What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down 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, greybeard, 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?
––Allen Ginsberg Berkeley, 1955
A Supermarket In California as a poem tells different tales of poetry writing and emotional reckoning and coming to the self as for a solace and compromise, but rife with it all the odds, the doubts and dilemmas raking it the heart and he feeling it personality split. A rebel, an idealist, a communist, a left winger, where is he going, moving unto? A dreamer and a visionary like Walt Whitman? What is it in his Whitmanism? A rebel, an idealist and a revolutionary like Shelley? How his leftist pamphlets and leaflets of America ridiculing its anti-people thoughts? What did the Pilgrim Fathers dream of and what has it become? What has it happened with America? A visionary Blake, how did he hear the weeping of the prostitute’s newborn baby in London? How could he the tales of the lamb and the child, the lamb and the tiger? What did the stars see ti Macbeth hiding the bloody daggers and Lady Macbeth rebuking to wash off his sins? But could he? The walls heard it the conspiracies, the stars saw it. A different John Keats he is a gay, a lesbian; an Oscar Wilde is he. There is something of Kamala Das’ The Eunuchs. The pain of Shiva’s Ardhanarishwara who has but felt it, half-male, half-feminine?
It is a Walt Whitman, a Walt Whitman speaking to a Walt Whitman, an old Whitman to a new Whitman, doing the self-talk, self-to-self talk. What was it America in the past? What is it now? Two Whitmans are talking to, exchanging the soulful talks.
A Jew, how did he come to the States? How the tales of his journey to? How did his ancestors, forefathers come to? Secondly, what had it been American dream? What did it turn into? How its policymaking? How its culture? How the vibes doing the rounds?
Where are the younger generations going? None is aware of that. The govt. is busy making its policies, dreaming super American dreams unaware of them, where they are going, leading astray, how much divided they in aims.
In Supermarket California, is everything super? The mind too has to be super and the other thing who is for what? Those who go there, are they all super? The answer is clearly no. The American policies may be superman policies. The mummified Lenin may be in the glass casket of Leningrad, but the soul of Lenin is definitely not there. If it had been, the Czar family would not have been wiped off. Trotsky would not have been eliminated.
It is a poem of California Supermarket and supermen coming for shopping and marketing not, but of two Whtimans meeting and sharing with, laying it bare their hearts and souls and spirits.
It is a Paglet’s America and American dreams, a ganja-smoker’s dreams, a Paglet Baba’s dreams and his poetic pagletgiri coming in words, he smoking ganja and babbling with the puffs of Vyom, Bhole. Had Ginsberg been in the Marabar Caves of Forster’s A Passage to India, it would have been great and he would have definitely the echoes of Vyom, Om mystically with his ganjeri friends. But Forster’s characters and guides could not it the deeper meaning which y novelist tried to understand it then.
It is America, it calls itself a democracy, it is America which talks of freedom and liberty. But it is America which but foments the Cold War, goes on creating blocs and doing alliances and treaties and pacts. Why does it torture the leftist spies? Why did it drop the atom bomb on Japan? How had it been the American non-interference during the World War? Why did it not participate in? What were its interests? Why did it wage a war on Vietnam?
What Supermarket is it? Is it an Indian bazaar or a California shopping mall with glow sign boards, mannequins? What is it not found here? But here who is going shopping. Perhaps a dreamer’s Supermarket is it in which he is thinking about meeting his poetical guests as shoppers. It is his Californian Poetic Market where he is meeting his mentors, gurus, shiksha-gurus, diksha-gurus.
It is a poem of hippie culture, bohemian life, gypsy spirit; it is a poem of gypsy life and living, contact with Nature. It is an addict’s mapping of mind and his revelations; it is an alcoholic’s alcohol traces coming out as the bits of poetry.
It is a poem of California and Californian dreams; Allen Ginsberg is dreaming here his Californian dreams. It is a Paglet’s visiting of Paglet Market, a poet’s Poetical Market. The poet is thinking the world is a paglet and the vice versa. The poet is here marking it how our life and the nomenclature has changed it, how our modern protocol. We are so after craze and modernity.
Dharma-shhankat hai, dharma-shankat, what is the man speaking in red robes, what the ganja-taker, looking so neurotic and so split with the divided self-talking, he talking with himself and answering too about the crisis of religion, the crisis of religion which is but a crisis of himself, his self, he taking ganja and saying Vyom, Om and speaking as thus to himself, delving into mysteries but excessive addiction letting him not to be submerged. Had he met Coleridge, he would have about Vishnu.
It is a type of planchette and the poet Ginsberg speaking with the ghost of Whitman and conversing with and he is hailing him with love and respect and the babas and gurus ordaining him otherwise and he feeling his America with that knowledge of the self.
We too as the buyers buy from, as the movie-watchers shall first the trailers of Miami Vice then shall start reading Ginsberg’s A Supermarket in California.
The people are marketing, but they like the vagabonds rounding about their search. The fruit bazaar is the place where he meets Lorca. Again, childless Whitman comes in. They walk hand-in-hand just like the free people out of the touch of the detectives. What will the Scotland Yard do if the minds are free and the hearts boundless? The protagonist in Joyce’s Araby short story goes to bazaar, the Oriental fair, but retours back to on seeing the drunk man and woman talking and whispering in the dark corridors and the street lonely and the dogs barking without having purchased anything for his friend’s sister. Ginsberg’s case is one of the ragged patriot of Gregory’s The Rising of The Moon.
How his hallucinations and illusions? How his Charles Lambian Dream children: A Reverie? How Walter de la Martian The Listeners? How his revelries of the mind?
Lorca, Whitman and Ginsberg, how the assemblage? Similarly, we can club Vatsyayana, Freud and Lawrence all meeting in a conference. The spirits can be seen meeting, the spectres holding parleys with.
The poem has been written under the shadow of Walt Whitman overlooking him, a large size photograph of his and he is walking past the ways. When we read the poem, the images and pictures of Whitman conjure upon the mind’s plane. Whitman in the cowboy hat and the coat and the pants and with the unkempt black beards, Whitman with the half-ripe beards, we see the black and white photos of his and think of his visionary aroma. How much fatigued and exasperated too he was in his life! People generally take for the works and achievements, but how the paths of life we but cannot say it.
When does California sleep it and the markets close in? When does its market? Or it lies open all during the night? We but do not. But three as ramblers, strange friends loved to walk down past the streets and ways viewing the marketplace like the vagabonds and gypsies slipping past and going invisible as the time machine and the riders of H.G. Wells and gossiping by the sideways, under the trees. When the world sleeps, a visionary keeps it late burning the Divine Wick. Could we have Paradise Lost had he not burnt the Divine Lamp? How is the night, a night watchman can but only say it! How the ways solitary and the areas away from human haunt? How the mystery of the nighttime, the night heavy upon and the shadows lurking around? How is the beating heart of man?
It is a tribute to Walt Whitman; a recollection of his image. When they visited the market, had they money? Or were they moneyless?