• dr.pragya suman

A Supermarket in California

Updated: May 21

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked d zaown the side 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, gray beard, 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

BY ALLEN GINSBERG





Allen Ginsberg and America

Allen Ginsberg is one of the remarkable poets of the modern era who tried his hand efficiently in free verse and prose poems. He was born in 1926 in New Jersey and saw world war, heard talks of atom bombs, in his contemporary era. Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Darwin were big legends who wrote not only their time but left an everlasting impact upon posterity. Ginsberg was nearly influenced by them and that led to developing strong aversion to war. Once upon a time he famously quoted “America, Go Fuck yourself with your atom bomb “


He saw his identity in Walt Whitman who shared many common traits, likewise homosexuality, antiwar stance, libetry, Democracy and off course free verse and prose poetry.

Prose poetry was a solid block for both of them in which they felt themself free to be as fanciful they could be and churned many words full of dreams and imagery.

He was a cheerleader of the beat movement in which he explored sexuality, anguish and social issues in a non-traditional poetic form of long lined without breakage.

In prose poem “A Supermarket of California '' he seem talking with his hard core confider Walt Whitman about many things of both America, once was time of Whitman and second one is of Ginsberg era . Capitalistic grip was prevalent in the post industrial era which symbol is Supermarket in this poem. Neon lights automobiles refrigerators are novel things for Whitman. He was childless and homosexual like spanish poet Lorca ,about which Ginberg is talking . In the Whitman era shopping was done directly by breeders or owners so one could ask directly about pork killing, price of banana but this supermarket era has totally changed. Whitman is eyeing grocery boys again indicating homosexuality. Here Whitman is gaping in alienation and Ginsberg has used it beautifully in a sardonic way. Actually this poem is an example of “Deadpan narrative “ which is a type of prose poetry. In Deadpan narrative many funny things happen but it is hard to tell that the poet is laughing or being sarcastic . Headache is a symbol of physical trauma and hungry fatigue is a dismal soul though which the poet is going through . He is sad about the lost America which is buried under a new capitalistic one.


Charon is a mythological feature who was Ferryman that carried dead people into the underworld across the river Styx. In Hindu mythology Cow acts like Charon so many Hindu donate cows in their last time in the belief that she would help them cross the Styx.

The river Lethe is also a mythological figure about which it is famous that after drinking its water dead ones would forget their earthly days.

Here Ginsberg is again talking about lost America making Charon quit his ferry and getting the boat disappearing on the waters of Lethe.

This poem is exemplary of lament in prose poetry . This is also the story of Ginsberg who always rebelled against the aggressive ,captistic and imperial attitude of America ,his America was that which exists in the era of Whitman .


BY -Dr. Pragya Suman

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