Poem that makes me think – A supermarket in California, Allen Ginsberg

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A supermarket in California

What thoughts I have of you tonight Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.

In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!

What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!—and you, Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?

I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.

I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?

I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you, and followed in my imagination by the store detective.

We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier.

Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?

(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel absurd.)

Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be lonely.

Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?

Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?

Thoughts

Theres a sense of baton passing here – Whitman and a brief nod to Lorca as poets that Ginsberg has liked and admired himself mentioned in one of his own works. Whitman seems to be a father figure to Ginsberg in this poem, and it’s also interesting to see the way he writes a life into the everyday life of today, doing the mundane things we all do, pondering the things that we ponder. I also like how much it seems Ginsberg carries Whitman with him, that he sees himself in Whitman and Whitman in himself, sees parallels and contrast and uses that as though he’s trying to figure out his life by viewing it through the eyes of someone he admires.

Really, really like this one.

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