and so the fight goes on
and must go on until every street
has been cleared of assassins
until every newborn
is encircled in a poem
the spirit living on
in those passed the baton

the vision cannot be killed
even as we retreat into
the depths of our being
listening to the blood
beat solid against the walls
of the heart knowing
there are secrets in the bones
that cannot be denied
or sold out to the whims
of others

Sleep well my comrades
Only the flesh is gone
Your strength lives on
in those who dared
to reach out and kiss
the sun