It was Lit Crawl, and Mission Local was live-tweeting the readings. I was at Dalva and the place was packed. By the time the old guy got up to the mic, the crowd was only half paying attention. But all it took was the first line, and they all perked up. Necks craned. Side conversations halted. A.D. Winans gave the crowd something to remember.
Cocaine Annie biker queen
to the jukebox machine.
Winans almost sang the poem, in a voice that didn’t seem to match the man it was coming from, as if he were a medium in a séance. I, too, was hooked. In the Mission our neighbors are amazing people who do amazing things. Winans’ poems were powerful and poignant. They were bright, melancholy and raw.
After the reading I accosted Winans, got the necessary information, and even asked if I could have the poems he had read, so that I could begin sketching out ideas to incorporate into a video. He told me, “No, I print these out in a big font so I can read them.” That made sense. He’s 76. Eventually he sent me the poems, and off we went.
Allan Davis Winans (better known as A.D.) was born, raised and educated in San Francisco. His poems are about this city, and they read like love letters from someone who doesn’t always understand his lover, but loves her unconditionally and remains devoted nonetheless. Living here nearly his entire life, Winans has seen the city shift and change like few have. “Change is something you’re going to have to adjust to, or you’re going to live in the past forever, which is easy to do. So here I am now, waiting for the next change in San Francisco,” he says.
A graduate of San Francisco State College (now University), he cut his teeth in the Air Force in Panama in the mid-1950s. When he returned home to the U.S. he discovered the Beat poets and became immersed in the North Beach culture of the late ’50s and early ’60s. Winans became friends with Beats like Jack Micheline and Bob Kaufman. He says he writes out of a sense of loneliness and sadness and anger, but credits Kaufman for the love and humor that also appear in his work.
In the early ’70s, Winans founded Second Coming Magazine and Press, a venture that lasted nearly 20 years. During that time, Second Coming published the likes of Pablo Neruda, Micheline and, most notably, Charles Bukowski, with whom Winans became friends. They exchanged letters for many years before Bukowski turned on him, as he was known to do.
When asked what poetry has meant to him, Winans responds, “To be honest, poetry is my life. I’ve said many times, and I’ll say it again, that there’s no distinguishing a difference between poetry and my life. My poems are about life. They are scenes that I’ve come across and observed. I particularly concentrate on the downtrodden souls of society, those that are often ignored or treated badly. That’s what moves me to write.”
And just so we don’t leave you hanging, here’s the full “Cocaine Annie.”
Cocaine Annie biker queen
to the jukebox machine
hands caress well curved hips
at the bar
digs her boots into the floor
wonders if he’s worth a ride
tugs at her black leather jacket
slides hands down jean clad legs
heads out the door
jumps on her Harley
guns the engine
heads toward Highway 1
all the man she needs
her well shaped legs
Winans is the author of the following books:
The Holy Grail: Charles Bukowski and the Second Coming Revolution
Drowning Like Li Po in a River of Red Wine
North Beach Revisited
The Other Side of Broadway