Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Official Site of Al Simmons

In this post, 12/3/18, 27 New Works Published in 2017-2018

From Rune Bear Magazine,

Excerpt from: The Space Tourist Travel Guide Adviser, and Almanac (forthcoming)

Take a Letter, Letters To The Space Tourist Travel Guide Adviser

Colors, She Called Them         

Dear Travel Guild Adviser:                             

My girlfriend, Ansa, lives on Phaedra, Ceres’ moon, and sometimes we go out for a ride for the fun of it.  There’s so much going on in the inner Kuiper regions, especially if you like racing like we do.  Ansa is a daredevil.  I’m more the mechanic type, who respects stress loads, and how to use gravitational pull to avoid road obstacles without destroying my ride.  Crunch numbers, not fenders.  We are kind of opposites in that respect, but that’s the fun, right, and what attracts us. 
We were out for laughs, and Ansa suggested we buzz the sun, so that’s what we did.  Turns out I should have checked the tank before we left.  We were three planets out when I noticed the fuel gauge getting low, so we changed our plans.  Ansa is at the controls.  I’m laying back, along for the ride. 
Have you ever been to Earth?  I don’t care much for thick atmospheres, too much drag.  I like to move.  But, not Ansa.  She had to show me Earth’s hidden colors, she called them, so we went in.  I was impressed.  Earth is not just blue. 
And then, out of nowhere, a couple of locals came up to check us out.  Earth got locals.  Who knew?  Scared the heck out of me.  Their shrieking, screaming, petro rides with the wings, were so loud I had to wonder how they crept up on us, so fast.  They were armed, too.  Not sure if they are friendly.  Ansa almost hit one.  Pretty nuts.  We got out of there.  One of these days, I think, Ansa is gonna get us both killed. 

Asna, Ceres


From the Inaugural Issue of The Sum,  

All God’s Terrible Children                          

When God finally returned to Earth He appeared first in Rome, but wasn’t well received there, at all, wandering around the Basilica, and the Vatican amidst all of the security details about checking people’s passports and papers.  So, He left Rome and decided He’d take a walk across the Mediterranean Sea to Israel, instead.  He marched right up to that ancient shore and sighed because this had been His home for 33 years last time around, even if it hadn’t gone entirely well.  And, standing there before his native nation of Israel, He realized that Israel was his true center of the universe. 
He took his time crossing the sea, so many days deep in thought he lost count.  The last time He was born an every man rabbi and teacher who taught children the Bible, reading and writing, adding and subtracting, eating Kosher, and the ways of God.  Be like God, His message said.  This time, He would take a different tact.  2000 years in the wilderness of deep space had taught him a thing or two.  He learned patience befitting a God, for one thing, and the wisdom of old age. 
He viewed the beach line from a wave’s crest during high tide in a rising sea while waiting for His people to arrive and congregate.  And, they did, too, Muslims, Christians and Jews.  They showed up in droves, traveling overland on foot, skateboard, scooter, car, boat, train, motorcycle, golf cart, helicopter, and plane.  This time He had a plan.  He would not be denied. 
The sea spray cast a royal blue halo around Him and made Him look as if He had been delivered to their shores by the ocean itself, not unlike Venus appearing on a half shell.  The sea was loud and green that morning, the waves smacked the shore.  The winds caromed in off the sky painting the day with a cool minted sea breeze to refresh and welcome the coming hoard.  The sky weighed heavy from packed thick cumulus clouds rich in smoke and thunder and allowing the sun to beam down in broken shafts of light showing Him in her glorious, magnificent light, dramatic and majestic for the King He was. 
As the throngs of people gathered on the beach they stood watching Him in awe, for He appeared in the likeness of every man, woman, child, bird and beast who gazed upon Him.  How clever His gesture.  So great was Almighty God, because all eyes are the eyes of God.  The sea foam around Him lit bright as fire radiating from the sun. 
There was music booming from nowhere anyone could determine, the brass joyful trumpet sounds of Louie Prima and Satchmo trading riffs, some heard shades of Gabrielle raising spirits.  Angels joined in. 
And then, the Heavens quieted and God spoke.   “I am here to say how much God loves you, and to assure you that life exists only here on earth and nowhere else in the universe.  For you are the life.  You.  Each one of you, young and old, red, yellow, green, gold, black and white alike.   Despite the five trillion galaxies in the universe, each one with their billions of stars, and gazillion planets and moons that circle them.  Life as you know it and experience every day exists here on earth and no place else.  And, that’s the truth.  There’s nothing out there, so don’t waste your time looking and searching for something that does not exist.  Don’t bother.  Believe me, this is the life, right here.  This is it.  The rest of the universe is nothing but endless empty barren desert space, inhabited by fire, gas and dust, my new home.  Earth has been my greatest experiment.  If you do well I may consider expanding to another planet.  But, until then there is only one earth, one home.  So, love thy neighbor, honor thyself and take good care.  Thank you for your time.”
No one believed a word He said.  They liked how He looked like each one of them all at the same time, and wondered how he pulled that off.  They thought the whole visual presentation was impressive, standing on a wave, holding that position despite the movements of the sea, the halo of sea spray, and the magnificent light shafts from the sun like stage lights.  But, no one cared much for the message.  Instead, the crowd moved anxiously about not knowing what to think.  Was he for real?  Because life was about life, not fire and dust.  And, who cared about the truth?  They wanted redemption.  No one bought the part about being alone for a second, though many worked hard and struggled to do their best.   
And then, like an evaporating rainbow in a dewy lit sky left behind from a storm, He disappeared and was gone.  The music stopped playing and the crowds broke up.  Everyone went home feeling uneasy with God back, if that was indeed God.  He’d have to show them more than that.  What about immortality?  He never said a word about saving souls, life after death, or eternity in heaven.  And, many of His followers and non-followers alike, pondered and thought, “What kind of God is that?” 
And, God thought, “What kind of children have I given rise to?  They don’t believe me.  But, they will be talking about this one for years.” 
God didn’t own a TV, never watched the news, and didn’t care.  He had his own problems.  He actually had many earths, billions of them, in fact, and none of them doing all that well.  So many problems.  So many worlds.  So many mouths to feed and rooms to furnish.  What’s a God to do?  Live and learn was giving God gray hair.  You want the truth, ask Mother Nature.

And, God never said, but thought, “Maybe, I’ll add another life form.  Still, look how they have multiplied.”  


From Placeholder Magazine (, 2 poems

The Future of Dreams

Dreams will have their day. 
A breathing bed.
No one likes a fearless foe.
Must be legal.
You get to be who you are. 
Decimated most of the world.
Lives to grow. 
I won’t feel bad but you might.
Changed until they went public. 
They call it time control.
If you digitize you can live forever. 
The bed becomes you in the end.
When we were insects super heroes fell from trees. 
What percentage of the universe are you now?
What is your quotient?
The moment marble turns to clay.
When stillness, that moment.
When the trees become me.
When I fall.
You get to be who you are
If you’re lucky.  

Big Foot Chips and Other Food Crimes

Half of what is sold today
As food
Should be against the law.
I had a taste for guacamole
And whipped some up.
I don’t usually eat chips
But I bought some.  The result,
My feet swelled up from the salt.
You are what you eat.
I ate Big Foot. 


From Echo Literary Magazine (, 2 prose poems

 Enough with the Baby Talk

Suddenly, I have four neighbors with new babies and its summertime, a pretty, perfect day for showing off your kid.  But, who can remember their names?  Or, even their parents’ names?  How they come and go, these neighbors, renters of the new millennia, current crop of family makers and their first born, two boys, two girls.  So, what do these babies have to cry about with all that attention?  Maybe they watch the news and want no part.  They are advised to concern themselves with the basics; food, warmth, a roof over their head.  A good book.  The parents speak in the highest octave to their kids.  They don’t actually speak, they trill, coo, makes baby noises mimicking whatever the baby has to say.  They make baby small talk.  The man next door looks at his 9 month old grandson, gets up in its tiny face and squeals like a loon, screeches, blubbers, snorts, and giggles, anything to amuse his grandson.  The old man is left in charge.  His son and the women all work.  The lady downstairs, also a grandparent, sings to her baby girl of 16 months.  The baby girl sings back.  The kid next door cries and cries.  6 months old and already nothing interests her.  In the unit one over is the 4th kid who is 2 years old, and not so terrible.  Cute kid.  Says hello to anyone passing by his window.  They are all cute, but together they make a lot of noise.  We all got to live, and I should not complain.  But still, I put my book down, get up from my lounge chair on the balcony overlooking the garden where they have gathered, pull open the tall eight foot wide sliding glass door and step inside my living room, and turn up the stereo, straight ahead jazz, and they all go away. 


Shadow Grey                                                                                                 

The morning fog never burned off, never left, pulled a double shift and became an overpaid, overcast cloudy afternoon.  Pulled myself out the door to clear my sleep worn head.  Happiness is never having to be anywhere.  Unless you are hungry and need something to eat.  Season of happy gloom, grey as the day is grey.  Winter is the most unnatural season.  What can be more unnatural than winter?   As busy as a day with nothing to do.  Air inhaled for the first time.  I look up and smell the day, inhale clouds of grey, sense there is a festival in the air, in the sun and fog across the bay, in the rapture.  As I step into the great grey beyond.  What?  More grey?  Winter feels better when sick.  Grey sand pipers picking away in the grey surf, silver fish gone grey.  I wandered down the stairs and out the building entering the squalid grayness facing Willow Street, crossed over then took a right at Whitehall Place into the mall, passing the smelly crowded grey recycling station, a metal shack with grinders that spit back coins, people standing in line with their recycled plastic great recession bags filled with empty beer bottles and soda cans, the sour stink of stale beer slop and syrup, the tinkle of breaking glass, grinding, ground back into sand, aluminum cans crushed and turned into spare change.  I stood there at the foot of spectacle, the precipice of a thriving commerce a foot above the asphalt ribbon laid before me and cast a stare out over a stretch of concrete sidewalk divinely set between Dress for Less and OfficeMax, a virtual no man’s land of empty parking spaces, a mythic windy stretch of gunmetal grey open space whacking me in the face, the morning fog of parking transformed into the twisted, crowded bedlam lot of the future, the coming afternoon.  I pass the mighty Kohl’s on my right on my way up the block to Trader Joe’s, a large black service van unmarked except for half a dozen large white serial numbers printed behind the rear wheels on its right side, a short-termed fleet vehicle parked in the receiving area but sticking out onto the sidewalk between myself and Applebee’s Bar & Grill and blocking my way.  The hinged rear door is open and I watch the lone individual inside, a silhouette of a man looking my way before he raised his shirt front and pulled a gun from his waistband and stashed it in a drawer, what looked like a wall of built-ins behind the driver’s seat, then turned to look at me again.  I see him clearly as I near the large service van, my eyes fixed watching what he does.  He threads the interior aisle and approaches, frames the opened doorway and peers down from his perch checking me out, probably wondering if I saw him stash his weapon.  He looks to be in his early 20’s, 5’7”, about my size maybe thinner, looks not unlike myself when I was his age, if I was black, wearing jeans, a long-sleeved army green camouflage tee-shirt with a yellow nylon vest half a dozen sizes too big for him, like city street workers wear to avoid getting hit by cars while working in traffic, a baseball cap on worn backwards, shades, running shoes.  I sense trouble, avoid eye contact and keep walking.  Maybe I should call the cops.  That nervous feeling something is not right.   But didn’t.  Where can you find a pay phone these days?  He robbed the Wells Fargo Bank across the parking lot from Trader Joe’s.  Forget gold, I’ll take the heaven plated.  The Alameda Journal ran the story and posted a photo of the suspected thief standing before the bank teller with a phone number who to call with information.  Well, we can’t have these guys coming around brandishing guns and sticking up banks, not in my neighborhood.  In fish heaven sharks eat fishing boats.  I asked Agent Richard Santos, FBI, San Francisco Station, if there was a reward.  He laughed.  So, all we have to do is locate who’s truck that was, he replied.  That’s what I think, I say.  I imagine by the way he dressed he was a helper.  His boss told him to hold the fort.  But instead he crossed the parking lot, robbed the bank, and then hid in the van until his boss returned.  And, that’s how he got away.   


From Blue River Review, (coming December 2017)

A Man Rose from Deep Sleep           
The man woke in a field of green, slid off the divan and approached the window.  Experienced the entire universe before him.  He never gave much thought to dying before he died, the act of dying always in the way.  But, once dead, he realized something was going on.  He knew that moment he opened his eyes and witnessed the possibilities.  Light is everything.  Light is life.  He saw every wavelength in the vast field of vision before him.  How many billion lifetimes would it take to count them all?  Where would he put them if he could hold them in his hand?  How many drops of water fills the sea?  How many memories to complete a life?  What to do with all the music?  Now, he knew why he went to all those concerts.  Now, he knew.  Death is 11 dimensions where life on Earth is only 3.  Light is the medium, the key.  He is surrounded by light, in gas form and liquid light, every bit, every wavelength is every life ever lived, every face he’s ever known, every word ever spoken.  No editing here in the big picture.  Eternity is more than timelessness, eternity is all of time at once, where time lives, is home, built on lives lived, the building blocks of his universe, this castle of all time.  Drunk on happiness even death seemed glorious, such competition to live, so many lives.  He counts, thinks he must have died a million times to have so many lives, to know death so well.  Death is luxury.  Death is what you take with you.  The best die young from overwhelming desire to do it again.  Takes note, next time slow down and live. 


The Day Summer Arrived

It’s Tuesday, $5.50 day at the Downtown Alameda Cineplex,
But I’m not going.  It’s too nice outside.
The family of crows nesting in the tall cypress
Towering over the west end of the garden,
Have grown large in number over the years, from the original couple
And their first hatchling to the current flock of seven
Blackbirds in a tree, never adding more than one chick per season
To their prospering clan, a noisy bunch.  They all participate
Bringing up baby, who remarkably appears full grown
Before it can feed itself or fly.  And, even after
Plays the child begging all day for loose change and scraps from its elders.    
Crows eat anything.  They eat berries, seeds and nuts,
Hunt spiders and bugs that fall from the trees
Onto the rooftops and hide between the cracks
Between tar and tiles where they cobble webs, or crows will
Pick off ants streaming by in the trees. 
Not wormers like robins who work the soil for
Immediate gratification, but more like scavengers
Working the mall two blocks south, and
Know a good deal when they see one, just like me.
There is a fresh breeze coming in off the bay.
Summer arrived yesterday, on Memorial Day, exactly as planned.
We are Almanac.  The skies are clear
After a long month of gray, and the sparkling blue afternoon
Light makes the leaves get up and dance on their edges, glitter
And shine welcome.  The new neighbors next door
Dress like school kids carrying book backpacks
Wherever they go, run up and down the stairs
Doing laundry every day, and walk their cat on a leash. 
The kitchen faucet drips, but I don’t care. 
The last one did, too.  


From Contribute Chaos, Art of the Spoken Word,, 3 poems

Pope Culture

If the Pope is right, that only heaven and earth exist, no hell, and when you die you either go to heaven or you disappear forever, then he is saying the soul is not immortal, that immortality is a gift granted to you from God for your good work, one assumes, your prized reward earned for a lifetime of service, prayer, and righteous behavior to God and your fellow man.  No gimmies.  All or nothing at all, as the saying goes.  You get one chance to get it right in this life, so get serious about your future and fast, or prepare to beg Almighty God to forgive you come your judgement day. 

If the Buddhists are right about the nature of life, and reincarnation, in particular; that we die only to be reborn again, over and over until we get it right, then the world is basically a half-way house for failures who keep on trying, a revolving door or carousel for lost souls.  At least they got enough going on to keep trying.  Or, are they born and reborn repeatedly into a world filled with those who have quit trying, or are simply oblivious?

I, for one, am happy to hear the Pope’s revelation.  I believe, as the Pope does, in heaven and earth.  No hell.  There is no hell.  The universe has no need for a dedicated place called hell.  Heaven and earth are enough.  You can find all the hell you want right here on earth.  But then, life is not so static, and perhaps the Pope and the Buddhists are both right, that when it comes to religion and all things dogmatic you can design heaven and hell to suit yourself. 

In my philosophic point of view, the purpose of life is to evolve.  What are you doing?  Evolving.  Evolution rules the universe.  And, when you die you go to heaven to reflect beneath God’s glorious light your achievements while alive on earth.  And, all you get to take with you is your time.  So, spend wisely.  The famous psychologist, Carl Jung said, all you get to take with you are your poems, which I take to mean your best moments in time worthy of recording.   

But, first you must evolve, and in order to evolve you must live, therefore, we are born to live and evolve.  From the moment of conception until the day you die, you live to grow bigger and stronger in every way, wiser and more capable.  We give ourselves to life for the opportunity to grow and evolve into someone better than who we were. 

Heaven may be divine, but if heaven, as destination, truly satisfied, you would think we’d stay there.  But, instead, we choose to be born, and reborn again.  And, once alive we pray to God for mercy in order to survive, despite having an immortal soul.  We are born blind and helpless, dumb and hungry.  The opposite of hunger is creation, somebody said, and I believe them.  When not creating I go mad from hunger.  We are born to recreate the landscape, to make a better world than we are given, to improve our lives and multiply. 

Fear is the obstacle, as are preachers of fear.  And yet, fear is real, and caution is advised.  What to fear multiplies.  Hell is when things go wrong.   

Black Market Genesis

On the 8th day God returned to earth because He decided to cover man with hair. 
So, what did man do?  He shaved it off.  

On the 9th day God checked into a psycho ward because the way He saw it,
If He bore witness to it then it must be true. 

By the time He let himself out He forgot what He was in for. 
Whatever happened to those days?  Not even God knows for sure, so don’t feel bad. 


Who Would Have Shrunk It?            

            My brother, Jerry, bowls in a league Tuesday nights 30 minutes from his house, and often calls me en-route to talk.   He was telling me he recently had to change doctors.  “My old doctor retired so I had to choose a new one.  I made an appointment and went in yesterday to get acquainted, and when the nurse took my vitals it turns out I’m 5’3 1/2”, which means I shrunk an inch and a half!  I don’t get it.  How can I shrink with all the yoga stretching I do?” 
A couple of weeks earlier he was telling me his buddy, Ron, who he’s been bowling with on the same team for 30 years, complained he shrunk 2 inches, and now none of his clothes fit him anymore.  But, my brother didn’t think so, and made the point with his friend, offering, “You look the same to me.” 
I had a hard time understanding that and argued, “How can Ron shrink 2 inches and you not notice?  People don’t shrink.  If someone shrinks 2 inches you’d notice because that’s not normal.  People grow tall.  They can get fat or thin, but people don’t modulate between short and tall.” 
“I don’t know,” Jerry insisted, “he looks the same to me.  Maybe I didn’t notice because I shrunk, too, so from my perspective nothing changed.  Still, I don’t like the idea of shrinking,” he complained.  “Smaller ain’t better, especially when you’re only 5’5” to begin with.”  
I told my brother, “It’s because you’re too cheap to buy HDTV,” I said, continuing a long time jab.  My brother will spend money for cable TV and HBO, but not HD.  And, without high definition his picture is distorted and stretched wide leaving the broadcast images he sees shorter and wider than normal.  “You are what you eat, as they say.  Staring at wide short people all day on TV made you shorter and wider.  Upgrade to HD and see if that helps,” I offered. 
“Maybe,” Jerry said.  “I might get a second opinion.”


2 poems appearing in the next Soft Cartel Magazine, at  


She would have been 38.
All my friends are suicides, she argued,
As if that made it legitimate, like
An insurance policy she bought for free.
My suicide.  She always used the possessive tense.
At least she said goodbye.
She’d rather die than quit her drinking and smoking,
And did.  A year later they found a cure for what ailed her.
Next time.  When is that? I asked.  She never replied. 

And then, there was that other thing. 
You, not me, in love, crazy,
Because he won’t give it up for you like you want him to.
You can’t trust the lawyer poet she left her husband back in Cleveland for
Without telling him first she’s coming.  I’m sorry? 
Old Kentucky home, southern charm, money,
How he got his job.  And she, living on creativity and SSD. 

He wanted to be            wanted               from a distance.
She was an artist and could write like he only wished he could.
And because he was huge, three times her size,
He inspired her. 

Song of Exile, Migration Trail

Across an ocean of water, two oceans of land,
One wave travels over sand.  I, of the broken wave,
With hooves dug in, a stampede of legs and
Gas stations, bare feet and boots stuck in mud
And painted snow, chained to wheels,
Step by step without a plan,
Other than freedom to run, blend in, take a stand.

On a boat, watch your mouth.  On a train, speak out,
Offer to compromise.  Anxious as a torn tribal band. 
Did you do well while alive?  Sir, how many
Generations must one live in one place to feel at home there,
At long last?  In this life?  Maybe if I concentrate. 

Freedom to fall out of a tree and
Survive a full planet gravity body blow and live
To spawn in the Promised Land.  I, of the lucky guy, 
A puffed victory smoke and my ancient run is done. 

When you arrive you want your journey back. 
3rd generation to set foot,
Grabbed up the soil and held it in my hand. 
At the end of the road is a river.  Place my stone there.  


2 poems appearing in Writing Good Poetry Newsletter,

Call Me Sherlock

I’m sitting at my desk in my studio late in the evening when the phone rang.   A call coming in from the City of Alameda where I live.  It was a robocall alerting the citizens of Alameda that an 80 year-old man with dementia got lost, Mandarin, doesn't speak a word of English, and wearing an orange jacket and walking with a cane.  I recalled I walked right past him on Shoreline by the beach that afternoon.  He looked to be waiting for someone, perhaps, to find him.  I phoned 911.  The woman who picked up had a delicate, sweet Asian voice and sounded so concerned, worried and thrilled at my response.  Seems their robocall got blocked on half the island and they feared the guy might have gone up Park Street to Chinatown in Oakland.  About an hour later I perked up when I heard the sirens coming from Willow Street beach where I told them he might be.  And then, at 12:20 am, just past midnight, I got another call from the City.  The same soft, sweet Asian woman's voice who issued the message, phoned to say they found him and thanked me for my assistance in English so broken I could barely make out her meaning.  Mr. Ho Fun found.  I leaned back from my desk in my tall back black leather chair and took up my pipe and take a hit, and reflect like Sherlock Holmes, another problem solved, and I never even had to leave my desk.    

Ash and Stone

Growing old in a world teetering on destruction and knowing I won’t be around to see that end lends a certain small comfort, like why should I care what happens down the road, while at the same time wondering who to leave it to.  What are souls made out of anyway?  Atoms, some kind of spirit energy, or something else?  Adams, perhaps.  Matter or anti-matter, or does it matter?  Do souls get colds and flu, cloud up like glue and ghost their way back home after a hung over lingering tour from a troubled departure?  I will miss fruit smoothies when I’m dead.  A soul ascends, not milky white, more like spilled semen.  What was it made of that rose engulfing us shovels in hand standing graveside beneath the sun?  Spirit semen, dream ash, fog of silk, the smoke of life, the milk of death, longing regret, never satisfied passed down like a gold watch piece from his dad?  Energy or matter?  Make up your mind.  The human souls who have walked this earth now number 70 billion, give or take.  Not one survived, and yet, we all want to go where they went, only better.  The human brain resembles the Milky Way seen on a scale of one synapse per star floating in the closed endless space inside my head dreaming about what it would be like to merge with and devour another galaxy?  Would I evolve twice the brain?  Is that what it will take?        


2 poems appearing in The Disappointed Housewife Review, at

The Rise of Inkman, Super Hero Action Poet

Who ya gonna call?  In times of great peril and need, when all else fails a hero appears. 
They always do.  Great nations need great heroes.  Enter Inkman, he always leaves his mark.  I’m playing with invisible ink for my costume.  Here’s the thing with Inkman, he can write in any super powers he wants, or write over them.  Don’t mess with Inkman.  He can even write a power for you so you can be an Inkman, or an Inkwoman, too.  Think Ink.  He’s the ink in think.  He looks good on paper for an old guy, but under the hood he’s still running on original parts.  He’s good to look at, like a restored wreck he shows well.  And, he may run forever, too.  Who knows?  He writes the story.  Power of the pen.  He’s Inkman.  Only art survives. 


Theater Recluses

They never leave.  Dress rehearsal in an hour.  The stage is the cage where dreams battle to become more ludicrous than you.  We received our lines for the day backstage.  The band sat up awaiting direction.  Tickets sold.  The lights came down.  The curtains were drawn.  Makeup people, costume people, stage craft, management, all took bows.  Where were the actors?  Security let us in the backdoor.  She played the recluse in Shakespeare’s Recluse.  Behind closed doors the curtains came down.  The band played their hearts out.  The dancers?  Where were the dancers?  In times like these we stand together and sing as one.  In the old days no one left, no one ever got stuck in traffic.  Today, all the world is a freeway, the actors commute.  Actors, dancers, you need to declare once and for all, recluse yourself, never leave.  


Appearing in Star 82 Review, at

An April Fool in January

Spring came early this year, a couple days or so, or I’m an April fool in the waning days of January.  Spring normally arrives in February around here.  All my neighbors are about, the titmouse nesters in the fur pine right from my balcony, no larger than a fur ball on a twig of fur balls makes for excellent camouflage, and an endless stream of ants for breakfast for the visiting mourning doves found on a branch below.  The doves nest around the corner, left of my kitchen window in the secure cover of a towering cedar tree.  The crow family nest across the yard in the tall king cypress facing west towards the sea, and have been there for 15 years, as long as I’ve been around, in fact, all have.  But, no bird family nest in the magnolia tree right before me where twice I’ve seen red tail hawks take doves.  The hawks feed on house wrens nesting just above the cat line in the mulberry bushes that run along the borders of this square block long complex, and doves when they can catch one, or pigeons by the beach, yum.  But, not today. Today hawks sleep and butterflies feast, and the warm breeze that smells like summer and signals the coming of an early spring is a welcome surprise and total mystery coming from somewhere.  


 Appearing in Alcyone, a Magazine of Speculative Fiction, Issue II, at and for sale on Amazon at

The Re-history of Earth from a Purely Martian Perspective

First they digitized all the books and records,
Then the war wiped out the digits and
Burned all the books and paper backups. 
A hundred years later they started hiring
Guys like me to recall history.  Remember history?
History are stories from the past, his or hers,
The only qualification is they must be stories of past events.
For instance, the history of history can be history if
You can tell it. 
Today we write on grains of sand. 
My first attempt went something like this:
Peace War Peace War Peace War Peace War,
I was born.  Sold a million copies.
Then came War and Peace.  But nothing major
Happened to me, personally, so
Who really cares about the Earth anymore, anyway?
I once met a Martian girl, she had fine fried green hair,
As was the fashion, and green eyes to match.
She grew avocados.  She taught me
In the future if I ever get stuck thinking up history
To think of her instead, maybe eat an avocado,
And then, make up any old thing
She reminded me,
There were so many people alive back then
It most certainly must have happened to somebody.  


Appearing in Blue River Review at

A Man Rose from Deep Sleep

The man woke in a field of green, slid off the divan and approached the window suspended in air like the last orange on Earth. Experienced the entire universe before him. He never gave much thought to dying before he died, the act of dying always in the way. But, once dead, he realized something was going on. He knew that moment he opened his eyes and witnessed the possibilities. Light is everything. Light is life. He saw every wavelength in the vast field of vision before him. How many billion lifetimes would it take to count them all? Where would he put them if he could hold them in his hand? How many drops of water fills the sea? How many memories to complete a life? What to do with all the music? Now, he knew why he went to all those concerts. Now, he knew. Death is 11 dimensions where life on Earth is only 3. Light is the medium, the key. He is surrounded by light, in gas form and liquid light, every bit, every wavelength is every life ever lived, every face he’s ever known, every word ever spoken. No editing here in the big picture. Eternity is more than timelessness, eternity is all of time at once, where time lives, is home, built on lives lived, the building blocks of his universe, this castle of all time. Drunk on happiness even death seemed glorious, such competition to live, so many lives. He counts, thinks he must have died a million times to have so many lives, to know death so well. Death is luxury. Death is what you take with you. The best die young from overwhelming desire to do it again. Takes note, next time slow down and live.


Appearing in Ariel Chart, Dec. Issue 2017,  see

Buying Myself Gifts for Xmas

I don’t need them, but what am I supposed to do, turn myself down?
Maybe I should call them birthday gifts. 
A new denim shirt (pre-faded) to replace an old one I never liked much
That never faded.
A new sail rigger jacket like my favorite jacket I bought on sale for $30,
Is on sale again, so I bought another one, this one in bright yellow. 
A gray sweatshirt cut into a baseball jacket style instead of a hoodie.
I could be dead before I wear any of them.
Burial clothes.  I am surrounded by stuff.
Too much stuff.  OK, I’ll make myself a deal,
I’ll accept the gifts from myself if I agree to throw somethings away.
No problem.  There’s those gifts from last year and seasons’ past, many
I’ve never worn, now have a new purpose. 


First appeared in Your Impossible Voice Magazine Issue 14, Spring 2017.   

The Last Time I Saw Howser                                                   

The last time I saw Howser was at Pauli Pratt’s new flat on Fat Street, just west of Broadway, a couple blocks inland from the lake, in East Rogers Park, on the far North side of the city.  Howser’s girlfriend left him and for some reason he blamed me.  I had a six-pack under my arm and offered him a beer.  He reached into the side pocket of his loose fitting, black leather car coat and pulled a knife and said, “I think you should leave before I do this to you,” and stabbed the belly of an empty cardboard moving box stacked by the door waiting to be taken to the garbage, and then he gave the blade a twist for emphasis. 
“OK,” I said, took my six-pack, less a beer I gave Pauli, and left Pauli Pratt’s new flat, while Pauli Pratt sat watching our exchange wide-eyed from the far end of the room.  Pauli finally moved out of his parent’s apartment where he grew up, in Albany Park, and this is how he celebrated his first day at his new residence.  Pauli sat there and never said a word.  Once the egg is cracked.  Congratulations, welcome to the world.   
Howser was a junkie and a thief for as long as I’d known him, possibly a killer, though he never robbed me until recently.  Howser and I used to be good friends.  We go back to the days of Ed Dorn’s creative writing workshop when we shared editorial responsibilities for Stone Wind Magazine, our college sponsored literary rag and winner of two Illinois Arts Council Awards for editions issued on my watch.  I introduced Howser to Amelia, his now ex-girlfriend.  She was another under-aged waitress I knew from working at The Kingston Mines.  She approached me at Howser’s reading at the Body Politic and asked if I could introduce her?  “You scored a groupie,” I told Howser, “and she is a cutie.  She said to tell you she’s yours for the night if you want her.” 
We took Ami along to the after-reading party where Howser got paid.  Perhaps, had they paid Howser by check he might have stuck around but with cash in his pocket he asked me to look after Ami for him and he took off to score.  The party was at a third story walkup apartment.  Amelia followed me out to the back porch.  There were no chairs or anything to sit on so we slid down to the boards and used the redbrick building wall to lean back against.  I lit a joint and we passed it back and forth.  We sat side by side, the full moon rising in the night sky before us.  I slid my hand up her thigh.  She caught my wrist and covered my hand in hers, and said, “What about Howser?”  I smiled, what about him?  I said, OK.  We finished our smoke and then I drove her home. 
A couple of days later she moved in with Howser and he taught her how to write poetry.  They were quite the couple while it lasted.  Amelia’s new poems sounded like a female Howser.  And then, one day she left him flat, just like that.  Howser thought she was kidding and refused to accept it was over, they were so in love, at least he thought so, and pleaded with her to return.  She refused.  Amelia began phoning Howser each time she climbed into bed with someone so he could hear for himself and believe his own ears.  Amelia liked to bop about and probably thought she could do better than living in the basement of Howser’s mother’s home, on the Northwest side of the city in an old Polish Catholic neighborhood, without a private kitchen, or bath.  “Four feet under,” as Howser called it before he met Amelia. 
Howser tried to hang himself.  He showed me the rope burns on his neck.  He complained, “The basement ceiling was too low.  I kicked the chair out from under me and landed on my toes and hung there unable to die.”   So, he cut off his nose instead.  I don’t know where he thought that would get him.  He was a good-looking guy, tall, slim, handsome, articulate, and even regal in that junkie sort of way.  He submitted to circumcision at age 23; he developed warts.  He was 30 when he lost his nose.  Howser needed someone to blame for losing Amelia so he chose me. 
“At the time, I thought I was doing you a favor,” I reminded Howser, “I told you when I introduced her she was a groupie, a cute fuck who would like you to take her home for the night.    She didn’t ask to be taken home to marry.”  Howser refused to remember.  I asked him, “What did I do other than introduce you?”  Again, he gave no answer, but insinuated I did something.  “Like what?”  He wouldn’t say, and instead tried to stare me down.  “Go fuck yourself.”
Amelia left him because Howser never had any money, didn’t work and seldom left the house.  He lived the life of a guard dog in the basement of his mother’s house, protecting the property, got high and wrote poetry.  His characters were inanimate objects found in his surroundings.  He spoke to his phone, not on it.  His phone spoke to him.  He lived partially submerged beneath the soil among the dead and half-dead.  His previous girlfriend, Nell, since high school, danced at a Rush Street strip joint and kept him in money and drugs for all those years she lived there until she moved on for whatever reason and Howser was left to survive on beer money his mother threw at him, and whatever he managed to pick up on the street, stealing, robbing homes, or by moving a bag or two. 
Howser’s real problem with me had nothing to do with Amelia.  Howser wanted my job at the Arts Council, and thought he deserved it, too.  Richard Friedman published Howser’s first book, and considered Howser his best writer on his Yellow Press publishing list.  Howser, in turn, thought he deserved the call from Friedman before me.  “Friedman phoned me,” I reminded Howser, “I didn’t call him. What did you expect me to do turn it down?  I got rent to pay.”  Howser never considered that maybe threatening to throw Richard Friedman out of a speeding car during our three man cross-country reading tour last spring may have caused Friedman to think twice before offering Howser a job.  Richard Friedman gesticulated wildly when he spoke.  He had wild blue eyes, dirty blond hair with a cowlick, and a face full of bleeding pimples and herpes pus.  He was a straight-arrow button down know-nothing fool, insulting and obnoxious in every way and ways you can’t imagine, arrogant, square, an academic from the suburbs.  Friedman didn’t drink, do drugs or smoke tobacco, and never smoked a joint in his life.  Friedman invited Howser along on his reading tour to lend credibility to himself and help promote Yellow Press Books.  But, Howser refused to travel alone with Friedman, and asked me along as a personal favor, and in return offered I could read with them in Bolinas, California, at the end of the tour.  A free ride to the west coast in the springtime sounded like a good idea to me, so I went along. 
Friedman and Howser rubbed each other wrong from the start.  Friedman was easy to dislike.  He’d ask questions like, “What makes you guys so cool?  I don’t get it?” 
“How do you answer a question like that?” Howser asked me. 
“With patience,” I chuckled.  Friedman was such a creep he was amusing.  We were driving a dark blue, late model Ford Comet sedan Friedman arranged for the trip from a car-transport company, oil and fuel expenses included.  “We try not to insult each other every time we open our mouth, for one thing,” I offered Friedman, adding, “You can’t teach cool.  But, maybe, if you tried thinking before you spoke once in a while, might be a good first step.  I don’t get it.  How does a clueless person like you get to own the press and land the art’s council job?” I asked Friedman.  He never heard a word I said. 
“You guys are tough nuts to crack,” Friedman argued in return. 
“You see, that’s just the point,” Howser scoffed, “we’re not nuts, and we don’t want anyone try to crack us.  How come you don’t get it?”
“Trying to break somebody’s balls is counter to trying to fit in, man.  You need to be cool, talk less and relax, observe more, maybe try enjoying life around you.” 
“Like counting corn rows?”
“No, man, ain’t nothing to do with corn.” 
We were on our first day on the road entering Nebraska, late afternoon and Howser cussed and said to me, “One more word out of that guy and I’m gonna throw him out of this goddamn car.” 
“Well, just don’t try it while I’m driving, OK?”  I offered to drive the entire way, but that got nixed in favor of 200-mile pit stop rotations, one sat or slept in the back seat.  We only stopped for food and gas.  I never saw Howser drive a car before.  The first time he got behind the wheel he set off cautiously like he never had, either.  Howser twice spun off the road while behind the wheel driving through southern Wyoming during a snow storm, once before, and again, right after we stopped for a meal.  You would think you’d get a decent cut of beef in cattle country?  I ordered steak and got a brick and a side of catsup.  I argued but Howser refused to give up the wheel, even after the second spin out had us moving sideways and then trunk forward until we finally slid to a stop.  “Thank God there’s no traffic.” 
“I got it now,” Howser argued. 
“You sure?  That’s what you said last time.  Christ that was wild.  Good thing we’re the only ones on this road.”  We were heading west in white-out conditions, on a straight and abandoned stretch of Interstate 80 driving ass backwards down a junkie’s dream highway devoid of signs or traffic in the dim white light beneath a quickening storm coming up from the far end of a sunset obscuring our view with darkening shades of varying white and gray.  Snow continued to fall and covered all four lanes of raised highway and the fields on either side enwrapped us in a landscape of dim fading white.  I couldn’t stand any more.  I took a Valium, secured my seatbelt in the back seat and snoozed right through the next two shifts. 
Friedman woke me from a deep sleep to tell me he won $30 in the casino.  “That’s why you woke me up, just to tell me that?  Why are you such an asshole?”  I looked up and saw we were in a casino hotel parking lot.  I crawled out of the Ford’s compact back seat to stretch my legs and use the casino restroom, and wash my face.  We made two brief stops along the way for Friedman and Howser to hawk their books, one in Denver and the other I had no idea where we were, some college town bookstore back room scene.  Four people showed up and our host invited me to read, as long as I was there, and since we were, apparently, the only act in town.  By the time we got to our final destination on the coast the fog was in, the night was cold, Friedman looked weary and tired, and Howser looked worse having run out of drugs and needed a beer.  Unlike my two companions, I felt refreshed, well rested, full of energy and ready to have some fun. 
We read at the Bolinas bookstore.  Lewis McAdams was there, along with Joanne Kyger, of the original beat poet west coast scene, Joe Safdie and his two wives, past and present, the artists, Arthur and Simone Okamura, and Charlie Ross and his Smithereens Press gang all cozied into the tight spaced, small book store emporium to hear us read our poems.  Friedman gesticulated wildly a poem about hats for ten minutes, Howser read some magic from the crypt, a dead man embracing darkness, and I closed with Some Auld Lang Sine.  Afterwards, we went down the street to Smiley’s Saloon for drinks, a 9-ball table, and dancing to a live rock band. 
The next day, I woke up in an unheated, damp, chilly house, with a warm, pretty dark-haired girl I danced with the night before.  The band played a slow blues to end the last set.  I held her in my arms and bit her ear.  She smiled and offered to take me home.  Friedman had arranged for us to stay in the city so I told them to go ahead and I’d meet up with them tomorrow.  Richard gave me the address in the Richmond District of San Francisco, then added, “If you’re not there by 3pm we’re leaving without you.”
“Ya, don’t you dare.  I’ll be there.” 
She never told me her name nor did I ask, nor did she ask me mine, or maybe we did and I forgot.  We left the bar and walked up the street in the coastal fog until we came to a path cut into tall grass and over-grown bramble and lilies, and followed the trail a few hundred feet to a darkened house where we entered through a rear unlocked sliding glass door.  She was the house sitting the residence.  She explained there were no lights.  The power was off.  Apparently, as part of the deal to the house sitter, the owners of the property preferred the premises kept without power and gas while they were away.  Or, we were trespassing.  I didn’t care.  Bolinas really is in the middle of nowhere.  It’s a cool artist town.  I’m there for a night, and either way it felt good to take a break from my edgy traveling companions, and have this woman and a bed to stretch out in.  Bolinas had a homey, lived-in feel, or was it the funky sheets, and mildew? 
So many birds to wake you in the morning.  I got up and took a cold shower.  She said she preferred showering in the afternoons when it was warmer, and I didn’t blame her one bit, but I knew it would be days before I had another opportunity, so I jumped in cold water, or not.  Bolinas was little more than two streets that met between the coast and The Bolinas Lagoon, but there is a hotel downtown.  We had breakfast at the Bolinas Hotel outdoors on their cafĂ© patio.  I still didn’t know her name and felt embarrassed to ask so I didn’t.  I took my last sip of coffee, said good bye, and rose from our table, stepped off the wooden planked veranda onto the gravel paved road that served as Main Street and stuck out my thumb.  The first car to come by stopped and picked me up, an old VW bug with no back seat.  We took the road up over Mt. Tamalpais and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco.  The friendly driver was going my way and offered to take me down 19th Avenue to the Richmond District in San Francisco where I met up with Howser and Friedman for the ride back home. 
And now, I had the poet-in-residence job and Howser didn’t.  A week after the incident at Pauli Pratt’s flat, Friedman approached me downtown at the office with a deal.  If I would agree to be responsible for Howser he’d hire him. 
“What do you mean, responsible for Howser?” I asked. 
“Keep an eye on him.  Make sure he’s where he’s supposed to be.  If you’re willing to take responsibility for Howser I’ll hire him,” he repeated. 
 “I don’t think so,” I said.  I didn’t want any part of it.  “Howser can take care of himself.  He don’t need me.  But, you should hire Howser if that’s what you want to do.  But, don’t ask me to do your job.  I have my own responsibilities.  And besides, you know Howser.  He’s a full-grown man.  He always shows up where he’s supposed to be.”  And, that was that.  I might have agreed and secured Howser the job on the spot, despite the incident at Pauli Pratt’s flat, had Howser not burglarized my apartment over the weekend while I was tending bar down the street.  Like the cop said, “It’s always someone you know.”  I can forgive a threat, people have bad days, but breaking and entering my apartment and stealing my shit is a no. 
I never heard what happened to Howser after that.  I never saw him again.       


First appeared in Peacock Review  (

Conversation with a Dove 

I was in the kitchen washing dishes when I noticed a dove fly onto my balcony. Their nest was on the other side of the dining room window.  I wondered if she might have flown into the patio screen door and bounced off.  Either way, she ended up on a potted plant and seemed OK, except she wasn’t moving so I walked over to take a closer look.  My presence at the glass didn't alarm her so I slid open the door and gave her a soft whistle hello.   She stood there looking at me.  I slid open the screen door.  Still, she didn't fly off.  She stood there shifting around trying to focus her eyes on me.  She appeared to be molting.  She had light gray feathers with round black and white markings on her wings, typical mourning dove.  Then, she gave me a low, quiet, inquisitive whistle, “You-who?”  I whistled her a, “You-who?” back.  She seemed amazed and got excited and spun around in the dirt.  I waited for her to whistle again and then I gave her a low soft call and this time she got so excited she rustled her feathers, spun around in the dirt and called to me again.  This went on back and forth for some time until we both got tired and ran out of things to say, and then we said good-by and she flew off and I went back to washing dishes.  A few seconds later she landed on my windowsill above my kitchen sink where I worked, tapped on the screen to the opened window and whistled to me again.  I whistled back.  She bobbed her head one more time signaling to me her delight she recognized me, and farewell again, and flew off.  She recognized me through the screen.  I have a very cool neighbor.  


First appeared in Creating Chaos Magazine  (, 2 poems

The Road to Pleasanton

My writing community has broken down.  So many have died, gone mad, grown old, lame, stupid, lazy, tired, and stopped showing up.  Someone else died.  They found his body on a BART train heading to Pleasanton.  Why he was on that train nobody knows.  Perhaps, he had no place to sleep, and Pleasanton seemed like a nice place to die?  There as a time we used to meet at my place, and drink, share drugs, smoke cigarettes, laugh and talk wildly into the night.  Today I sit here alone on the coast and the rains continue day after day.  My writing community has broken down, vanished, disappeared, but I still sit here scribbling works to the beat of the rains falling on my windowpanes.  I miss the thunder, and lightning. 

This Other War 

A rush of Nuevo Bacterioso rippled through my intestines causing my body to revolt, tremble out of control.  First came the dry heaves, felt my life about to pass, but not before my eyes, and I felt weak and fell down on the bathroom floor waiting for the poison to work its way through my system.  What appeared to be ripe cherries shipped north from Chile turned out to be a message of vitriol from someone who wants to kill me.  Horses don’t piss on cherries, underpaid farm workers do because they hate us for importing produce cheaper than they can pick them.  That’s how much they hate us.  Or, maybe it was their field boss who poisoned the Bing cherries.  Maybe he is the one who hates us.  He might have been a decent guy once, just a regular guy who worked hard and loved his family and friends.  Before he took the foreman job, crew leader and big asshole paid to talk shit like the boss talks shit to his co-workers, who were once his friends and brothers.  He wasn’t even the most productive guy, not even close, just a little taller than most, and who always had a big smile for the boss.  Still, he worked hard for his money, like everyone else.  Only now he does it for a little more money and has no friends, so maybe he takes it out on me, fucking Los Americanos.  He used the unfiltered water to hose down this produce.  He used the less expensive local tap instead to send his season’s greetings with love from your friend down south, and curses, on top of their cheap, imported, out of season, Chilean grown, fancy, and very sweet, Bing Cherries. 


From Forage Magazine (

The Restless 

The baby next door is crying.  I can imagine how she feels.  Today is the first warm day of her life.  She pulled at her stiff, thick, new baby clothes trying to get comfortable while strapped into a plastic high chair like a mental patient.  The washing machines in the laundry room below her window stopped and silence graced the air.  My nerves eased and I leaned back on the redwood lounge chair on the balcony surrounded by neighbors and trees and relaxed.  And then, one by one I heard the birds calling out, the hummingbirds clicking, hovering before me, picking fruit flies out of mid-air, the mourning doves cooed, gulls screeched, blackbirds cawed, passing geese honked, a woodpecker worked the magnolia tree, the sparrows sang their ancient nest builder’s song, ducks swam in the pool.  A red-tailed hawk sprang from the pond surprising me, slipped beneath the magnolia tree and settled on a low branch of the fur pine, shook water from its long, out-stretched wing.  Baby Mia stopped crying.  The mallards in the pool were talking.  Mia listened.  A jet plane flew overhead leaving its trail of bile and industrial soot in its wake.  Once passed the kids playing in the schoolyard blocks away could be heard again.  Her mother spoke.  Something smelled good.  Another tenant dressed in her Sunday best, and pretty as a new tattoo, came baring her dirty laundry in an old wicker basket shaped like a shoe.  She paid tribute quarters to the machines below and the noise returned, and baby Mia cried, again.  Poor kid.  I got up and walked back inside. 


                                                         Old Information

Letter to the New York Times, June 5, 2009, 30 Years Later: Poetry As A Literary Sporting Event

When I graduated from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago in 1971, there were no poetry reading series in Chicago. None. And there hadn’t been one since Sherwood Anderson held readings in his living room in the 1930s and 40s, so any talk about Chicago being a “poetry town” since the turn of the 20th Century are dead wrong. The Blue Store Reading Series, which began in 1971, and hosted by myself, Terry Jacobson, Henry Kanabus, Stephen Pantos and Patrick McPhee, in a basement of an antique store on Wellington Avenue in New Town, began what is now seen as a literary renaissance in Chicago. Prior to the Blue Store Readings if you wanted to hear poetry read on a regular basis you had to travel to NYC. Six months after the birth of the Blue Store Reading Series, The Body Politic Readings began on Lincoln Avenue, and after that readings began sprouting up all over town and have been a growing phenomena since.

In 1979, I was poet-in-residence for the City of Chicago Council On Fine Arts. One early autumn night I was standing at the bar in Oxford Pub on Lincoln Avenue, when a reading that was taking place in a storefront next door spilled out into the street. Jerome Sala, a popular young local poet at the time, was giving a reading, when Jim Desmond, of the Jim Desmond Blues Band, was sitting in the audience and decided he didn’t like what he was hearing so Desmond picked up a chair and went after Sala. Somehow, they both ended up in front of me at the bar and I suggested, and they agreed, to put them in a boxing ring and let them beat shit out of each other, metaphorically speaking. I supply the rules and winner takes all. Thus was born the World Heavyweight Poetry Championship Fights.

Five years later, Marc Smith came up with an open reading format of the fights he named the Poetry Slam. Marc Smith has apparently added a name since then. I wonder if he got married? Smith deserves a lot of credit for what he has accomplished. To run a Sunday night reading series for 25 years is no small feat. But, I still retain my bragging rights. And to that end I will challenge Marc Kelly Smith to a one on one heavyweight poetry bout anywhere, anytime, as long as it takes place in a major population center somewhere on or near the Interstate 80 corridor.

Al Simmons, Commissioner WPA
(World Poetry Association)


“For Me There Will Always Be An Underground.” Green Panda Press Interviews Al Simmons,
 (first viewed on  Check out a new poem at

Bree: u’ve met and mingled with so many respected poets—got any good remnants?

Al: I just remembered how I met Jack Michelin. It was 1982. I was new in SF and staying with friends. One day I was hanging out and ducked into a gallery opening for a free glass of wine and a piece of cheese and ended up buying a small stone sculpture from Jack Michelin. It was the face of a woman cut out of soapstone. I recognized Jack from a reading. I told him I liked his work but the last thing I needed at the moment was another rock to weigh me down. I didn't have a place to stay let alone hang his art. But he talked me into it. I wrapped it in a towel and hid it in the back seat of my car until I found a place to settle into. I used to hang it on a big weeping willow tree in the backyard. Now it's in a box. I just remembered where I got it. I wonder if it's worth any money?

B: take it out of that box! any j-hole will buy that from u—i think they’d buy his old dirty socks! but u still got a tree, i’d bet. well, so is there a particular contemporary poem or collection that u revere/left its mark on u?

Al: Ed Dorn’s Gunslinger is still the best poem of the 20th century. Something a lot of people don’t know, Ed Dorn wrote books 3 & 4 of Gunslinger in Chicago. I was studying with him during those two years. Ed published each book separately as he wrote them. Book Three, The Cycle broke the 5 x 7 format of books one and two by publishing book three in 10 x 12 inch size pages in bold print and full color. There was a character introduced in book three called Al, who looked a lot like me then. He had a belt buckle with the name AL printed on it. From Gunslinger: The Cycle, The I.D. Runs the Actual Furnishings, verse 19:

Below his right ear is the brand
The cuneiform form of Man and God
And these were the signs of his predicament.

I told Ed I thought that mark was a birthmark. But the truth is it was a hickey I was given by Rhea Hoffman who was 13 years old. I was 12. And it never went away, so maybe I was kissed by a goddess? She looked like a goddess at the time.

Studying with Ed Dorn was quite an initiation. I asked Ed why he made the print of the Cycle (first edition) so large? He said, so I could read it. He was a funny guy. He told me this in his kitchen, at the old 911 Club, the original 911 Club, 911 Diversey Avenue in Chicago, where Ed and Jenny lived while Ed presided over the writing program at Northeastern Illinois University on the northwest side of Chicago, where I was enrolled as an undergrad.

Being a named character in the greatest poem of the 20th Century is a nice credit. There were only four characters in Gunslinger who were introduced under cloak of their own names; Howard Hughes, Rupert Murdoch, Tonto Pronto, and me. Book Four of Gunslinger, The Winter Book was originally titled The Slaukowski Sausage Factory. In retrospect those years turned out to be Ed Dorn’s most productive.

B: i'd like to emphasize that you catalyzed the poetry bouts and poetry fights--you told me the story when we were in Berkeley, and its kind of in yr NYT letter---by the by the poem you sent me in the mail is so killer. it is so wholly your voice--i think that is what makes a poem good; if it is totally the voice of the poet, it cld be on microwaving frozen french fries, or crossing the rubicon, whatever. it is the voice that matters most. voice carries pov, and this is what we find useful in eachother.

Al: Thank you. There was an intellectual framework surrounding the fights. Let me tell you what the world of poetics looked like back in the early 1970s. When Ed Dorn left NEI for a job at Kent State, he replaced himself as poet-in-residence with Ted Berrigan, who at the time was head of the New York School of Poetry. So, I got to be student aide and faculty assistant for Ted Berrigan.

I’ll tell you a story. Ted didn’t know I was on the university payroll for being both his student aid and faculty assistant, and I didn’t tell him until one day after class several months into the semester Ted and I were sitting at the corner bar having a shot and a beer and I confessed. I applied to be Ted’s assistants because I knew he didn’t need any. He gave no assignments, did no research. That was pretty smart, Ted decided, and added, you can buy the next round. And then Ted borrowed $5. Ted always paid you back on payday when he cashed his check.

I guess you can say I was lucky, first to study with Ed Dorn and then Ted Berrigan, two of the top three poets of the second half of the 20th Century. You can say I had my share of rarified air. Ted Berrigan was 36 years old when Dorn brought him in to Chicago. Ted died young, at age 47. But, during the ten years that I knew Ted we became good friends, and I got to watch Ted develop from the head of the NY School of Poetry into a Master Poet. Ted grew larger than the scene. Hanging out with Ted was like seeing your best friend turn into Socrates. I was a man of great fortune and witness.

There were basically four schools of poetry being practiced in the 50s thru the turn of the century, and beyond. There were the academics, The Black Mountain School, The New York School and The Beats. I wasn’t interested in 15th century Italian sonnets so I passed on the academics. The Black Mountain School was Charles Olson, who invented Projective Verse and open field poetry as a meter into free verse. He gathered the teachings of Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams and brought them a step further. Teaching at Black Mountain with Olson was Robert Creeley and Robert Duncan. Ed Dorn was Olson’s student, favorite son, and 20 years later I studied with Dorn.

The Beats were mostly criminals, drug addicts, thieves, sexual predators and perverts. William Burroughs was a junky, a pedophile, and a murderer. He killed his wife. He shot her between the eyes with a rifle attempting to shoot an apple off the top of her head. Gregory Corso spent the better half of his youth incarcerated. Neal Cassidy was a car thief and a speed freak. Ginsburg was a pervert and Jack Kerouac was a bum, the Dharma Bum, who loved speed, beer, and chasing women and good times. Jack Kerouac was the writer. As Gregory Corso put it, “Kerouac made us all.” The Beats were bohemians and cultural revolutionists and are credited for a lot of bad poetry and starting the sexual revolution.

The New York School was somewhere in between. They were constructionists, though some called them de-constructivists. Ted’s favorite topic for lecturing was how he wrote poetry. I spent years listening to how Ted “made” poems. The NYS were better dressed than the Beats. They had Masters degrees, came from middle class families. But, to me they were all Beats. They all experimented with the same American idiom. Dorn ran with Kerouac. Berrigan introduced me to Anselm Hollo, Alice Notley, of course, Ted's wife, Allen Ginsburg, Phil Whalen. Everyone knew and supported everyone else...for the most part. Writers are and have always been competitive. Each had their own distinctive voice and style and that was the key, being your own person and having your own presence and style.

If you wanted to hang out with the giants you had to have your own voice. That was the rule. If you read a poem that sounded like someone else you either dedicated that poem or you would be called out and hauled off the stage. Maybe the hauling off the stage part was an early Chicago thing. What I was interested in back then was a Chicago sound, a Chicago School. Performance Art was a product of those early experiments in Chicago and we sometimes referred to Performance Art as Chicago School. By developing the poetry fights I captured a competitive spirit of the time and gave it a presence in literary form. I built the stage and wrote the rules. I was the Commissioner of the World Poetry Association and the World Poetry Bout Association, WPA/WPBA. Steve Rose, the world’s greatest ring announcer, introduced me as the intellectual godfather of the Taos Poetry Circus, in Taos, New Mexico, where we held the Main Event World Heavyweight Championship Poetry Bouts every summer for 20 years, from 1982-2002. I began the show. Now they call it The Spoken Word Movement. I’m a footnote in history.

As Ed Dorn once wrote:

“Once I lost my keys
and couldn’t get in
Once I lost my knees
and couldn’t get down
Once I lost my face
and couldn’t frown
But I’ve never lost my place
and that’s why dig it
I’m still around.”

The Main Event, a ten round heavyweight championship poetry bout, was invitational, based on a traditional reading, two poets, an opening act and a featured poet, each reads for thirty minutes. The slam is a competitive literary event based on an open reading, whoever shows up. Somehow the slam morphed into more of a community event rather than an individual’s art, drifting away from rule #1, having one’s own voice. That’s the rap on the slam since the beginning, actually. I have no problem with the slam. It’s an open reading. As far as I’m concerned I’m happy the slam is held to any standard. And look at how the slam has proliferated? I understand slams are now being held in 80 cities across the country. On the other hand The Main Event features the best of the best, always had and always will. Anyone can write a poem, but how many people can write ten?

B: How many poems have you written this past year?

Al: About 300.

B: That’s a lot of poems.

Al: I had a good year.

B: Are your poems available?

Al: Yes. Memoirs Of The Man Who Slept His Life Away, new poems, Special Edition, Books I - V, 150 poems, 271 pages, 43K words, $35.00, (includes tax and shipping). Send cash, money order or check to: Al Simmons, Simmonsink, 420 Whitehall Road, Unit F, Alameda, CA 94501. I can be emailed at

B: hey, way to get a plug in! i’ll wrap us up with that goodie you mailed, and here’s hoping this one makes it in that collection.


Almost Never

I get lazier every day.
Doing nothing is the best.

Ok, there’s the ocean. I’ve
Seen it. Now what?
You tell me, cuz. Now

Lazy is good company.
Sunshine and enough
To eat helps.

Living off the land means
Fleecing those who graze.

Fleece or be fleeced.
Land of the fleeced,
Home of the flossed.

Other than my health
I’m fine.

I don’t know where I get
This stuff, but
For some reason I think
All I have to do
Is write a poem or two a day
And I’m good, I’m
A happy guy.

End of story.


Al Simmons catalyzed the poetry bouts (after he had himself an actual bout)---arguably the origin of Slam Poetry. he took me on a walk on a windy shore in Berkeley, CA where i saw for the first time red-winged blackbirds. it was late May 2008, and he thot my name was Bree 08 because that is how it appeared on the cover of a bittie broad i’d made. he’s…a happy guy.

* the integrity of line spacing was not kept by blogspot trans.

Books Available by Al Simmons:

Memoirs Of The Man Who Slept His Life Away, new poems, 160 poems, 300 pages, 50K words, $35, includes tax and delivery.

"Pure vernacular. I read the whole book. Not in the last 100 years have I just read a book of poetry all the way through. It's like being in Chicago by Henry Miller, cf The Tropic of Capricorn, the way work is in the US, only this time from Chicago. And then the sex, which is the way it is in the US. " --Charles Potts, Tsunami Press

“Try to make one word at a time, one word with perfect posture. No show boater words or perfumed words. No meek hovelling words. I mean fuck all these sentences. One. One. One, (not three).” --Bree, Green Panda Press

KING BLUE, Boogie Till The Roof Caves In, Stories of Chicago's Kingston Mines, the largest showcase blues club in the world, with photographs by D. Shigley. 129 pages, $20, includes tax and shipping.

"So lucid, fine, humorous and humane is Al Simmons' book, Boogie Till The Roof Caves In, that all one can say is: Thanks. And also wish that Mr. Simmons might write another book about more--if not all--of the scenes happening in our city." Paul Carroll, Publisher Big Table Press, Chicago Reader.

THE SUGAR AND OTIS CHRONICLES, People Pay A Lot Of Money For This KINKY STUFF, a pornographic novel, 275 pages, 75K words, $30, includes tax and delivery. "The most fun book I ever wrote, and the research was the best!"

Send cash, checks or money orders to Al Simmons, Simmonsink, 420 Whitehall Road, Unit F, Alameda, CA 94501.