Allen Ginsberg: The Beat Messiah

A Supermarket in California

  • A Supermarket in California

    What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the
    streets 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?

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