a.d. winans | poem for the friend who told me i need to stop dwelling on the past


a friend of mine tells me
I need to stop dwelling on the past
that nostalgia is an anchor
that will weigh me down
he’s like the lyric
to that Hank Williams song
“I saw the light, “I saw the light.”
a song he sang to Minnie Pearl
his feet sticking out the side
of an open convertible
on its way to Memphis
I’m still groping for that light
a hundred shadows from my past
hitch-hiking along for the ride

angels have traded in their wings
for a ticket to my dreams
the phantom of the opera
has a front row seat in my nightmares
mutilated poems wrap them self in my arms
pit tomorrow against yesterday
nomadic thoughts camp inside
my brain cells
master to none servant to many

old flame’s light burned out torches
in my loins
there is no place to flee
no resting stop at the end
of a long journey
from here to nowhere

I spend the afternoon
at Martha’s coffee shop
with hot coffee and a newspaper
for company
tomorrow those same newspaper lines
will be past history
should I pretend they never existed?

I am ten months into
my seventy-seventh year
winter will soon be here
with her cold claws and heavy rain
forcing her way into the walls of my mind

were she of human flesh
she would crack open
my memory vault
find miles of past memories
that flow like Li Po poems
down a river old as time
should I ignore her
tell her to come back next winter
that now isn’t the time?

I have written one too many memorial poems
for friends who have passed-away
should I shut them out of my mind
focus on tomorrow
build a graveled path that leads
to the promised land?

my emotions are trapped in quicksand
no place to run
no place to hide
endless chatter comes from
the 4-walls where
death hides between the cracks

the past is my lover
she clings to my body
like a child to a mother’s bosom
she sleeps in my memory cells
like a phantom bank that accepts
only deposits refuses withdrawals

I think of her
like I think of San Francisco
the city of my birth
the salt air smell at ocean beach
the Marina Greens
north beach and the fillmore
all filled with memories
my past is my present
the future a gypsy fortune teller

my existence
a slow chugging locomotive
on an anonymous journey
known only to the conductor
punching invisible tickets in the hands
of faceless passengers

A. D. Winans is a native San Francisco award winning poet and writer.

He is the author of over fifty books, including North Beach Poems, North Beach Revisited, Billie Holiday Me And The Blues, No Room For Buddha, Love – Zero, San Francisco Poems, and Wind On His Wings.

He is a graduate of San Francisco State College (now University). In 2006 He won a PEN Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature. In 2009 PEN Oakland awarded him a lifetime achievement award. In November 2010 BOS Press published a 365-page book of his Selected Poems.

From 1972 to 1989 Winans edited and published Second Coming Press, which produced a large number of books and anthologies, among them the highly acclaimed California Bicentennial Poet’s Anthology, which included poets like David Meltzer, Jack Micheline, Charles Plymell, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Ishmael Reed, Josephine Miles, Bob Kaufman, Gene Fowler, and William Everson.

He worked as an editor and writer for the San Francisco Art Commission, Neighborhood Arts Commission, from 1975 to 1980, during which time he produced the Second Coming 1980 Poets and Music Festival, honoring the late Josephine Miles and John Lee Hooker.

He was an active participant in the Folsom Prison Writer’s Workshop and other prison writing programs.

He has read his poetry with many acclaimed poets, including Diane DiPrima, Bob Kaufman, Jack Micheline, Harold Norse, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and all of the past and current San Francisco Poet Laureates.

His poetry, prose, articles, and book reviews have appeared in over 2000 literary magazines and anthologies, including City Lights Journal, Exquisite Corpse, Poetry Australia, Confrontation, Margie, The New York Quarterly, The Patterson Literary Review, Pearl, Bottom Dog Press, The Smith, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry.

In April 2002 a poem of his was set to music By William Bolcom, a Pulitzer Prize winning composer, and performed at New York’s Alice Tully Hall. In 2012, three poems of his were selected to be set to music by the New England Conservatory of Music for inclusion in a concert at a later date. In January 2009 Sound Street Tracks released a mastered CD of Winans reading from his book, The Reagan Psalms.

In 2012 The Louisiana University at Lafayette recorded a CD of Song Cycles by American Composers, and included in the CD is the song cycle of nationally acclaimed William Bolcom. Old Addresses, with song poems by Winans, Oscar Wilde, Ezra Pound, Langston Huges, C.P. Cavafy, Kenneth Koch and others.

Writers like Colin Wilson, Studs Terkel, James Purdy, Peter Coyote, Herbert Gold, and the late Jack Micheline and Charles Bukowski have praised his work.

He has worked at a variety of jobs, most recently with the U.S. Dept. of Education as an Equal Opportunity Specialist, investigating claims of discrimination against minorities, women and the disabled.

Winans is a member of PEN, and has served on the Board of Directors of various art organizations, including the now defunct Committee of Small Magazine Editors and Publishers (COSMEP), The South of Market Cultural Center, and Friends of Services For the Arts.  He is currently on the advisory board of the San Francisco International Poetry Library.

He is listed in Who’s Who International Poetry Directory, Who’s Who in America, the Gale Research Contemporary American Authors series, and the Gale Research Contemporary authors autobiography series.

Most recently he served on the host committee for the 2012 San Francisco International Poetry Festival.

His essay on the late Bob Kaufman was published in the American Poetry Review and was republished in 2007 by The Writer’s Research Group.  In September 2009 the article was again re-published along with a poem of his for Bob Kaufman, as part of a booklet produced by the Los Angeles Afro American Museum.

His archives are housed at Brown University.

0 Replies to “a.d. winans | poem for the friend who told me i need to stop dwelling on the past”

  1. I trust this poem is by A.D. Winans … or is this an attempt to adopt the “anonymous” approach of Michael Frankel (with Henry Miller) from the 1930s, with the photograph just there to make everyone think they know who wrote it … I guess I’m posting this “with a twinkle in my eye” but I am noting that the poet’s name is missing … DaP

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