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A Supermarket In California

Rating: 3.7

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
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COMMENTS OF THE POEM
James Brusseau 18 September 2009

I too was confused by the meaning of the poem. I was thinking it was just a funny, kind of silly remembrance of Whitman, fooling around a bit with simple grocery store items. Then I read the bio of Frederico Garcia Lorca (a man mentioned in the poem) and an entirely new meaning became blindingly obvious. Lorca, was really devastated about failed homosexual relationships. His two major love interests, one interestingly enough was Salvador Dali, went on to have marriages with women. This is a poem, asking the question of, What does America hold for me the homosexual? The answer is a sad: 'we'll both be lonely.' I won't quote continued lines from the poem, but if you want to feel seem empathy for Ginsberg, Wikipedia Lorca and then reread the poem and focus and the words that are addressing a sense of disenfranchisement from the empty promises America was making, viewed in the context of post World War II feelings that were surfacing and no doubt helping to form the Beat Generation.

23 1 Reply
True Ataraxy 18 January 2006

There seems to be confusion about the correct lines of this poem.Like many beat poets, Ginsberg worked a lot with the line placement. Ginsberg plays with enjambment and endstops as a matter of humour in this poem. As I know it it should be: 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?

14 3 Reply
Gregory Collins 14 December 2007

somewhere west of Mandalay, ginsberg is the wilderness inside yellow rapeseed flowers, a cry of dust from the soul town

11 4 Reply
Michael Schuler 16 October 2009

James: Interesting observation. I have not read Garcia Lorca's bio, but had read about his interest in Harlem and the experience of blacks in America and interpreted the reference to Garcia Lorca as a humorous reference from one transgressive poet (Ginsberg thinks that store security is following him) to another.

9 4 Reply
Louise Bizzari 10 January 2005

Very Good! Enchanting! !

10 0 Reply
Michael Walker 14 September 2019

Still one of my favorite poems whenever I go 'shopping for images'-which is often. Ginsberg and Whitman were alike in some ways.

0 0 Reply
Clyde King 27 July 2019

I like Whitman too. He was the first great American poet and opened the door for all poets, good and bad alike. I’ll have to read more Ginsberg to make a better comment. He looks a little like Gerald Stern. He was a great American poet.

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Michael Walker 27 July 2019

What an extraordinary piece of free verse this is, except possibly for the stylized ending. The phrase 'shopping for images' lingers.

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Alexander Julian 22 June 2019

It seems like shopping for food extended the conversation into different vocabularies. That makes sense, because food goes a long way for us.

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Abhimanyu Kumar.s 08 December 2017

Outstanding work in depicting the life style and bury of strength. Great

1 0 Reply