A Supermarket in California

By Allen Ginsberg 1926–1997 Allen Ginsberg
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?

Berkeley, 1955

Allen Ginsberg, “A Supermarket in California” from Collected Poems 1947-1980. Copyright © 1984 by Allen Ginsberg. Reprinted with the permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Source: Selected Poems 1947-1995 (2001)

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Poet Allen Ginsberg 1926–1997

SCHOOL / PERIOD Beat

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Cities & Urban Life, Eating & Drinking, Social Commentaries, Activities, Poetry & Poets, Religion, The Spiritual

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 Allen  Ginsberg

Biography

One of the most respected Beat writers and acclaimed American poets of his generation, Allen Ginsberg enjoys a prominent place in post-World War II American culture. He was born in 1926 in Newark, New Jersey, and raised in nearby Paterson. The son of an English teacher and Russian expatriate, Ginsberg’s early life was marked by his mother’s psychological troubles, including a series of nervous breakdowns. In 1943, while studying . . .

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SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Cities & Urban Life, Eating & Drinking, Social Commentaries, Activities, Poetry & Poets, Religion, The Spiritual

SCHOOL / PERIOD Beat

Poetic Terms Prose Poem

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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