Supermarkets At Night
In his 1955 poem, A Supermarket in California, Allen Ginsberg wrote:
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?
This poem reminds me of a solo trip I made to California more than a decade ago. I wanted the fabled nectarines. And the juicy peaches. And above all, mangos. It was late. And dark. I went to the 24-hour supermarket in Marin and headed for the produce.
Ginsberg was right. It was neon. It was full of penumbras. There were whole families shopping at night. It was just wonderful. And what a contrast with the "fruit" in grey upstate New York. I bought bags of fruit and joyfully ate them all.
I didn't see the martyred Garcia Lorca down by the watermelons. I wish I had. I would have talked with him. "I want to tell you how much I like a very short poem you wrote a long time ago."
Oye, hijo mio, el silencio.
Es un silencio ondulado,
donde resbalan valles y ecos
y que inclina las frentes
hacia el suelo.
Listen, my son: the silence
It's a rolling silence,
where valleys and echoes slip,
and it bends foreheads
down towards the ground.
"Oh, thank you," he might say. "Would you like a slice of watermelon?"