Allen Ginsberg poem

Mark Frazel (Chicago USA)

Mark Frazel

I am a documentary filmmaker who lives in Chicago. This first poem I am submitting “A Supermarket in California” was written by the American poet Allen Ginsberg (1926 -1997). Ginsberg had studied at Columbia University in New York under the poet and critic Mark Van Doren who was influential in bringing attention back to Walt Whitman. Ginsberg’s poem imagines the poet Whitman in the contemporary setting of a grocery store in Berkeley, California, where Ginsberg was then living.

_____________________________

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?

________________________________

Berkeley, 1955  (From Collected Poems 1947-1980 by Allen Ginsberg Harper & Row. Copyright © 1984 by Allen Ginsberg)

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Animated film of AG “reading” this poem

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Please note:  Mark Frazel & I first met during “The Walt Whitman Show” – live streamed on Periscope. I am very grateful to Mark for his wonderful contributions to that (daily) show.  Thank you very much Mark.

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